In 1992, we became the first high street bank to introduce a customer-led Ethical Policy. A policy that underpins everything we do. Since then, on five different occasions we've asked our customers what issues they care most about. And we've had more than 320,000 responses.
It's these responses and shared values that continue to shape our bank. It goes beyond simply sharing a set of values - it's about making sure our everyday products and services reflect them and their values and ethics.
"It's important to me that my bank gives me a voice"
- Ben, Co-operative Bank customer.
Being customer-led means creating a bank that reflects your values and ethics from top to bottom. That's why every one of our products and services is assessed against our ethical standards - and we'll make changes to any products that conflict with those standards.
We've also introduced a dedicated Customer Care team that supports vulnerable customers with complex issues that impact on their finances, providing individual payment plans, tailored to individual needs.
"It's refreshing to find a bank that's customer-led"
- Sarah, Co-operative Bank customer.
Strong values are what our customers expect from us, and rightly so. Take our ethical screening process - our way of reviewing every prospective business banking customer against our Ethical Policy. Last year we screened 196 organisations and declined banking services to 7 organisations as a result - because we won't support businesses that conflict with our values and ethics.
"It's so rare to find a bank that's genuinely compassionate"
- Francesca, Co-operative Bank customer.
From campaigning for the abolition of landmines, to raising awareness of important environmental issues, to helping victims of financial abuse in relationships - we've used our ethical position to give a voice on the issues that matter to our customers.
In fact, because of our decision not to provide banking services to any organisation involved in the manufacture or transfer of indiscriminate weapons, we became the first, and remain the only, UK-based bank to be featured in the 'Don't Bank on the Bomb' report Hall of Fame for denying finance for the manufacture of indiscriminate weapons, and the Worldwide Investments in Cluster Munitions report Hall of Fame.
"I'm proud to be part of a bank that takes action"
- Colette, Co-operative Bank customer.
We partnered with Centrepoint in 2017. This charity helps homeless 16-25 year olds into a home and job. They do this by providing safe accommodation, access to learning and support with physical and mental health issues.
We also give each our colleagues two days' volunteering leave each year. Last year alone, our colleagues spent more than 4,000 hours volunteering in their local communities. It's amazing the difference just a couple of days can make.
"It's good to know I'm part of something ethical"
- Keith, Co-operative Bank customer.
In 2016, Co-operative Bank customers helped to raise over £210,000 for Oxfam, taking our total donations to more than £5 million since 1995. When we launched our Everyday Rewards scheme in 2016, many customers chose to donate their rewards to one of our charities, and we quickly raised over £50,000 for some great causes. And that figure is still growing!
It's not always about money, though. Sometimes giving up a bit of time is all that's needed. Each week, volunteers from our Manchester Head Office share their skills at the Ready for Work Job Club at the Booth Centre. They help with CV writing and interview preparation, and assist job seekers in their search for work.
"It's good to be with a bank that's truly committed"
- Hannah, Co-operative Bank customer.
Be it at home or abroad, there's nothing more important than community. And providing a little extra support to our communities is, essentially, why we're here in the first place.
Sow the City was established in 2009. This social enterprise teaches people in Manchester how to grow their own produce, and provides green space in the city too. When Kieron and his business partner set it up, they chose The Co-operative Bank for their business account because of the Bank's history of values and ethics.
"My bank looks out for people in my community"
- Kieron, Co-operative Bank customer.
Protecting the environment and promoting sustainable development have always been cornerstones of our Ethical Policy. Since 2016, we've issued more than 3 million PVC-free cards. Most other cards in circulation are made of PVC - one of the most harmful plastics for the environment due to the toxins released.
In 2015, we were the first UK high street bank to sign the Paris Pledge denying finance for coal mining and power generation. Since 2006, we've offset 113,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.
Launched in 2016, The Hive is a co-operative business support programme set up in partnership with Co-operatives UK. We're investing over £1 million in The Hive over three years to help both new and existing co-operative businesses to thrive.
"I’ve never known a bank to be this supportive"
- Don, Litherland REMYCA FC, Beneficiary of the Hive.
We've never been a bank to follow the crowd. In fact, we believe it's good to be different. That difference is driven by you. But whatever impact we make, however much we achieve, we'll still give you the opportunity to keep making a difference by choosing to bank with us, And our customer-led Ethical Policy will remain at the heart of everything we do.
So while the world of banking may be changing, our ethical approach to it isn't. We'll continue to stand up for the things that matter.