26 January 2016

Our relaunched Ethical Policy one year on - what have we done to bring the Policy to life?

In 1992, we became the first UK bank to launch an Ethical Policy and we still remain the only UK high street bank with a customer led Ethical Policy underpinning how we do business. To reaffirm our commitment to values and ethics, The Co-operative Bank launched its new expanded Ethical Policy in January 2015, based on the views of 74,000 customers and colleagues who took part in our latest review.

Our Ethical Policy now reflects our customers' beliefs that the way the Bank is run should address issues beyond who we provide banking services to. So, as well as ethical banking, the Ethical Policy shapes the products and services we offer, how we run our business (including relationships with suppliers and external stakeholders), our workplace culture and our commitment to returning to our campaigning heritage.

In the 12 months since the relaunch of the Ethical Policy, we have strived to put it into action that benefits our customers and the wider society. Here are some highlights of how we've been bringing our Ethical Policy to life.


Ethical banking

Ethical banking means ensuring we only offer banking services to businesses that reflect our customers' ethical views. In 2015, we expanded our Ethical Policy to restrict the provision of banking services to businesses involved in irresponsible gambling, payday lending and those that do not pay tax responsibly in the UK or elsewhere.

ethical policy

Ethical products and services

Our Ethical Policy is more than just who we provide banking services to. We look to offer products and services that reflect the values and ethics that our customers believe in. Highlights of the new products and services we've developed in the last year include:

  • In March 2015, our new overdraft tariff was co-created with our customers and designed to offer a clear, simple and transparent charging structure.
  • The Bank's new balance transfer credit card, launched in November 2015, was developed with the help of our customers. Card account holders won't lose their zero per cent promotional rate if a small mistake occurs – an issue that has affected 1 in 4 holders of similar cards.1
  • The new Everyday Rewards Scheme, launched in January 2016, gives new and existing customers the chance to be rewarded for doing Everyday Banking things on their current account.2

As a result of our continued commitment to treating our customers fairly, we were named the winner of a number of customer service awards in 2015, including:

  • Best Large Call Centre and Most Improved Call Centre in the ICMI top 50 awards.
  • Best high street bank for customer service in the uSwitch Current Account Awards.
  • Finalists in the Best Current Account for Call Centre Service in the Moneywise Customer Service Awards.
  • Team Leader of the Year award in the Call Centre Association Awards.

We congratulate and thank all of our call centre colleagues for their dedication and commitment over the last 12 months.

Ethical business

Conducting ourselves with honesty and transparency is at the heart of our Ethical Policy. Our Policy encompasses commitments around how we operate as a business – including the way we manage our impact on communities and society, our relationships with suppliers and external organisations, and the environment. Our actions to promote ethical business in the last year include:

  • In 2015, we continued to be 'beyond carbon neutral' for the ninth successive year, offsetting over 100,000 tonnes of carbon since 2006.
  • We sourced 99% of our electricity from renewable sources in 2015.
  • To promote the UK's dynamic co-operative and social enterprise sector, in October 2015 we announced a £1 million partnership with Co-operatives UK. The three year programme, set to launch in early 2016, is the first of its kind in the UK. It will support the development of the existing 6,796 independent co-operative businesses across the UK, while helping new co-operatives and community businesses starting up.

ethical policy

Ethical workplace and culture

The actions we have taken to develop an ethical workplace and culture over the past year include:

  • In June 2015, the Bank received Living Wage accreditation from the Living Wage Foundation, with all employees now receiving at least a 'living wage' which reflects the real cost of living in the UK.3
  • Our colleague volunteering programme was relaunched in June 2015, with colleagues committing over 2,000 hours of volunteering, making a difference to our communities, customers and colleagues.
  • Our charity fundraising as a Bank saw over £40,000 raised in our March Madness charity fundraiser and almost £100,000 in our Christmas Festive Fundraiser.

Ethical campaigning

When we consulted our customers about our Ethical Policy, they told us that they wanted to see the Bank return to campaigning, to address issues and causes where we can help make a difference. In December 2015, the Bank returned to ethical campaigning with the launch of the 'My money, my life' campaign in partnership with domestic violence charity Refuge, raising awareness of the true scale of financial abuse in intimate relationships.

ethical policy


We carried out the UK's largest study to date in this area in order to understand the prevalence of financial abuse in intimate relationships in the UK. The study found that 1 in 5 UK adults is a victim of financial abuse in relationships. We also produced a guide with Refuge, offering support and guidance to victims of financial abuse. For more information on our campaign, please visit our My money, my life campaign pages.

Bringing the Ethical Policy to life

The last 12 months has seen the Ethical Policy expand away from just the ethical screening of business accounts into the way we develop products, the way we do business and the way we impact on the wider society. The above actions are just a small part of the activity that the Bank has carried out to bring our Ethical Policy to life. Every year, the Bank has committed to publish a Values and Ethics report, and the 2015 report to be published later this year will outline all the activity undertaken by the Bank to embed our customers' values and ethics throughout our business.