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Values and Ethics

We were born from the co-operative movement. We continue with co-operative values.

We believe we have a duty to use our voice and stand up for causes that matter to you.

crowd with a Centrepoint sign

Proud to be the UK’s best rated high street bank for ESG*

At The Co-operative Bank, we’ve championed sustainable banking for almost 30 years. For us, taking an ethical approach is just how we do things — by supporting local communities, treating our customers fairly and honestly, and paying people a living wage.

But we also try to tackle some of the big issues too. We’re beyond carbon neutral and send zero waste to landfill. We campaign alongside Amnesty International UK to fight injustice, work with Refuge to challenge economic abuse, and give homeless young people a voice with Centrepoint. We’ve also invested £1.7 million in supporting co-operative businesses since 2016.

These efforts have now been recognised by independent experts Sustainalytics, who have given us the best ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) rating of any UK high street Bank.*

Visit our investors page to find out more.

*Rated by Sustainalytics in the Regional Banks subindustry with a score of 9.2 as of 11 June 2021.

Sustainability Report 2020: Our Values and Ethics in Action

Our agenda

Our commitment to the co-operative values and ethics on which we’re built remains as strong as ever. Our Ethical Policy has been shaped by customers for over 25 years, and upholding our sustainability commitments is a big part of making sure our Ethical Policy is at the heart of what we do — making a difference to the environment and the communities in which we live and work. With sustainability rooted in our foundations, we work to create a long-term, sustainable business that makes a positive difference to our communities.

Our latest sustainability report: 2020

Our Values and Ethics in Action Sustainability Report for 2020 demonstrates our sustainability highlights for the year and our commitments for the future, including; protecting the environment, creating a positive societal impact and reflecting the co-operative values and ethics in everything we do.

Download our latest report

View previous reports 

Our 2020 highlights

CDF dontation
Carbon Neutral
Ethical Policy


Zero waste to landfill
Women in finance

Our future sustainability commitments

We are proud of our sustainability achievements in 2020, and we want to do more throughout 2021, and in the future. As we look towards 2022 and our 150th year, we're committed to:

  • Building a greener future for young people: Maintaining the ‘better than net zero’ position we have held for over 10 years and supporting small businesses to promote a healthy environment.
  • Co-operation for the nation: Supporting the co-operative sector and creating opportunities for our customers, colleagues and charity partners to bring about meaningful social change.
  • Inspiring others: Developing a target-driven sustainability strategy with co-operative values and ethics at its heart and linking executive pay to the achievement of our environmental, social and governance targets.

For People with Purpose

At The Co-operative Bank, we have always been driven by something different: an ethical approach to banking. It's why we were the first UK high street bank to introduce a customer-led Ethical Policy - a policy that's been shaped by over 320,000 customer responses since 1992.

In 2017, we marked the 25th anniversary of our Ethical Policy. We have worked together to tackle the things that matter to you. From climate change to human rights. And while a lot has changed in that time, we're as committed as ever to:

  • Listen and care about what matters to you.
  • Make sure that your money is being used for good.
  • Campaign for what you think is right.

It's an ongoing effort, and it's our written promise to make sure your money and ethical values always go hand in hand.

For People with Purpose

Our Ethical Policy

We've reviewed our Ethical Policy five times since it first launched in 1992 - and periodically conduct customer polls to ensure that policy still reflects what you care about.

You can read our latest Policy and the results of our 2014 poll below.

Important documents

Key ethical areas

Our ethical policy is based around five pillars:

  • Ethical banking

    We are clear about the types of organisations we will and won't provide banking services to, because of our customers' ethical concerns.

  • Ethical products and services

    We are a responsible bank that treats customers fairly and we support organisations that make a positive difference for people and the environment.

  • Ethical business

    We conduct our business with honesty and transparency and we take responsibility for our environmental impacts.

  • Ethical workplace and culture

    We ensure our values and ethics are central to the way we work together for the benefit of our customers.

  • Ethical campaigning

    We campaign for social and economic change, on the issues that matter most to our customers and where we believe we can make the biggest difference.

Learn about our pillars

A history of our Values & Ethics

  • 1872  - 

    The Co-operative Wholesale Society establishes a ‘Loan and Deposit Department’ twenty-eight years after forming the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Co-operative Society.

  • 1930’s  - 

    A new Head Office is opened in Manchester to serve 11,000 mutual societies and clubs.

  • 1968  - 

    We changed our name to The Co-operative Bank.

  • 1974  - 

    We were the first UK Bank to introduce free banking for accounts in credit.

  • 1992  - 

    We introduced our customer-led Ethical Policy which focused on our customers’ key concerns including oppressive regimes, animal testing on cosmetics, fur trade and blood sports.

  • 1995  - 

    We conducted the first review of the Policy which incorporated our support for Fair trade.

  • 1996  - 

    Our opposition to transfer of arms to oppressive regimes led to our anti-landmine campaign.

  • 1997  - 

    The ‘Ottawa mine ban treaty’ bans the production and sale of landmines, the focus of our Landmine campaign in 1996.

  • 1998  - 

    After the second review of the Ethical Policy, we extended the policy to include statements on climate change, deforestation and unnatural chemicals.

  • 2001  - 

    After the third review of the Ethical Policy, we added statements on labour rights and genetic modification.

  • 2002  - 

    We launched the report Unexploded Remnants of War as part of our cluster bomb campaign calling for the protection of civilians from the effects of unexploded cluster bombs.

  • 2004  - 

    Our Safer Chemicals campaign called for better regulation of chemical harmful to human health and the environment.

  • 2005  - 

    We partnered with Christian Aid and the Trade Justice Movement to call for fairer international trade rules, a significant contributor to poverty in developing countries as part of the Make Poverty History movement.

  • 2006  - 

    We launched our ‘Combating Climate Change’ campaign in support of Friends of the Earth, which saw our customers lobbying MPs for a strong climate change bill.

  • 2007  - 

    In line with our position to uphold basic human rights around the world, we celebrated the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and publicly supported calls for human rights to be respected, notably in Burma during the 2007 Uprising.

  • 2007  - 

    We became the first bank to go ‘beyond carbon neutral.’ We source 99% of our energy from renewable sources and our carbon offsetting programme supports carbon reduction projects that also improve the health and wellbeing of some of the world’s poorest communities.

  • 2007  - 

    EU introduces REACH legislation to phase out the most harmful chemicals which had been the focus of our Safer Chemicals campaign in 2004.

  • 2008  - 

    The Climate Change Act became law setting legally binding targets for year-on-year reductions in CO2 emissions following action by our customers in 2006.

  • 2008  - 

    The Convention on Cluster Munitions bans the stockpiling, use and transfer of cluster bombs, but it also provides for the clearing up of countries littered with unexploded munitions.

  • 2009  - 

    After the fourth review of the Ethical Policy, we extended the policy to cover all indiscriminate weapons, the distribution of fuels with a particularly high global warming impact and the exploitation of great apes.

  • 2013  - 

    EU bans the sale and import of cosmetics and ingredients tested on animals, a stance we have supported in our Ethical Policy since 1992.

  • 2014  - 

    Co-operative values and ethics were embedded in the bank’s articles of association for the first time.

  • 2014  - 

    More than 74,000 customers took part in our ethical poll – the fifth we had conducted since it launched in 1992. The Ethical Policy was extended to the five pillars we have today.

  • 2015  - 

    We were the first UK high street bank to sign the Paris Pledge denying finance for coal mining and power generation.

  • 2015  - 

    Our customers wanted us to return to campaigning. So we did. Partnering with the UK domestic violence charity, Refuge, our ‘My money, my life’ campaign demonstrated the extent of financial abuse in intimate partner relationships in the UK.

  • 2016  - 

    We are the only UK based bank included in the 'Don't Bank the Bomb' Hall of Fame for denying finance for the manufacture or transfer of indiscriminate weapons.

  • 2016  - 

    Launch of The Hive, a £1 million three-year partnership with Co-operatives UK to support the development and growth of the UK’s dynamic co‑operative and social enterprise sector.

  • 2016  - 

    We signed HM Treasury’s Women in Finance Charter, setting a target for 40% of senior roles filled by women by 2020.

  • 2016  - 

    Our ground-breaking referral programme with Citizens Advice Manchester was launched to help our customers who find themselves in financial difficulty.

  • 2017  - 

    We were proud to partner with Centrepoint, the UK’s leading youth homelessness charity, and to sponsor the very first Centrepoint Manchester Sleep Out, which raised over £40,000.

  • 2018  - 

    In November, Centrepoint opened a Manchester branch of their national helpline, funded by the Co-operative Bank, providing a tailored and specialist service in the city.

  • 2018  - 

    As a direct result of our joint campaign with Refuge, an industry-wide ‘Financial Abuse Code of Practice’ was launched to help those affected by financial abuse.

  • 2019  - 

    We were delighted to announce that, together with our customers and colleagues, we have raised over £1 million for our charity partner, Centrepoint, to help with their mission to end youth homelessness.