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Will Barclays become the world’s first ethical banking superpower?



After a year to forget in 2012, Barclays chief executive Antony Jenkins appears intent on restoring the bank’s Quaker principles of honesty, integrity and plain-dealing. Will it turn into the world’s first ethical banking superpower?

The Libor rate-rigging scandala shareholder revolt over executive pay, aggressive” tax avoidance and an award for “social and ecological offences” made last year an unpleasant one for Barclays, to say the very least.

Its reputation took an arguably bigger hit than any of the other high street banks in the UK and made a mockery of its establishing principles – honesty, integrity and plain-dealing – which were engraved into its foundation in the 17th century by a group of Quakers.

But since it was fined £276m for its role in the Libor scandal last June – after which, chief executive Bob Diamond and chairman Marcus Agius both swiftly resigned – the spotlight of unethical behaviour has focused its attention on other banks.

While HSBC was paying a £1.2 billion money laundering fine, the Royal Bank of Scotland was shelling out for Libor and Lloyds TSB was coping with a £439m half-year loss, a shift change appeared to be happening at Barclays HQ in Canary Wharf.

Replacing Bob Diamond as chief executive in August was Antony Jenkins, who had occupied a number of high-profile positions at Barclays, Barclaycard and Citigroup in a career spanning almost three decades. Judging by his CV, Jenkins was not a man you’d expect to lead an ethical revolution at one of Britain’s biggest banks.

His predecessor Diamond had left the firm in explosive circumstances, and appeared before the Treasury committee to discuss his former employers’ role in the Libor scandal just a day after resigning. Labour MP John Mann, who sits on the committee, was particularly bullish towards the former Barclays chief.

You’re the man in charge. But you’re accepting all the good things and the bonuses [and] the people working for you are fiddling the system, potentially going to prison”, Mann said, directly to Diamond.

Give me a suggestion of how you’re going to show contrition to those staff and customers who are wondering whether to take their money out of this rotten, thieving bank?

Diamond surrendered after over two hours of questioning, accepting responsibility for his bank’s misdemeanour in rigging Libor. But that’s where it more or less all went quiet for Barclays.

Fast forward six months and Jenkins came out with something rather extraordinary. After taking on the chief executive role at a bank riddled with unethical and irresponsible dealings, he took the bold steps to send a memo to all 140,000 Barclays employees across the world, explaining that if they didn’t agree with a renewed set of values, they should quit.

He announced in January that respect, integrity, service, excellence and stewardship will form a five-point ethical code that all employees must adhere to, in an effort to shake off the unwanted legacy left by years of dishonourable behaviour.

Earlier this month, Jenkins told the banking standards committee, “We are shredding that legacy and in the value of stewardship, whoever is sitting in front of a committee in a decade’s time – I want them to have inherited a fundamentally different culture.

We should shred those behaviours of the past; we should shred situations where we’re short-termist, too aggressive and too self-centred. It’s those things I want to eliminate from our culture.”

A few days later, it was revealed that Barclays would be closing down the part of its business that helps customers legally avoid tax.

Jenkins said, “Although this was legal, going forward such activity is incompatible with our purpose. We will not engage in it again.”

These two steps – although small in terms of what changes are needed in order to truly transform Barclays into a sustainable institution – are entirely welcome.  And, dare I say it, a surprise. Research has continued to show that adopting ethical values can only benefit a bank in the long-term, so as well as being an overdue moral choice; it’s a sensible business decision, too.

Sustainable institutions – many of which were profiled in Blue & Green Tomorrow’s Guide to Sustainable Banking last year – were built on similar ethical principles to Barclays. The difference is that they have kept true to these values, and haven’t gone searching for profit at any cost.

The future of the banking sector looks a lot different to the monopolised, high street-led industry we’ve got now. That’s not to say that big banks don’t work; one only has to look at The Co-operative Bank’s model to see this. But the larger financial institutions of the future won’t look anything like the ones we have now.

Sustainability, transparency and accountability will be inherent, and it seems as though Antony Jenkins has realised this. His ambitious pledge to revolutionise Barclays must not be a hollow promise that ends here. He must ensure, going forward, that every part of the company factors in sustainability and leads with customer values at its heart.

This will by no means solve all the problems caused by the financial services industry; nor will it right all the wrongs made by Barclays and other banks in recent years. But what it will do is prove to others that ethical banking really is the right direction of travel, in the hope that others follow suit.

Further reading:

Jenkins promises a ‘better Barclays’ after unveiling ethical strategy

Bob Diamonds are not forever

Interest in ethical options surges amid UK banking melee

Has your bank been naughty or nice this year?

The Guide to Sustainable Banking 2012


How Going Green Can Save A Company Money



going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable




sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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