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Graduates are snubbing banks, but all banks are not the same

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The mainstream financial services sector is suffering from a lack of new talent, according to a major survey of the industry. But for budding bankers, there remains plenty of sustainable solutions.

The reputation of Britain’s banks has been so tarnished by the economic crisis and recent scandals that the industry is struggling to hire talented staff”, reads the opening paragraph of a Telegraph article from yesterday.

This is probably not that much of a surprise. Today’s young people are arguably the most environmentally and socially switched on generation of the post-industrial age. It seems obvious, therefore, that they wouldn’t want to work for banks that have become embroiled in crises-upon-scandal-upon-crises in the past five years alone.

Financial services used to be our most popular sector. Now it’s not a sector [graduates] are attracted to”, said Kevin Burrowes, financial services partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), one of the most prolific graduate recruiters in Britain who conducted the survey alongside the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

In a video on PwC’s website, Burrowes added, “For the first time, many of the respondents have noted a big challenge around staffing, around skills and around talent, and the impact of a shortage of these on their ability to deliver projects and their ability to carry on doing their investments.”

Burrowes even said that PwC had had conversations with regulators over the lack of future talent.

With financial trade outstripping real trade 26:1, it is in the world of investment that we will create a viable, sustainable future. And so for graduates wishing to get into the world of banking, but who have perhaps been put off by recent events in the sector, there are a number of options.

The UK boasts a thriving alternative banking community. They don’t mis-sell products to customers, deliberately rig interest rates or reward their executives with outrageous bonuses, even though the bank has made an annual loss; instead, they focus on the social and environmental benefits that can be brought on through financial trade.

All banks are not the same”, said Patrick Crawford, chief executive of Charity Bank – an ethical bank that estimates it has directly improved the lives of some 3.5 million people since its foundation 10 years ago.

Because we are impact- not profit-driven, we share the same values as our borrowers, depositors and investors, and we all have the same goal of trying to maximise social good.

Our staff are integral to this ethos, and everyone at the bank considers themselves to be part of this community of people with a common purpose.”

Crawford added, “We are proud to be part of a growing worldwide social banking movement that proves banking can be a force for good.”

All the signs point to the alternative banking sector being crucial to the long-term sustainability of an industry that appears riddled with problems. Just ask Greg Smith – the former Goldman Sachs employee who claimed the firm’s “toxic and destructive” environment forced him to quit his role as director at the bank, before adding that unethical investment banking “ultimately affects everyone.

A decade-long comparison of some of the world’s biggest banks against a group of dedicated sustainable ones last year, found that institutions that place values at the forefront of their business model outstrip their mainstream counterparts in almost every department.

Many of the sustainable banks saw a huge influx in customer interest around the time when media coverage of the Libor rate-fixing scandal was at its most prolific back in July – with some opening three times as many new accounts as an average week, as the public looked to ditch the big banks.

The latest PwC/CBI survey, published quarterly, found that the financial services sector saw a 31% reduction in employees during the final three months of 2012. This equates to 24,000 people losing their jobs.

It will therefore come as welcome news to the graduates seemingly turning their attentions to other industries, that there are banking opportunities that don’t meddle in unethical and immoral practices.

There are some banks it actually feels good to work at – and bank with”, said Lisa Stanley, head of communications at Triodos Bank, one of the largest sustainable banks in Europe.

At Triodos Bank we operate a transparent, values-based banking model.

These ethical values underpin everything we do, from the products we offer, fair executive pay and our lack of bonus culture, ensuring our depositors know exactly how their money is being deployed, to our culture and behaviours internally.

Stanley added, “To make the change that’s needed in the UK’s banking sector, we need to continue to employ high-quality and committed co-workers working for those banks who operate a more forward-looking, sustainable and ethical model.”

Antony Jenkins, chief executive of Barclays – one of the most prolific proponents of unethical practices in the past 12 months – recently sent a memo to the bank’s 140,000-strong global staff base, calling on employees to quit if they don’t agree with the bank’s renewed values.

His remarks are overdue, but welcome, and prove – slowly, but surely – that responsible, ethical, sustainable and better banking is becoming the popular option. For graduates, now is the best time to make a difference.

Read Blue & Green Tomorrow’s Guide to Sustainable Banking 2012 for a more in-depth look into the UK’s alternative banking sector.

Further reading:

Sustainable banks more ‘robust and resilient’ than high street institutions

Ex-Goldman Sachs director: unethical banking affects everyone

Interest in ethical options surges amid UK banking melee

Has your bank been naughty or nice this year?

The Guide to Sustainable Banking 2012

Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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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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Energy

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

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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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