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Use your power, vote with your feet and move your money



In February this year, Danielle Paffard founded Move Your Money UK – a campaigning organisation that aims to persuade consumers to switch to ethical banking options. In less than a year, it has become one of the movement’s biggest and most respected voices. Blue & Green Tomorrow caught up with Paffard, who spoke about encouraging people to bank on something better.

This piece originally featured in B&GT’s Guide to Sustainable Banking 2012.

There’s a campaign video on Move Your Money’s website that includes a scene from Mary Poppins. In it, the elder Mr Dawes is encouraging the aptly-named Banks children, Jane and Michael, to “invest [their] tuppence wisely in the bank”.

Their father, who works with Mr Dawes, joins in: “Now, Michael, When you deposit tuppence in a bank account, Soon you’ll see, That it blooms into credit of a generous amount, Semi-annually”, he sings.

The video outlines to viewers that there are alternatives to these profit-driven high street banks, and encourages them to move their money – something that an overwhelming amount of people are doing in the UK.

The shift has been absolutely amazing”, describes Danielle Paffard, founder of the Move Your Money campaign.

We estimate that since January, half a million people have moved to ethical banks, and we’ve also seen a 15-fold increase in traffic to our website in the past few weeks.”

Not bad for an organisation that is still in its infancy. But the fact is that the UK ethical banking community has longed for a uniting public body like Move Your Money – one that can stand at the forefront of the movement to effect real change.

And that’s exactly what it has done.

What’s really interesting is that we have had banking scandals before in the UK, and we’ve had outrage towards banks, but before it has just been outrage”, Paffard explains.

What’s been incredible in the last few months is the huge shift in public perception about what can be done about it. It’s the first time that anger has actually led to real tangible action and if you look at the coverage that the campaign has got and the exposure to this idea across all major broadcasters, it’s a question that people are now asking themselves, and that’s a real shift, which is just brilliant and we expect to keep on going.”

Representatives of the Move Your Money campaign have appeared on television numerous times – on Newsnight, The One Show and Daybreak, to name a few programmes – and in national newspapers such as The Guardian, The Telegraph and The Daily Mail. It has a strong presence on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and thus, has developed an admirable reputation in the alternative financial sectors as the voice of the citizen.

The need for such an organisation is quite clear. The financial power held by high street banks means they’re often credited with causing some of the biggest problems that the UK currently faces. Supporting local, mutual and ethical alternatives is therefore seen as the only sustainable direction – and in some countries in the world, these alternatives make up over 50% of the financial services industry.

Our current banking sector isn’t fit for purpose”, Paffard claims.

We’ve seen the crash of 2008, scandal after scandal, horrendous misbehaviour and basically corruption from the big banks over the past few months, and the government and the regulators aren’t taking appropriate action to fix it and are absolutely toothless in the face of these big banks.

Something needs to be done; we can’t go on with this system that is costing citizens and society so much. We need a better banking system and we think the only way to catalyse the change that we really need is for people to start voting with their feet and supporting these alternatives and making it a strong, viable sector that caters to the needs of households, communities and the wider society.”

Paffard is quick to point out, though, that the alternatives to mainstream banking stretch way further than individuals might think. As well as dedicated ethical banks, there are building societies and credit unions that also form part of the alternative banking sector, because they are owned by their members rather than shareholders, and only invest locally to support community development.

I think the differences [between the big banks and the alternative sector] are so fundamental, both in the way their businesses are structured and the motivators. The ethical banking sector is fundamentally different because it’s not exclusively profit-driven. And while it is after profit, it has other drivers and there are other factors to it, so sustainability and social responsibility are taken into account.

HSBC has been investing in some of the most appalling companies across the world and laundering money which is absolutely obscene. It’s therefore quite hard to pinpoint specific differences between the two sectors because I believe the differences are so fundamental and are determined by the very make-up, nature, core principles and governance structure of the bank itself.”

It’s quite hard to comprehend what goes on behind the scenes at some of the big banks – especially when you do compare them to the dedicated sustainable institutions – and they are doing all they can to ensure regulation swings in their favour. A recent report from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism showed that the British financial services industry is spending almost £100m a year on lobbying against banking regulation in the City of London.

We know that they’re not worried that the regulators are going to come out and push some harsh criteria down, because they’ve pumped so much money into making sure that doesn’t happen”, says Paffard.

We’ve seen the report highlighting the influence banks have on government and how much money goes into lobbying, so the banks aren’t worried about regulators. They’ll just be sitting tight and hoping it blows over. What’s really exciting about citizen action is that they can’t do that, though. If the citizens start reacting, I imagine they must be quite scared.”

In the last 12 months, one gets the impression that a real change is happening to the UK banking sector. Never before has the public felt so disengaged and disenchanted by their bank, but equally, never before has there been such an abundance of ethical, sustainable and responsible alternatives to switch to.

Customer dissatisfaction, according to consumer group Which?, is rife amongst the biggest UK banks, with all the high street institutions scoring lower than average in a satisfaction survey. Another Which? survey found that two-thirds of people (67%) think that bankers will not lose their job if they lie or cheat – a sign of the tumultuous times if there ever was one. It remains to be seen how long the big banks can get away with reckless spending, manipulation and poor service.

With the depth of public anger and the instability of the banks, I suspect the economic system is going to be increasingly unstable and untrusted, and I think we could see a huge and unexpected escalation in the number of people moving”, predicts Paffard.

This change will eventually cause the big banks to change as well. We do believe in equality in finance – we do need some big banking institutions – but those wouldn’t necessarily look like anything we’ve got today.

The alternative sector is economically and socially responsible; it’s stable; it caters properly to all sections of society; and it’s transparent, accountable and effective. We’re all fed up with the big banks; we know they’re not working. There is something that you can do, and it’s something you have to do.

If you’ve ever dissatisfied by the state of banking in the UK, use your power, vote with your feet and move your money.”

Further reading:

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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