A familiar name returned to the fray last year following the collapse of a deal that would have seen the Co-operative Bank acquire 631 branches owned by Lloyds Banking Group. TSB is back – but is it a sustainable and ethical option for people seeking an alternative?
TSB boldly claims it “isn’t like other banks”. It says that it is the only big bank to ensure it helps its customers across the UK. It is also about to launch a TV campaign, saying that it will introduce people in Britain to ethical banking.
The campaign will ask people to think about the way in which their bank operates – and TSB has devised a list of five questions for them to pose to their current providers:
– Does your bank operate right across Britain and nowhere else?
– Does your bank serve only local people and local businesses, not big corporations?
– Does your bank refuse to gamble your money in overseas speculation?
– Does your bank say no to using its customers’ money to fund investment banking?
– Does your bank use every penny its customers deposit to help other customers, and nothing else?
“TSB is the only major bank to operate differently”, the bank adds, highlighting a number of its initiatives that are designed to help customers out. These include paying stamp duty for those taking out mortgages and making space available in branches for business customers to use.
The bank’s chief executive Paul Pester said, “In the aftermath of the banking crisis, the majority of consumers still distrust banks. Is it any wonder when other banks just will not explain where and how they use their customers’ money? At TSB, we are open and transparent about how we work and the fact that we use our customers’ money only for loans and mortgages for other customers.”
He added, “We want consumers to ask their bank to explain how they operate and how they use their customers’ money as we believe people have a right to know.”
Despite a clear emphasis on putting customers first, there is much scepticism as to whether TSB can return to its roots as an institution based on democratic and philanthropic values. Move Your Money, the campaign for better banking, scores TSB 21 out of a possible 100 on its scorecard.
“Whether it can put its customers first remains to be seen, but with a parent company like the Lloyds Banking Group, it is not a good place to move your money”, the scorecard argues.
Charlotte Webster, campaign director at Move Your Money, spoke to Blue & Green Tomorrow and questioned whether TSB’s bold claims will be matched with similarly bold action. Its relationship with Lloyds was again a point of concern.
She said, “In summary, we’ve been quite unimpressed that Lloyds has spent millions on IT systems, but they have failed. We saw that last month with the IT meltdown, and TSB customers were also affected. This is just one single example of the way in which TSB is still dependent on Lloyds.
“When you look at our scorecard, they ranked really badly. We want to see the substance of these claims; they’re simply telling us what we already know. Customers want a bank that focuses on customers.”
TSB, in its current form, is still in its infancy, having only launched in September 2013. But there are many banks and building societies out there that score high on anyone’s cards – for sustainability, ethics, responsibility and culture.
On the Move Your Money scorecard, building societies feature heavily among the highest rankers. There are plenty of others including Triodos, which assures savers that their money will only be invested in initiatives that bring about positive social or cultural changes; Handelsbanken, with its clear focus on personal relationships; and Charity Bank, which lends solely to charities and other organisations that enrich society.
The fact remains that there are hundreds of building societies and smaller banks out there that really care about the customers they provide services to, and have provided a good level of service for years. Whether TSB can step up to the mark remains to be seen – but with some encouraging rhetoric and its welcome focus on society, it is clear that it aims to distance itself from those with dubious ethical credentials.
Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?
Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?
But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?
The Big Picture
The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.
That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.
One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.
There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.
As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.
Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.
Make and Model of Car
Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.
On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.
The Bottom Line
Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?
Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.
New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035
New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.
New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.
Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.
Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”
The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.
Zero net emissions by 2050
Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.
Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.
She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.
Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”
A worldwide shift to renewable energy
Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.
Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.
Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.
Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.
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