Accounting and Operational Finance roles: No matter the industry or the impact focus of the organisation a skill that is highly sought after by our ethical client base is accounting and finance expertise. Many of our clients have positive impact strategies at the centre of their operation and may indeed invest their profits or surplus into their environmental or social mission, strong financial governance can make a real difference. Whether they are a charity, social enterprise or a profit making business with ethical commitments, it is all about transparency which is essential when competing for funding or motivating a supporter base.
Banking: The banking sector is a challenge when looking at ethics due to the scale of the industry and its operations, the diversity of the products and the customer base. A smaller bank may be deemed more ethical purely because its products are focused on loans and mortgages for smaller companies and private individuals. Therefore, it is important to look at the policies and activities of the banks:
- Do they have exclusions for financing unethical projects and industry?
- Are they proactively supporting a more sustainable future economy?
- Are they reporting on their success and measuring their impact?
Examples of banks that go the extra mile are Triodos Bank and Charity Bank. Both these organisations have a clear mission for their trading activities:
Triodos Bank: A certified B Corporation and Living Wage employer, Triodos is a great example of what a bank can be. Triodos have a clear mission and are also not afraid to highlight their exclusions, who they will not lend to. Their aim is to fund a fairer more sustainable economy and according to their website have invested over £7bn worth of loans to projects across Europe benefiting people and the planet. Triodos have head quarters in Bristol and recruit customer focused staff, Data Analysts as well as Product managers and banking professionals
Charity Bank: Set up to assist charities and social enterprises access funding. Charity Bank are a certified B-Corporation and state on their webpage: “We are an ethical bank for everyone who knows that banks can do better. We are the bank for people who believe that banking should always work for good.”
Building Societies and Credit Unions Provide Local or Community Benefits
Building Societies have a clear ‘people’ benefit over the traditional bank and that is that profits benefit the savers and borrowers rather than shareholders. Whilst building societies tend to focus more on financial products like savings and mortgages, they are still able to offer the same services that banks provide, such as current accounts, for example so will have a similar range of job opportunities. Unlike banks most building societies are usually regionally focused. The most ethical in terms of social and environmental impact that we have found is Ecology Building Society. Ecology are focused on building a sustainable future, literally! They provide mortgages for properties and projects that respect the environment i.e. sustainable new builds, renovations and conversions.
If you are looking to use your skills to impact your local community then Credit Unions are co-operatives who provide financial services exclusively to their member base. Credit unions can be set up by any group of people with a ‘common bond’, this could be where they live, a trade or profession. They are still subject to regulation by both the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and by the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA).
There is no profit for third-party shareholders and services often help those who are unable to access traditional banking services, positively impacting the lives of those in the community struggling with finances and a great alternative to payday lending. Traditionally many Credit Unions have been volunteer led organisations and a good option to gain work experience if you are studying finance or changing career, however an increasing number of credit unions now have paid staff.
According to the Association of British Credit Unions Limited at the end of December 2019, the British credit union sector had circa 280 credit unions across England, Scotland and Wales employing more than 1,700 staff and experienced growth in both membership base and turnover.
The rise of socially responsible investing is in line with the shift in consumer mindsets toward more sustainable and eco friendly products and services. A socially responsible investment portfolio may look very different dependent on the ideals and values of the individual investing. There are many investment and banking firms now offering socially responsible investment products however this does not mean that they are no longer supporting more traditional investment portfolios so it is worth doing some digging. There has been an increase in specialist firms who only offer socially responsible investing or ethical finance advisors who screen/consult on investments to ensure they meet the requirements of clients concerned about where their money is invested. Organisations to watch in this growing sector:
Ethex: An online investment portal. Ethex is a small not for profit organisation based in Oxford UK with the aim of creating a marketplace for positive investments. Their aim is to make positive investing easy, so that you can invest directly into leading social businesses with the lowest charges possible.
WHEB Group: is a positive impact investor focused on the opportunities created by the transition to a low carbon and sustainable global economy. An owner managed partnership and a certified B-Corp corporation, WHEB also demonstrates the impact of the companies it invests in on its webpage.