Friday, 27 November 2009

Ethical banking

Banks are in business to make profits. One way they do this is by lending your money to someone else at a higher rate of interest, but they rarely disclose who they lend it to. Worse still, the credit crunch exposed the shocking truth that many banks were themselves unsure of who they had lent money to leading to an almost total collapse of the banking system! If you are concerned about your money being invested in unethical businesses and corrupt regimes then why not switch to an ethical bank? Ethical banking helps to create a society that promotes people’s quality of life and that has human dignity at its core enabling individuals to use money more consciously in ways that benefit people and the environment, and promote sustainable development. "I am still looking for the modern equivalent of those Quakers who ran successful businesses and made money because they offered honest products and treated their people decently . . . This business creed, sadly, seems long forgotten." — Anita Roddick Ethical banking

Green insurance - how ethical is your insurance company?

When insurance companies claim to be carbon neutral, they usually mean balancing a measured amount of carbon emissions with an equivalent amount that is captured through some mechanism or other. With net emissions being zero it becomes ‘carbon neutral’. The most environmentally aware insurance companies will always seek to firstly reduce their own emissions and those of their customers. This will include making their buildings more eco-friendly, cutting energy use and encouraging customers to drive more fuel efficient cars - giving advice and incentives to reduce their carbon footprint. Only after this will unavoidable emissions be offset. Carbon emissions can be offset in a number of ways. For example, carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels can be balanced against renewable energy that creates a similar amount of useful energy, so that the carbon emissions are compensated. More dubiously, insurance companies can pay others to remove carbon emissions by planting trees or by funding 'carbon projects' that lead to the prevention of future greenhouse gas emissions, or by buying carbon credits to remove them through carbon trading. Always be wary of companies who claim to be carbon neutral by simply paying for their emissions to be offset! Avoid ‘green-wash’ Avoid insurance companies who cynically allude to being environmentally friendly by introducing token gesture benefits. For example, always inquire about what they are doing to cut their own emissions, how they are contributing to combating climate change, and find out if they give discounts for low emission vehicles and eco-friendly initiatives. More tellingly, ask them what car their CEO drives! FSA Fines The FSA has the power to fine insurance companies who treat customers unfairly. Here are some examples - has your insurance company mistreated its customers? Egg fined £721,000 and will compensate PPI customers "Egg used inappropriate sales techniques to try to persuade customers to buy payment protection insurance on their credit card even when they asserted they did not want the cover." 10th December 2008 FSA fines Hastings £735,000 for not treating customers fairly The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has fined Hastings Insurance Services Ltd (Hastings) £735,000 for failing to treat its customers fairly in relation to cancelling around 4,550 incorrectly priced car insurance policies. "It is clear from our investigation that Hastings put its own interests ahead of those of its customers." 28th July 2008 Liverpool Victoria Banking Services to pay £840,000 fine plus compensation to PPI customers following FSA investigation The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has fined Liverpool Victoria Banking Services Limited (LVBS) £840,000 for serious failings in the sale of single premium Payment Protection Insurance (PPI). 30th July 2008 The Green Providers Directory

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Simple solution to a complicated problem?

Reading through the various reports on climate change and environmental damage it can sometimes seem as though the problems we face are insurmountable. That, despite the hard work of environmental campaigners and those concerned with fair trade and green issues, we are merely forestalling inevitable environmental collapse. As the overdue realisation dawns on governments around the world, particularly those with most to lose because of dense populations perilously exposed to sea level rises, there is a clamour for ‘quick fix’ solutions. Everything from geo-engineering to devices in space designed to block out sunlight. Whilst well-intentioned, these efforts overlook a far more fundamental problem. This problem can be expressed in a simple, single statement: There are too many people on the Earth, consuming too many resources. In other words, our impact on the environment can be broadly expressed as follows: Number of people x Per capita resource consumption Stabilisation of the global population and a reduction in per capita resource consumption will, in combination, do more to mitigate environmental damage than anything else. The Pareto principle of directing most effort into that which produces the greatest result has never been more important, whilst political prevaricating and drawn-out discussions on relatively minor issues serve only as a distraction. An effective solution must address both population growth and resource consumption together. There is little point in trying to reduce per capita resource consumption with a surging population as the total impact on the environment will continue to rise. Politically, however, that is what is happening. Governments regard the subject of population stabilisation as almost taboo. A no-go area not up for debate. Almost immediately, there are accusations of totalitarianism and coercion in reducing family sizes. Yet, it doesn’t have to be like that. Empowerment and better education of women in developing countries is known to have a downward impact on birth rates. The Obama administration’s progress in encouraging family planning in the US and more broadly within the UN will have a positive longer-term impact. There is so much that can be done and without recourse to totalitarian policies. However, the size of the problem should not be underestimated. For example, China’s population is still growing now despite the policy of one child per couple having been in place for many years. There is an inherent time lag involved. On top of that there are likely to be greater food shortages and displacement of large populations as climate change impacts upon agriculture in low lying areas, coupled with desertification of areas where deforestation has taken place. This will inevitably compound the problems of migration. Environmental organisations need to avoid focusing almost explicitly on reducing per capita resource consumption whilst neglecting the other side of the equation; population growth. Global environmental strategies can only be truly effective when addressing both sides of the coin. Dr Gary Robertshaw The Green Providers Directory