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British public concerned by banks’ socially and environmentally harmful investments – exclusive poll

(Monday 17th July) Exclusive polling commissioned by ShareAction, the charity campaigning for responsible investment, has found high levels of interest from a significant cross section of the British public in social and environmental impacts linked to how their money is being invested by their financial providers, including banks, pensions schemes and insurance companies.

The data being released today focuses on public attitudes to their financial provider investing in companies that fail to treat workers well or protect the environment. The survey, conducted by YouGov, sought the opinions of over 2000 British adults.

It found that while over half (52 per cent) were interested in receiving more information about how their financial service providers were investing their money, a majority (83 per cent) said they only knew a little or nothing about where their money is being invested. Almost three quarters (73 per cent) wanted either more, equal weight or some consideration to be given to the social and environmental impact of those investments, compared with financial returns.

Just under three quarters (74 per cent) of respondents said they would have a more negative view of their financial provider if they found out their money was invested in companies which did not meet human and labour rights standards for their workers. In addition, 68 per cent also said they would view their financial service provider more negatively if they knew they were investing in businesses involved in deforestation and damaging the environment.

The research highlighted attitudes to banks. It found that people were willing to switch banks if they did not align with their values:

  • Over half (54 per cent) would be inclined to find a new banking service if they knew their bank was investing in* businesses that failed to meet labour and human rights standards for their workers;
  • Over a third (38 per cent) of respondents would be likely to change banks if they discovered their bank was investing in companies that use large quantities of fossil fuels.

By contrast, 32 per cent would be less likely to change banking providers if their bank was investing in companies that are net-zero in their carbon emissions.

Jeanne Martin, Head of the Banking Programme at ShareAction, commented on the findings:

“It’s clear that the public have a strong moral compass when it comes to how their money is being invested. This should be a wake up call to the financial sector to switch to more responsible investment practices that align with customers’ views and expectations.

“Banks in particular should take note that people are willing to walk away from institutions that don’t reflect their values. We need to see banks step up and use their influence as financiers to steer companies away from practices that are violating human rights, damaging our vital ecosystems and escalating the climate crisis.

“A crucial first step would be to see banks commit to restricting finance for companies that continue to expand oil and gas extraction, which is urgently needed to try to keep within a 1.5C global temperature rise.”

ShareAction is also calling for banks to take full responsibility for the carbon emissions that result from bond deals they facilitate. Banks have been lobbying to water down guidance that would see these ‘facilitated emissions’ included in updated targets set by an industry group, the Partnership for Carbon Accounting Financials.

Notes to editors

*For the purposes of the YouGov survey, banks ‘investing in’ companies refers to the full spectrum of financial relationships banks might have with companies, inclusive of loans, equities and bonds.

In November, ShareAction supported indigenous activists from the United States and Mexico visiting the UK to meet with large banks including Barclays to discuss the harmful effects of fracking on their communities and to ask them to stop financing these projects. The organisation has also called for banks to commit to the principles of Free Prior and Informed Consent for Indigenous peoples and affected communities and exclude projects and clients that violate this.

In the last 12 months a large group of retail customers organised by Make My Money Matter have written to the five largest UK retail banks urging them to stop financing new oil, gas and coal expansion.

According to the latest Banking on Climate Chaos report, the world’s 60 largest banks provided $150 billion in 2022 to the top 100 companies expanding fossil fuels, despite the IEA’s warning that there can be no new oil and gas for a 1.5C temperature rise to be possible.

The survey was commissioned alongside the launch of ShareAction’s new definition of ‘responsible investment’, which aims to drive up standards across the financial sector to prevent greenwashing and misleading claims. ShareAction is calling on institutional investors to take responsibility for the real-world impacts of their investments on people and planet.

More information about ShareAction’s new definition of responsible investment is available on its website:

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,007 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 21st - 22nd June 2023. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

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