The SU is currently debating whether it should launch a campaign for the closure of one of the campus branches of HSBC or Natwest in favour of a bank with a more ethical reputation such as the Co-operative Bank. The Co-operative Bank will not lend to oppressive regimes or companies making weapons. The bank last year turned down business that would have been worth £4.4 million over five years on ethical and environmental grounds. However, it estimates that its ethical stance more than offset the lost deals by helping to gain about £30 million in new business from customers looking to invest their hard-earned cash in a bank with morals. This issue has recently been featured in the SU survey where 43% of students declared themselves to be against such a move compared to 30% in support of the proposal. The opinion of the student body seems to suggest that the alternative ‘ethical’ bank would be seen as an inconvenience as many students would prefer to bank with a high street name; it is also worth bearing in mind that ethical banks tend to run a higher interest rate on spending with credit cards.
The SU seems to be promoting choice rather than enforced ethical banking for students, as one high street branch would remain open on campus but it believes that ethical investment opportunities should be embraced by the university, the Union and the students. The SU survey claims that ethical banking companies still offer the same face to face service that high street banks offer, with similar student specific accounts. The newly elected SU Environment and Social Justice Officer Sophie Day believes if students were better informed, then most would be won over by ethical banking. In a question and answer session, she claimed “The reputation of our university is important to every student long after they graduate and the university should be investing in and dealing with ethical companies. Our [current] banks invest in the arms trade and we [the university] have stocks in tobacco, oil and arms companies”.