Impact Journalism Day by Sparknews: A better world - No. 42

Bankers, beware: FairFin is watching

BRUSSELS • With €267 billion (S$404 billion) resting in Belgian savings accounts, it is surely safe to say that this country is a champion of savings.

However, how much do they know about the workings of our trusted bankers, who mobilise our capital to try and make it grow?

This is the question that the initiative Bank Scans is avidly trying to answer. Launched by a collective of European NGOs, with FairFin acting as the Belgian branch, this project is attempting to fight for a more ethical approach to finance.

 

For the second consecutive year, FairFin has "screened" the investment policies of nine different banks operating in Belgium. These have included some of the larger institutions - such as BNP Paribas, Belfius, ING, Deutsche Bank, and KBC - as well as the smaller players and some self-proclaimed responsible companies.

Eight central themes were held up for examination: respect for the planet, human and workers' rights, commitment against climate change, transparency, financing the arms trade and, finally, tax evasion.

 It wants banks to adopt more socially responsible attitudes by asking investors to question the banks' philosophies on issues like respect for the planet, human and workers'
Fairfin activists demonstrating in front of a bank. Its objective is clear: It wants banks to adopt more socially responsible attitudes by asking investors to question the banks' philosophies on issues like respect for the planet, human and workers' rights, commitment against climate change, transparency, financing the arms trade and tax evasion. PHOTO: LE SOIR

Unsurprisingly, the results showed that some of our most trusted banks do not always act in a respectful or ethical way. Last year, Belgian banks alone invested €2 billion in the arms industry by supporting companies such as Lockheed Martin, Airbus or Motorola, as well as seven billion euros in various companies that regularly violate labour laws and human rights. The list goes on and on.

The Bank Scans project's objective is clear: It wants to force banks to take on a socially responsible attitude by inviting investors to ask questions before they hand over their money to the highest bidder.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 25, 2016, with the headline 'Bankers, beware: FairFin is watching'. Print Edition | Subscribe