Responsible Banking

Charities like other businesses require banks to provide them with current accounts and in many cases supply loans or be the holders of their savings.  

Banks lend money to all different types of businesses, from large corporations, public institutions and even the occasional country. They also invest money in companies and corporations on behalf of businesses including charities, and individuals through investment funds, ISAs and pension funds.  

Banks use the money they make from customers to make more money by investing in companies and institutions. There are very few prohibitions as to where a bank can loan or invest its money.  

As a charity it is important to be aware of your bank’s lending policy, and especially whether this conflicts your charity’s mission and aims. For example, a bank’s investment in fossil fuels would contradict the aims of an environment charity, and could be against those of health, education and poverty charities because of the effects climate change could have on these areas.  

Key Considerations

The types of issues you may wish to consider: 

  1. The types of businesses the bank would and would not offer services to
  2. What the bank is willing to invest in
  3. The bank’s business practices 

For example: 

  • Responsible investing: Is your bank investing in companies that are harming people and the planet? E.g. Fossil fuels, armaments, poor labour standards 
  • Responsible lending: does your bank ensure its lending to people who can afford to make repayments? Do they provide advice or debt management services if customers fall into financial difficulty? 
  • Tax evasion/avoidance: Is your bank conducting appropriate due diligence on its large clients with regards to the source of their money? Has the bank conducted tax evasion or avoidance themselves?  
  • Internal practices: Is the bank paying its own staff a living wage? Does it have appropriate policies on equality, diversity and inclusion? 

Types of institutions

Many high street banks are listed on Stock Exchanges and so have external shareholders to consider and pay dividends to. This distinguishes them from other types of institution which distribute profits to members or in line with a social or environmental mission. An exception is the Co-operative Bank, which is not listed but part of Co-operative Financial Services Ltd. 

Building societies tend to concentrate on providing mortgages and personal finance services, though some offer charity accounts. They are “mutuals” which means they are owned by their members – their savers and borrowers – instead of having external shareholders. 

“Mission-based” financial organisations provide a focused range of financial services linked to certain social and environmental objectives. 

Other banking options include internet banks and supermarkets, though these services tend to be owned or operated in connection with high street banks. For example, Smile is part of Co-operative Financial Services. 

What can you do?

Talk to your bank

Read the bank’s policies on investing. Some banks will have a Responsible Investment and/or Stewardship policy on their website. If you cannot find it, do not hesitate to reach out to your bank manager as such queries are part of their role.  

Switching bank accounts

If you’ve spoken to your bank and you feel their current and future plans do not meet your charity’s values, you can switch banks. This has been made a lot easier in recent years with the Current Account Switch Guarantee, which is relevant for business with an annual turnover of less than £6.5m.  

SwitchIt is a great resource to learn whether your bank is investing in areas you may wish to avoid.   

Ethical Consumer looks at banks’ investment and ethical policies, the types of companies banks are lending and investing to and whether they pay a fair share of tax. It provides a rating of each bank.  


A selection of banking examples are given below: 

CAF Bank - a not for profit bank which offers interest-bearing current and deposit accounts specifically to charities, not for profit organisations, social enterprises and charitable trading subsidiaries. 

Financial Information: 

  • Mastercard business card 
  • Internet banking and dual authorisation 
  • Branches – counter services at HSBC branches in England & Wales, and at RBS in Scotland 
  • £8 monthly fee for Current Accounts. Other tariffs can be viewed here. 
  • Min for opening account is £1k. There is no maximum. 
  • Money protected up to £85 under financial services compensation scheme 
  • Not part of the 7 day switch guarantee. Aim to complete bank switching process within 12 days. They will help transfer Standing orders and direct debits.  
  • Provide a range of savings accounts, what’s right for a charity will depend on the amount of money and liquidity requirements – instant access, notice accounts, fixed term accounts. 
  • No interest for a current account. Varying interest rates for the different savings accounts.  
  • Provide internet banking and dual authorisation 
  • Provide a Business card for charities. Need a CAF current account to access. No bank charges. Free cash withdrawals up to £300 from a cash machine.  

Ethical Considerations: 

  • CAF Bank is owned by Charities Aid Foundation so it exists for charitable purposes.  
  • CAF Bank does not have an investment policy of its own, so there is a lack of transparency as to what CAF Bank itself invests in. CAF Bank does hold equities in a number of unethical sectors including oil and tobacco. 
  • Its own investment services are provided by other investment managers such as Legal & General. 
  • CAF is not a Living Wage Employer 


Charity Bank – a bank and registered charity which provides loan finance to charities, not for profit organisations and social enterprises. It also offers a range of deposit accounts. 

Financial Information: 

  • Does not provide current accounts 
  • Currently only provides 1-year fixed rate account for charities for amounts between £10k-£500k, at 0.47% interest. 
  • Provides dual authorisation but not internet banking.  
  • Does not have physical branches 

Ethical Considerations: 


Co-operative Bank – a high street bank with an ethical policy governing the types of businesses the bank would or would not offer services to.  

Financial Information: 

  • Have a range of current accounts 
  • It can take up to 6 weeks to open and process new accounts.  
  • The Community Directplus Current Account which is specific to charities. Suitable for a charity if they’re unlikely to exceed any of the following annual limits: credit turnover exceeds £1m, deposit more than £100k in cash or deposit more than 5000 cheques. This account has no fees. 
  • If the Community DirectPlus Current Account isn’t suitable for your charity, the Standard Tariff current account charges £7 a month. However you can get the first 30months free.  
  • Part of the 7 day switch guarantee  
  • Money protected up to £85 under financial services compensation scheme 
  • Provide a Business charge card. £2 charge per month. Cash advance fee of 2% for cash withdrawals.  
  • Have three savings accounts: 95 day notice at 0.12%, 35 day notice at 0.09%, Instant Access at 0.03%. No min or max amounts apply for any of them. You need a Co-op current account to apply for a business account 
  • Provides dual authorisation and internet banking 
  • Have physical branches

Ethical Considerations: 

  • Co-op bank publish their Sustainability policy and provide details about the impact of their investments. Our Ethical Policy | The Co-operative BankThey do not provide banking services to businesses and organisations that conflict with their ethical policy. 
  • Co-op bank are not a living wage employer 
  • Co-op bank is a signatory of the Fair Tax Mark 


Ecology Building Society – a building society which offers a charity deposit account and uses deposits to grant mortgages on properties and projects that help the environment. 

Financial Information: 

  • Does not provide current accounts  
  • Have a range of savings accounts: Easy Access (min amount £25, max amount £125k, 0.1% interest p.a.), Ecology Cash ISA (min amount £25, max amount £20k, 0.3% interest p.a.) and Regular Savings Account (min amount £25, max amount £250 per month, 0.8% interest p.a.) 
  • Provides Internet banking & dual authorisation 

Ethical Considerations: 

  • Ecology publish their sustainability policy and provide details about the impact of their investments.   
  • Ecology Building Society is a living wage employer 
  • Ecology Building Society is a signatory of the Fair Tax Mark 


Reliance Bank – Provides current accounts, savings accounts, mortgages and loans to individuals, charities and businesses.  

Financial Information: 

  • Provides a charity current account. Fees are bespoke, to be decided with the Reliance Bank relationship manager. No interest on the current account 
  • Part of the seven day switch guarantee 
  • Money protected up to £85 under financial services compensation scheme 
  • Provides a Visa debit card 
  • Can pay in cash or cheques at Natwest or RBS 
  • Provides a range of savings accounts: Instant Access (0.05%, max £10m) 35-day notice (0.3%, min £5k, max £10m but can request to go above £10m) and 90-day notice savings accounts (0.4%, min £5k, max £10m but can request to go above £10m) 
  • Provides dual authorisation and internet banking 

Ethical Considerations: 

  • Donates 75% of its profits to the Salvation Army to support their evangelical and charitable work. 
  • State that they prioritise business lending to organisations delivering positive social impact in the UK.  
  • Reliance Bank are not a living wage employer.  


Triodos Bank – a mission-based institution which only lends to organisations that create social, environmental and cultural value such as charities, social businesses, community projects and environmental initiatives. 

Financial Information: 

  • Offers a Charity Current Account with no min or max amount for charities. Earn 0.05% interest on balances over £5k. Fees are paid per transaction (20p for BACS, Direct Debits and Faster Payments) 
  • Part of the seven day switch guarantee 
  • Money protected up to £85 under financial services compensation scheme 
  • No debit or credit card offered to charities 
  • Provides several Charity Deposit Accounts. Mo min and no max amount. Interest will be paid over £1k. Easy Access at 0.05%, 33 Days’ notice at 0.05% and 90 Days’ notice at 0.1%. 
  • No physical branches but offer services to deposit cash and cheques.  
  • Provides dual authorisation and internet banking 

Ethical Considerations: 

  • Triodos pride themselves on transparency and publish details of every company that they lend to. 
  • Triodos only finance companies that “focus on people, the environment or culture”. The details of this are outlined in their lending policy 
  • Triodos Bank are a living wage employer 


Unity Trust Bank – a bank which provides current and savings accounts, and business loans to companies including charities. They aim to support local communities and contribute positively to ESG change.  

Financial Information: 

  • Have three different current accounts to choose from dependent on charity turnover. Fees are £6 per month, plus 15p per individual credit and debit transactions for charities with turnover over £100k. No interest paid on the account.  
  • Can pay cash to post offices and cash & cheques to local Natwest, RBS and Ulster Bank branches 
  • Part of the seven day switch guarantee 
  • Money protected up to £85 under financial services compensation scheme 
  • Provide a charge card, with a £3 monthly fee, 2.5% cash transaction fee.  
  • The provide three savings accounts: Instant access (which currently offers no interest rate), 30-day deposit (min deposit £2m, interest rate available on request), 90-day deposit (min deposit £500k, interest rate available upon request) 
  • Provides dual authorisation and internet banking 

Ethical Considerations: 

  • Unity Trust Bank lend predominantly to charities and small & medium sized businesses that are “committed to economic, community and social change.” 
  • Unity Trust Bank is a living wage employer 
  • Unity Trust Bank is a signatory of the Fair Tax Mark 

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