Critical Engagement

A term more often applied to investment in the stock exchange, this approach is also relevant to banks. It involves organising discussions with a company, or openly lobbying it, about its behaviour or its investments.

For example, campaigners from Share Action regularly attend banks’ annual general meetings to ask questions as shareholders about investments and workers’ pay. The Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility (ECCR) and its partners have held a number of meetings with banks. They press them to implement the recommendations of ECCR’s report The Banks and Society: Rebuilding trust.

Banks can also undertake critical engagement themselves. The Co-operative Bank often engages with companies in which it invests to raise ethical concerns.

Critical engagement is sometimes a precursor to avoidance or divestment. On a number of occasions, organisations have critically engaged with a bank or other company and decided to divest only if the engagement does not lead to change.

If you have ethical concerns about your own bank, you might try to raise them at your local branch or with the national organisation. While you can do this as an individual customer, you may have a bigger impact if you encourage other customers to lobby them as well. For faith groups and other organisations, particularly larger ones, this can be a valuable way of taking action to bring about positive change.