Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


bank makes conscious effort to avoid ‘SRI’

March 2007

A leading ethical bank is trying to distinguish itself from the socially responsible investment herd by eschewing the terms ‘SRI’ and ‘ethical investment’.

Triodos Bank says both have been ‘debased by over-use and extension’ and has declared that it will now characterize its own policy as ‘conscious investment’.

In a paper outlining its thoughts on the future of  investment ethics, the Netherlands-based bank says SRI and ethical investment have come to refer to anything ‘from a sense of Victorian moral rectitude through to any hint of a progressive approach’ and are therefore ‘outdated and redundant’. Instead it will use the term conscious investment ‘to describe consumers being aware of how their money is used’. However, the bank’s investment approach will remain the same.

The bank, which has offices in Belgium, Spain and the UK, hopes the new term will distinguish it from the growing number of financial institutions that it believes take an ‘ethics-light’ approach to investment.

‘While we support banks concerning themselves with sustainability, we are afraid they are taking an ethical stance merely as a symbolic gesture, keen to make the most of the demand for all things ethical,’ it says. ‘We are concerned that current activity is still largely a light green varnish.’

Stephen Hine, head of international relations at Ethical Investment Research Services, said the debate on what terms to use in the SRI field ‘will go on for some time’. He added: ‘the key matter for consumers is that they can be clear what each organization means when it employs a particular term.’

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