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bank takes new ethical path

February 2001

Bank of Scotland has issued an interim statement on ethical matters while it works on producing a full corporate citizenship report that will be published later in the year.

The Edinburgh-based bank, which faced a reputational challenge two years ago when it tried to set up a telebanking business with the right-wing TV evangelist Pat Robertson, is producing the statement to clarify its position on issues such as diversity and social exclusion.

The document, entitled Citizenship in Practice, says the UK's seventh-largest retail bank will aim 'to use the best business practices and demonstrate the clearest ethical principles' in its relationship with customers, staff and local communities.

This means 'responding sensitively to the cultural values of the communities we serve' and taking a strong stance on equal opportunities. Bank of Scotland says it will take a 'responsible attitude' to its lending policy and a 'constructive attitude' towards third world debt, but does not go into details. It is also aiming for 'continuous improvement' in environmental performance and says it will encourage suppliers to follow its example.

On social inclusion, the statement claims the bank has already taken 'imaginative action' to make its services as widely available as possible, especially since the creation in 1998 of a Social Banking Team which has been working on ways to make financial services more readily available to people on low incomes. It says its Easycash account was the first in the UK specifically designed to tackle social exclusion.

The bank also has two centres in Glasgow and one in Edinburgh providing financial advice to ethnic minority communities, and has seconded one of its staff to the Scottish Council for Voluntary organizations to help increase the membership and overall capacity of Scottish credit unions.

The full corporate citizenship report, due in the middle of the year, will show the bank invested £7million in community projects during 1999 and supported more than 400 charities.

The bank faced criticism in 1999 over its planned link-up with Robertson, who has made public attacks on gays and disparaging remarks about Scotland. A brief boycott campaign led to the loss of around 500 accounts. The Ethical Investment Co-operative in Edinburgh sold £1.5m worth of the bank's shares in protest before the bank's board decided to abandon the connection.

 




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