Ethics and economics are not always going to go hand in hand

Saving money with ethics in mind is all well and good, but are newer banks up to the task?

Two years ago, a UGM motion was passed telling YUSU that the students of York wanted to our Union to save its money with an ethical bank. Now, after a lot of work and effort, our Union does so. Gone are the days where we save our money with unethical investors. We no longer indirectly fund the arms trade or are, in some way, responsible for massive investment in fossil fuel extraction.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for saving the Earth and not killing people. But where do we draw the line? Lives are important, but they’re dictated by the flow and availability of money. When Northern Rock collapsed a few years ago everyone in the country was, indirectly, forced to spend money to safeguard people’s investments. But a dramatic bailout cannot happen on a regular basis, especially with younger banks.

We need to trust long-established banks with a history of stability

I’m not one to criticise YUSU; the Sabbatical officers work very hard and don’t deserve a lot of the high profile disapproval they get. At the end of the day, the decisions made are because our elected officers believe the results will benefit students at York. The decisions they make, especially regarding money, can significantly affect future generations of Sabbs to come afterwards though, as well as their ability to fulfil their own policy ambitions.

In this situation, sensible and economic banking must take precedence. The future of our Union relies on sensible and safe money management. All profits made by Your:Shop and the Courtyard go straight back to YUSU. This money is then used to fund both sports, welfare and student activities, from this paper to Drama Soc.

Clearly, money is one of the most important assets to any business or organisation. Basing how we risk one of our key assets around the idea that our views will distantly affect how a bank decides how it invests is foolish. In a world without economic confidence, we need to trust long-established banks with a history of stability.

Putting ethics before common sense is thoughtless. I only hope that the hard work our Sabbatical officers do doesn’t go to waste and put future Sabbs at a disadvantage. At least we’ll be saving the planet though, won’t we?

Edited 24th Feb: Disreputed sentence removed.


  1. 23 Feb ’10 at 12:57 pm

    Ralph de Cordova

    Given that this is another example of someone “giving an opinion for the sake of giving an opinion”, it’s a shame that you chose to belittle the idea that people should make ethical choices with regards to their actions; and that you also chose to do the same with the not-so-small issue of anthropogenic climate change, which troubles many people, over and against the issues of fiscal responsibility that are given logical precedence by dull conservatives such as yourself.

    Go back to your degree, kid.

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  2. 23 Feb ’10 at 1:36 pm

    A Co-operator

    “a young, fragile bank not known for its stability ”

    Um, what is this based on?

    The Co-Op Bank was founded in 1872. Admittedly this makes it a touch younger than the banks that later formed Natwest (1833 and 1834) but I would hardly call it “young”, would you?

    Fragile? The Co-Op Bank has actually done disproportionately well during the recession, precisely BECAUSE of it’s lack of investments in volatile areas (eg. oil, despotic dictators, etc), as opposed to Natwest which needed to be bailed out!

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  3. “We need to trust long-established banks with a history of stability”

    Err, have you been living under a rock for the past three years? Leaving aside your belittling of climate change (that belongs somewhere in 1990s Texas), the premise of this article is completely false; our money is as safe, if not safer with the Cooperative than any other major high-street bank.

    Do some research before making such outlandish statements!

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  4. You know nothing about this subject. Bad piece all round.

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  5. 23 Feb ’10 at 3:13 pm

    Ashley Holding

    This is literally awful. See above comments – I appreciate this is a comment piece, but its just wrong.

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  6. In the 3 years I’ve been at this university I’ve never felt compelled to comment any article on this website before – but the standard of this article is so poor, that I thought I’d add my own criticism to the above list:

    YUSU has moved from their account from Natwest, a part of the RBS group (RBS established in 1727, if my Wikipedia-ing serves me – I’m sure this must fit your criteria of a “long-established bank”?).
    RBS needed such a big bailout package after the recession, that they’re now about 90% owned by the taxpayer. Is that the sign of a stable, established bank – or to anyone with a few more braincells than you, perhaps a it’s a call to re-evaluate the idea that these supposedly unshakable banks really are.

    The Coop Bank, founded slightly more recently, didn’t need any money. They were fine. And they’re doing pretty well generally at the moment. As well as this, YUSU trustees, etc, carried out a thorough audit of the Coop Bank, and found it to be secure.

    What the case of the Coop Bank shows is that ethics and economics really can go hand in hand.

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  7. I’m quite interested to the reasons for your calling of the Cooperative Bank ‘unstable’. You have made a statement with apparently no foundation or reason, other than it being ‘young’. Producing evidence as to why you consider it unstable would’ve improved your article considerably. I don’t know how you’re a Chief Sub-editor of anything when you seem to lack a basic grasp of writing an article – when you make statements like this, they should be backed up with evidence. Unless you look to people like Jan Moir for your inspiration?

    Comment edited by a moderator

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  8. You’re massively retarded.

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  9. This made me lol.

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  10. Comment piece.
    People have read it.
    People have commented.
    Job done, I would say.

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  11. This is the most pitifully written ‘comment piece’ I’ve seen in a long time – and I’m a bit amazed it got passed the editors? What criteria do they set for ‘comment pieces’ if any at all? this author can just about string a sentence together, but seems to have absolutely NO IDEA what he’s even commenting on – full of factual errors, ignorant remarks and frankly insulting to the sabbs and students who’ve worked hard on passing a motion and change in bank account which will have genuinely positive impacts not only for YUSU but people and planet well into the future.

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  12. Rolling On Floor Laughing? Yup ROFL

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  13. The criticisms made of the content are fair in my view. The dismissive insults I find neither fair nor useful. If anyone is interested in finding out what actually happened in the financial crisis, its implications, and how the banking sector works I suggest the work of Michael Hudson. He is to my mind one of the only economists in the world who actually knows what’s going on and says so in clear language. See a great interview here: (focusing on the US but with implications for the UK and elsewhere) and a great blog run by his department:

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  14. Quite apart from the cringe-worthy “I am all for saving the Earth and not killing people. But…” I was appalled to read this article. Those present in Derwent cafeteria today also suffered, I am sure, as they were subject to my snorts and rants as I battled through this piece of “comment”.

    I agree whole-heartedly that focus on environment and ethics with no consideration for economics would be foolish. When, though, an option ticks all three of these boxes: two of them more so than our previous bank and the third to some degree in the short term, and, as the credit-crunch showed, a greater degree in the longer term, I fail to see how transferring funds to The Co-operative does not count as “sensible and economic banking”.

    The Co-operative may have offered a less generous return on our investments in previous years, yes, but as a consequence of not riding quite as high in the boom years as these so-called “long-established banks with a history of stability” and, consequently, not hitting the bust with such a sickening crunch.

    Ethical? Yes. Common sense? Certainly.

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  15. “But a dramatic bailout cannot happen on a regular basis, especially with younger banks.”

    Good call. Let’s close every bank that needed a bailout and switch everything to the safer banks.

    The biggest banks in the UK are HSBC, Lloyds, Barclays, Standard Chartered, RBS and Co-op… HSBC *loaned* £4B to other banks; Lloyds, RBS and Barclays needed money; Standard Chartered coped and Co-op didn’t need money. B&B/A&L/Abbey also coped because of international investments.

    So no Barclays, Lloyds TSB, Cheltenham and Gloucester, Halifax, NatWest etc. Co-op and HSBC for the win.

    Oh and in terms of RBS in particular… how do you think they faired compared to other similar banks? See for more details!

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  16. God guys, there is absolutely no need to get personal. While you may not agree with the sentiment of the piece, it is unnecessary to target abuse at the author.

    Besides, the world would be a pretty dull place if we all agreed on everything

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  17. I assume you have the data to back up your argument but you omitted it for a particular reason, because constructing said argument without proper reaserch is just objectivley bad journalism.

    Also anyone notice the irony of using this University’s investment to argue for such a case given that before the Co-op, it was banking with RBS, a back infamous for its nose-dive in the economic downturn.

    Just such a poor article, no wonder Vision gets more awards …

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  18. It is un-fortunate that some have chosen to write such personal remarks, however given the articles in the same section of the paper warning students that they are accountable for every word they write, I have little sympathy.

    To quote an article printed just 3 pages before this one: “not only is Nouse accountable for every word we write, the author in question is as well”. The attack on the co-op is tantamount to slander.

    It is a great shame that some students reading this will take what is said to be true, possibly discouraging them from forming an intelligent decision on banking, in regard to what is an ethically as well as fanatically sound decision.
    An (ill-informed) poor show
    I would like to see a correction and possibly an apology in the next issue.

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  19. Chris Young: fail.

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  20. I wonder what the writer himself has to respond to these criticisms.

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  21. Hi all,

    thanks for the comments. In a way, I see this as a success as the whole point of a comment piece is to cause comment. I’m slightly dissapointed that the piece hasn’t sparked debate, but oh well.

    This was my first attempt at a comment piece – i was told I had to write this late on Saturday night as well so it’s not of the best piece. Tho from helpful comments like, “Chris young: fail”, I’m guessing you’ve realised that.

    In the piece, I’m deliberately playing devils advocate. Yusu told us that we weren’t allowed to mention specific banks. From what I understand, the specific policy to change to said bank has been made sensibly and rightly and, as I said, I support the sabbs in that.

    However, on a broad view, I think that it wouldn’t be sensible to save with a failing bank with an ethical investment policy instead of safe bank with no ethical policy. That’s not looking at specific banks, as I wasn’t allowed to by yusu.

    If I was referencing co op, then I would obviously be wrong.

    Sorry if I misled anyone or annoyed anyone. Certainly didn’t mean to. Hopefully this clarification will spark actual debate.

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  22. And sorry for any typos on that! I’m on my iPhone which I haven’t had very long and am still getting used to typing on it!

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  23. Uh, ethics IS common sense. If it isn’t, then let’s just cast it away. And then we can live in a wonderful nihilistic world driven entirely by the profit motive.

    There are so very many things wrong about the writer’s worldview and so many ways to criticise it, that it leaves one stumped as to where to begin. Maybe knowing what the writer is studying (something related to business, perhaps?) might help put things into perspective.

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