Beyond B Corp: Breaking up with Barclays 

Laura Oliphant
Written by Laura Oliphant

Tags: B Corp communications leadership PR

Last year we became a certified B Corp, and to do so we had to meet high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability. It took us 18 months and challenged us to look at our business through a new lens – from policies to clients, office choices to our supply chain. Our belief in better was always at the heart of the agency but securing B Corp status required us to drill even deeper into what that meant in terms of our choices and decisions.    

But there was one thing we missed.  

B Corp requires you to report on things like waste, equity and inclusion and your environmental and social impact – but not how and where your organisation’s money is invested. 

Up until last week we were banking with Barclays.  

Stand has financial services clients, and we know that business banking is traditionally a poorly served market. When we needed a bank account in the early days of Stand, we didn’t question how our money would be used, and whether our bank matched our values, ethics or our client portfolio. From solar energy to protecting green space, we partner with clients to combat the catastrophic impact of climate change and accelerate the transition to net zero – but our money was doing the opposite.  

Although Barclays was one of the first banks to announce its goal to reach net zero by 2050, the focus was on its internal operations, rather than the sectors it invested in, which has a substantially greater impact on warming the planet. They are the second largest European financer to 50 of the top oil and gas expanders, investing £39.5bn between 2016 and 2021. Barclay’s recent policies to stop the financing of oil and coal show progress, but these have been quickly challenged for not being strong enough by ShareAction and Reclaim Finance.  

It was our work with socially conscious bank Kroo that made us think about who we banked with. It was more than our bank not matching our ethical approach, it was actively working against it. It was time to break up with Barclays.  

How money should (or should not) be used to fund a sustainable future is debated daily in the media, board rooms and elected bodies. And while many of us feel far removed from how governments and big businesses fund practices we may not support; we have a choice of who we bank with. It was time for us to put our money where our heart is. 

We talk a lot about individual choices – whether it’s eating less meat, ditching the car, or just swapping out single use plastic for a greener option. But as businesses we also have a choice and the impact of those choices is arguably greater than any individual change or action. That’s why we believe it’s time for brands and business to take a stand – no matter how great or small.   

As an independent, privately owned agency, we can draw a hard (and swift) line when it comes to our decisions. Making change happen is one of our core values, and whilst moving isn’t easy, we didn’t feel comfortable encouraging our clients to believe in better, if we didn’t act on our own advice. 

We chose The Co-Operative Bank as it aligned with our values and business needs and is ranked as one of the most ethical banks according to ethicalconsumer.  

We know our splash is a small drop for Barclays. But as communicators, we also know talking about an issue increases understanding and challenges the status quo to create bigger waves. 

Our decision isn’t about improving our B Corp score. It’s about going beyond and thinking how else we can use our business as a force for good. As our Managing Director, Georgie Howlett, said when announcing our certification, “achieving B Corporation status is not a case of job done, it’s about how we live it, and continue to raise the bar in how we operate, our culture and our work with clients.”   

As we push the limits of what we can improve, influence and challenge in our work, we’re reminded that taking action is how change happens and that we’re far from finished.  

Up next: pensions. 

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