Triodos Bank NV ("the Bank")
Various organisations to which it has lent money
One of its former investing customers, referred to as Mr B
Mr Peter J Winchester, who wrote to the Manchester
Metro News in April 2008 re: cruelty to animals
Mr Arthur G Braithwaite, who wrote to the Stretford
and Urmston Messenger (a newspaper which covers part of Trafford, which
is one of the ten boroughs of Greater Manchester) in May 2008 re:
cruelty to animals
The Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative Parties
The Bank describes itself as “ethical”and few would
disagree that most of its loans have been used for good purposes but
All information herein relating to the correspondence between Mr B and
the Bank is based solely on papers produced by Mr B. We have not contacted the Bank.
In a letter of 12 November 2007 to the Bank, Mr B wrote the
following, referring to a booklet which had recently been published by
"Inspiring Change 2007/8", it appears likely that most of the Bank's
will be using their loans only for purposes of which I would
approve but that a few will not.
for example, Gateway Christian Fellowship, which will
probably be using its loan partly to
enable people to preach that Jesus walked on water, created food
miraculously, came back to life after
his death etc. These beliefs (all of which I consider very
unlikely to be true) may seem harmless
but they are often used, indirectly, to encourage
discrimination against gays and promote fatuous
objections to abortion, euthanasia and scientific research."
In a further letter, of 16 November 2007, which probably crossed with
the Bank's reply to the earlier one, he suggested that the Bank adopt
the following policy:
application for a loan shall be considered unless it includes an
undertaking by or on behalf of the
prospective borrower, or prospective borrowers jointly and
severally, as the case may be, not to present
as a fact any assertion not proven beyond reasonable doubt and
not to assist any person directly
or indirectly to do so.
However, no such undertaking
shall be construed to prohibit anyone from
truthfully describing anything he or she has witnessed, or
arranging or participating in the arrangement of any discussion
reasonably expected by him or her
to be chaired competently and impartially, or
expressing any genuinely held belief as a participant but not as
Chair in a chaired discussion."
It became clear later that the Bank was unwilling to do so.
The main parts of the Bank's reply were as follows:
Bank's lending policy, across all sectors, specifically
requires that the group offer positive
social impact to the wider community without discrimination. It is our standard procedure
to gain an understanding of into the activities of any
organisation before pursuing an
application for a facility. In addition, our Social and Spiritual
team have a separate Faith Group
policy to ensure that while we do not discriminate against
organisations that benefit the
community or environment because of the beliefs they hold, we also
do not encourage or support activities
which would lead to the sorts of prejudice you describe in
group you use as an example was advanced a loan in 2000 for the
purchase of a piece of land
as the site for the construction of a centre incorporating a
nursery, large community hall, a
kitchen, a second smaller hall, community education rooms and an IT
suite. We review our lending
facilities regularly and a relationship manager checks that all
the information previously
provided is still correct, not only to ensure the financial
viability of the group but also
to understand that they continue to have the positive impact they
aimed to achieve."
The two paragraphs immediately above are hereinafter referred to as,
respectively, the third and fourth paragraphs of the Bank's letter of 19 November 2007.
In a reply of 23 November 2007, Mr B stated:
is no rational basis for the Bank's policy of non-discrimination
on grounds of belief and it could
The correspondence which ensued is reproduced below.
Sector Lending Policy
you for your letter of 23 November 2007, which further examines
the question of
our lending policy to faith organisations.
appreciate your comments and try to ensure that all of our projects
meet the expectations
of all our savers, however, we realise that this cannot
always be the case. In
order for you to feel more comfortable with the use of your savings
you may wish to
consider transferring your funds to an alternative account type
where the money would
be used to support projects you feel are more inline with your
own values. I enclose
a leaflet on our Triodos Charity Saver. This account type
allows you to target your
funds in a particular area, such as renewable energy projects or
you wish to make this switch, please complete the form detailing
your account details
and indicating that you would like to transfer all your funds
and close your existing
hope this draws this matter to a satisfactory conclusion. If you wish
to discuss the alternative
accounts or raise any further points, please contact me on
0117 9809 774.
Chanty Saver form, pre-paid envelope
The following is an extract from a leaflet re: the Triodos Charity
Saver Account: "When you open your Triodos Charity Saver
Triodos Bank will donate the equivalent of 0.25% of the average balance
of funds held in your account each year, to your chosen charity, listed
overleaf." Nine charities are listed. There is also
option to automatically donate some or all of the interest to one's
you for your letter of 29 November 2007.
suggestion is bizarre. I have pointed out a fundamental fault in
the Bank's lending policy and you
have suggested that I do something which might result in better use
of a few pounds per year!
bank is misleading the public by describing itself as "ethical". A
truthful description would be "partly
the fourth paragraph of your letter of 19 November 2007, it
appears that the loan to Gateway Christian
Fellowship has done some good but it has probably also done
some harm, by facilitating the
spread of faulty habits of thought, especially to children. The
consequences of faulty habits of thought
can be far-reaching and complex. I do not know whether the loan
has done more harm than good.
last sentence of the third paragraph of your letter of 19
November 2007 does not make sense. Any
policy of the Bank not to support a particular activity must,
actually or potentially, require the Bank
to discriminate on grounds of belief (against people who believe
that they should participate in
that activity and perhaps other people).
leads me to an important request:
assure me that the Bank will not lend money to, or for use by,
any organisation which condones
the slaughter of animals by cutting their throats whilst they
your response, please display the whole of this
correspondence, starting with my letter of 12
November 2007, on your website.
is based on my understanding of the word "ethical".
have still not received a reply to my letter of 20 January 2008
have still not received a reply to my letter of 20 January 2008,
despite my reminder of 11 March 2008,
sent by Recorded Delivery.
hereby give the required one year's notice of closure of my Triodos
Saver Account No.XXXXXXXX.
reference to the last sentence of my letter of 20 January 2008, I
hereby withdraw my consent to
publication, by the Bank, of my name.
wonder how many of the Bank's investing customers would keep their
accounts open if they were aware
of its failure to give the assurance requested in my letter of
20 January 2008.
are sorry to hear that you wish to close your Triodos Bank account.
We have logged
the closure to take place on 20 January 2009 as we have taken
the notice to start
from the date of your original letter to Kate Tiplady. However we
information from you in order to complete your request.
we do not issue cheques for withdrawals, we need to ask you to
confirm the details
of the account to which you would like the closing balance of
your Triodos account
to be transferred.
complete and sign the attached closure amendment form, and
return it to us by the
date specified. If we have not received the form by this date, we
will be unable to close
your account and your request will need to be cancelled. Please
use our freepost
address as follows: Triodos Bank, FREEPOST BS9292, Clifton,
Bristol BS8 3BR,
(no stamp required).
call our Customer Services team on 0845 769 7239 if you have any
Account closure notification
We have Recorded Delivery receipts, provided by Mr B, dated 11 March
2008 and 27
August 2008 for items addressed to the Bank. We also have
records, from the Royal Mail website, showing that both were
The Bank's letter of 29 August 2008 conspicuously omits to address
any of the issues raised in Mr B's letter of 20 January
2008. Furthermore, it has not complied with the request at
end of that letter, nor has it even mentioned, on its website or in its
mail to customers, Mr B's criticism of its lending policy or
failure to give the assurance he requested re: slaughter of
animals. The Bank's behaviour in these respects
sit well with its much-publicised claims to be
In late September 2008, our representative asked Mr B some questions, which are shown
below, with the answers.
Rep: It appears that you want
the Bank to discriminate on grounds of religion. Is this
Mr B: It depends on what you mean by “discriminate
grounds of religion”. The policy I suggested in
2007 did not mention religion, nor did my later request
regarding slaughter. I do not want the Bank to have
which mentions religion. I want it to have policies designed
prevent its loans from being used wholly or partly for purposes I
regard as undesirable, whether or not related to religion. I do,
want the Bank to sometimes discriminate on grounds of belief but not to
classify beliefs as “religious” or otherwise.
Rep: In your opinion, should
employers ever discriminate against job applicants on grounds of belief?
Mr B: Only rarely. For example, a university
employ, as a geology lecturer, someone who preaches that the earth was
created a few thousand years ago.4
Rep: As regards the slaughter
of animals, has
the Bank ever lent money to any organisation of the type referred to in
the last paragraph of your letter of 20 January 2008?
Mr B: Not to my knowledge but the Bank's policies,
described in its letter of 19 November 2007, imply that it could and
its persistent evasion of the issue is disturbing.
Rep: Have you decided what to
do with the money you are due to receive from the Bank next year?
Mr B: No. I'll decide next year but I might add to
my existing ethical investments.
Rep: What are they?
Mr B: I have shares in the Triodos Renewable Energy
plc (www.triodosrenewables.co.uk)5. It is, of course,
with the Bank but my criticisms of the Bank have little relevance to my
opinion of the company's ethics. I also have shares in
Wensleydale Railway plc (www.wensleydalerailway.com).2 I warn
investors that I regard the latter as quite risky but with great long
term potential. One way to invest ethically is to invest
in some of the good organisations to which the Bank has lent money,
although I have not yet done so myself. An example is Unicorn
Grocery Ltd. in Manchester (www.unicorn-grocery.co.uk) which is run by
a workers' co-operative with a good record. It sometimes
money to extend its range of activities. I have accounts with
three building societies. I am quite pleased with their
but they, in common with many other building societies, have, in my
opinion, unsatisfactory policies on directors' remuneration.
should like many of the directors to have much lower basic salaries but
opportunities to earn much greater performance-related
It is open to members to speak and / or vote at meetings to influence
the societies' policies.
1Addendum 20 February 2009
In view of the recent controversy over bonuses paid to
directors, etc. of financial institutions, we have asked Mr B whether
he has changed his opinion and he has responded thus:
"I haven't changed my opinion but I should have mentioned the
importance of having "performance" suitably defined, to prevent any
director from being rewarded for causing a building society to take an
unreasonable risk and, indeed, to have him or her penalised for doing
so. However, building societies, broadly speaking, throughout
their histories, have not often taken unreasonable risks."
2Addendum 8 February 2011
Mr B has ceased to classify Wensleydale Railway plc as
"ethical". His explanation is as follows: "It has come to
my attention that the company does not have a policy acceptable to me
on purchasing for its catering services. This matters
particularly in relation to animal products."
3Addendum 11 October 2011
Mr B is not pleased with the ethics of the Skipton Building Society. See the article on it on this website.
4 Addendum 16 January 2015
At least some universites have policies which would prohibit discrimination against such a person on grounds of belief!
5 Addendum 17 June 2016
Several years ago, the company was re-named "Triodos Renewables
plc" but remained, technically, controlled by the Bank. However,
in February 2016, it was re-named "Thrive Renewables plc" and ceased to
be technically controlled by the Bank. Its website address
is now www.thriverenewables.co.uk.
Do you have a current
account with another
bank and, if so, could you comment on its ethics?
Mr B: It would be very difficult to manage my affairs
current account. I have one with NatWest but I manage it
carefully so that I rarely have more than £1000 in
bank allows me a huge credit zone but I rarely use much of
haven't studied the bank's ethical record but it couldn't be making
more than £30 per year from the account and I consider it
unlikely that I have ever caused any significant harm by having the
Mr B is one of many people
who want a ban on the practice
of cutting animals' throats whilst they are conscious. Many
letters on this subject were published in local newspapers in Greater
Manchester in 2008. For example, one from a Mr Peter J
published in the Manchester Metro News on 25 April 2008, described as
“crackpots” people who advocated the
Remarkably, no response from any of the
defence of the practice, ever appeared! Another, from a Mr
Arthur G Braithwaite to the Stretford and Urmston Messenger, is
reproduced in full below, with his permission. It was
in a slightly edited form, in the edition of 15 May 2008.
was prompted by a front page article, in the previous week's edition,
regarding ill-treatment of a horse.)
your front page article “Samson saved from abuse and
neglect” (8 May), it is disgraceful that a horse has been
treated so badly but people should have their priorities
Every year, millions of sheep, cattle, chickens etc. in the UK (and far
more elsewhere) suffer terribly during Islamic and Jewish ritual
slaughter. It is lawful, under “religious
from the law on slaughter, to cut an animal's throat without having
first stunned it.
RSPCA and many individuals have campaigned for many years to have
these “religious exemptions” abolished but the
Dem. and Conservative parties are all unwilling to call for their
abolition. If the leader of one of these parties were
TV ill-treating a horse, there would be an outcry and millions would
demand his resignation but relatively few people show much concern for
animals cruelly slaughtered under the “religious
exemptions”. If even a few per cent of the voters
in the UK
who deplore cruelty to animals were to withold their votes from
candidates with unsatisfactory records on this issue and publicise
their decisions to do so, this type of cruelty would soon be banned.
NO RESPONSE TO MR BRAITHWAITE'S LETTER EVER APPEARED FROM ANY
REPRESENTATIVE OF THE LABOUR, LIBERAL DEMOCRAT OR CONSERVATIVE PARTY.
Mr Braithwaite is not
unusual in being dissatisfied with all three main political parties.
Many individuals and organisations have criticised them all, in
relation to various issues. In particular (as reported in the
Spring 2008 edition of the Woodland Trust magazine "Broadleaf"), nine
well-known environmental organisations have done so.
sent circulars to customers in early September 2008, in envelopes
labelled "Triodos Bank, 100% ethical savings". Mr B described
this as "propaganda".
Addendum 12 January 2011
we asked Mr Braithwaite the following question: "If you were to
see a newspaper article, published today, similar to the one which
prompted you to write to the Stretford and Urmston Messenger in May
2008, would you respond similarly?" He answered "Yes, but
with additions. None of the present leaders of the three main
parties has ever publicly objected to the religious exemptions.
Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron all appal me. I
would add something about the bizarre behaviour of the RSPCA referred
to in the next article on your website and about the failure of the
European Parliament6 to take a stand against this type of cruelty."
We also invited him to comment on calls for compulsory labelling of
meat to indicate the method of slaughter and thereby enable customers
to make informed choices. He said "Such labelling would probably do harm as well as good; some people want
meat from animals killed under the religious exemptions. Overall,
it would probably do more good than harm but it would be a very poor
substitute for abolition of the religious exemptions. People
not be able to buy meat from inhumanely killed animals. Consumer
choice is not always desirable."
6 Addendum 17 June 2016
An undercover investigation, by staff of Hillside Animal Sanctuary in Norfolk (http://us2.campaign-archive2.com/?u=4c95cca2af7aa16d5d44b5a9e&id=e1b539fc9b&e=%5BUNIQID%5D),
of an abattoir in which animals were slaughtered under the
religious exemptions, prompted an article in the Sunday Mirror of 1 May
Much of the cruelty filmed by the investigators was illegal and
unrelated to religion but the case highlighted the fact that the
European Parliament has not only failed to take a stand against
slaughter without prior stunning but has used taxpayers' money to
promote it. (The
company which owned the abattoir had received a subsidy from the
European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, through the
Government's Rural Development Programme for England.)
To date (17 June 2016), neither the
Labour, Liberal Democrat nor Conservative party has published any objection to
the practice of cutting animals' throats whilst they are conscious.
Last updated 17 June 2016