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How a grassroots women’s network is fighting climate change – one dodgy investment at a time

The world’s 60 largest banks reportedly ploughed $669 billion into the fossil fuel industry in 2022 alone. These women are doing something about it

Do you know what your money is doing?

You might swear off flying, attend peace marches and spend your weekends litter picking. Meanwhile, your cash could be building an oil rig, funding the arms trade, or subsidising the tobacco industry.

The world’s 60 largest banks reportedly ploughed $669bn into the fossil fuel industry in 2022 alone – including UK giants like HSBC, NatWest, Barclays and Santander.

Data released last month shows that UK local authority pensions alone are investing at least £12.2bn and perhaps as much as £16bn in coal, oil and gas.

It’s enough to make you want to withdraw all your money and hide it under your mattress. But there’s another way.

Money Movers is a grassroots network helping groups of women move their money out of climate-wrecking financiers. Collectively, participants have already moved £1.9m to greener providers.

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“People have the power to make a real difference,” says Anneka Deva, who leads Money Movers.

“The choices we make with our money are 21 times more powerful than stopping flying, going vegetarian, and changing energy supplier combined. So there’s huge potential there.”

Money Movers aim is to reach 30,000 women and move £1bn for climate action by 2030.

“We know it’s a big goal, but we’re confident we can hit it,” Deva says. “And empower women to take control of their finances while doing so.”

Why does Money Movers focus on women?

Research shows that women want to make values-based investments – but many lack confidence when thinking about their long-term finances. More than 62% of women in the UK admit to deferring decisions about long-term finances to their spouse, a study by UBS shows, while women reach retirement age with £145,000 less in pension savings than men on average.

“Female financial empowerment is crucial,” Deva says. “It’s our money. But it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and isolated. That’s where peer-to-peer models come in.”

Originally developed by Friends of the Earth in 2018, Money Movers runs on a collaborative, peer-to-peer model. Volunteer hosts receive training from peer-learning specialist Huddlecraft, then recruit other women into a three-session learning programme.

It’s a friendly, informal model ­– and it’s proved immensely popular with participants.

New mum Chloe Grahame became involved after she started “coming out of the newborn haze”.

“Having a daughter, I started to think about the world she was going to grow up in,” she recalls. “When I saw that Money Movers were recruiting I trained as a host. Loads and loads of people were really interested.”

Grahame ended up hosting a group of eight people – but it was a collaborative endeavour, she stresses.

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“I’m not an expert, I wasn’t teaching people. We all learnt together, and helped one another with questions. It was flexible, too – some of us were feeding our babies, others had to go and deal with a tantrum. We made it work.”

Does divestment really help the climate crisis?

Stop flying, eat less meat, ride a bike, recycle – in the battle against climate change, these actions are undeniably important. But as corporations continue to profit off mega-polluting fossil fuel projects, individual efforts can feel like a drop in a plastic-filled ocean.

Yet moving your money can make a real difference. Banks and pension funds are under increasing pressure to cease financing for polluters.

According to Stand.Earth, around 1,600 institutions have made public divestment commitments, preventing $40.51tn from going into fossil fuels.

In 2022, Lloyds Bank committed to no longer providing direct financing to fossil fuel projects. Less than a month later, HSBC announced plans to end funding for new oil and gas fields.

“I don’t think most of us are proactive enough with our money,” says Bailey Kursar, who hosted a Money Movers group of eight people. Kursar works in Financial Technology, and is passionate about sustainable investment.

“But I know for a fact that in the more progressive parts of the industry, this is very actively talked about and considered. I think consumers are increasingly aware of what our money is doing.”

Moving your money away from polluting sources is just the first step, she says.

“Choosing a fund which doesn’t invest in any large fossil fuel companies is good. But we can go further. How can we make sure the right investment is put into sustainable energy sources like wind and solar?”

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There’s still a long way to go. Trillions are still invested into fossil fuels every single year. Top banks are funding two of the world’s most polluting industries far more aggressively than governments are funding solutions, a report from ActionAid revealed in September. They have funnelled €3tn into the expansion of fossil fuels in the Global South since the Paris Agreement on Climate Change was adopted seven years ago.

But with a future to fight for, Graeme says feeling powerless isn’t an option.

“Any tiny change can be a step to a bigger change,” she urges. “People feel overwhelmed, yes. But you can’t let that stop you from doing what’s right.”

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