Is ethical finance possible? We say yes!

Our principles are guided by having a positive impact on the world we live in

GWCU is built on ethical principles. Discover what this means for you and your community. 

At GWCU, we believe your personal finances are just that – yours. So unlike banks, we’re not focused on making profits at the expense of our customers. In fact, our goal is to keep loan interest rates fair and affordable, so that borrowing doesn’t cost you the earth or line someone else’s pockets. 

As well as supporting our members to have a healthy financial outlook, we’re very much invested in the communities we’re based in, too. We’re proud of the many community projects we’ve been part of, and that the money our services generate is put to good use for everyone. 

Supporting every member who chooses us 

As a credit union, we operate on a ‘mutual’ model of finance, which means everyone who saves with or borrows from us is a member, and we exist by pooling our resources with the goal of banking fairly. This is reflected in how we’re run, with a board of volunteer directors, who are members themselves, elected by you. Your opinions matter on other important decision too, and every so often you get to vote on how we do things.  

Because we work to support you, rather than make profit from you, we’re able to offer loans without set up fees, keep our loan interest rates lower and our savings interest rates higher, and allow early repayments so you can clear your debt faster without being penalised for it.   

Our size means we can adapt quickly to our members’ needs, such as setting up a zero interest loan for NHS workers during the pandemic. It also enables us to be flexible about your loan repayment schedule. So, if you find it easier to manage weekly or fortnightly repayments, that’s fine with us. Use our loan calculator to explore all your options. We also encourage you to save while you borrow, so if you have a loan with us, you automatically get a savings account too. It’s a way of building a financial buffer, however small, and can be brilliant for getting into healthy financial habits for the future.  

At the heart of your community 

Every credit union has to have a ‘field of membership’. This is a legal term that sets the criteria for who can join. GWCU’s field of membership is geographical, spanning Bristol and Bath, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire.  

We support over 20,000 members across all those areas, and the money we make as a lender goes directly back into projects across those communities. It means any money coming in stays local and makes a difference to local people.  

Every year we support projects that make a difference to people’s lives, such as sponsorship of Bristol and West Athletic Club to allow bursaries for young athletes who need help with the costs of getting to sporting events; supporting the Bristol Uniform Exchange that helps families get free or low-cost uniforms for school; and funding initiatives to help vulnerable people at risk of homelessness with loans to provide them with the extra they need. 

Our savers’ cash means we can lend to other local people, funding the projects and businesses that keep our region vibrant. Any spare funds are held with building societies and banks, with a focus on those that are as closely aligned as possible to our own ethical, mutual business model. 

A green ethos for a healthier future 

Of course, people and communities rely on a healthy environment to truly thrive. Our principles are guided by having a positive impact on the world we live in, too.  

We’re committed to green upgrades, and have invested in Bristol Energy Cooperative’s solar bond, supporting the move to renewables and keeping the money local. In 2018, we made the move to green energy for ourselves, with solar panels on our office roof that have reduced our emissions and will generate our own energy for years to come. 

As the costs come down, more households are making the move to solar energy and we’re proud to offer loans to make this and other environmentally sound changes possible for many more people across our area.  

Join GWCU for an ethical approach to your finances  

If you’re looking for a loan or savings account that works for you, your community and the environment, take a look at our products and get in touch.  

Published by
Team BCU
Posted on
03 February 2022