Many banks are currently working on branding themselves as environmentally friendly by encouraging their customers to choose paper-free statements – or simply by using the color green or nature scenery in their advertisements!
If you wish to keep your money in a financial institution that is truly eco-friendly, you’ll probably want to do the following:
- Identify banks that are engaging in “greenwashing.” This is when marketing persuades consumers that their mission, policies, and investments are environmentally friendly – yet their investment and lending choices fund projects that are anything but.
- Identify banks that are actively implementing eco-friendly efforts. Are they making lending and investment choices that may positively impact our environment? Are they decreasing or denying funding for those projects that may harm the planet?
- Identify banks with certifications other than B Corps. Certain distinguishing criteria may help when searching for banks with specific value systems.
How can you identify eco-friendly banks?
An increasing number of banks are genuinely committing to “green banking,” investing in people, our communities, and the health of our plant.
Many are doing so by implementing community development projects, engaging in responsible and sustainable investing, and playing their part in moving toward an eco-friendly economy.
The simplest way to identify such banks is to look for Certified B Corporations (B Corps).
For-profit organizations are certified as B Corporations by the nonprofit B Lab. The B Corporation certification is recognized worldwide as a distinction that highlights businesses whose mission includes establishing a more inclusive, equitable, sustainable economy.
How does a bank become a certified B corporation?
Certified B Corporation businesses must fulfill the highest verified standards in public transparency, accountability, and environmental and social performance.
B Corporations feel that society cannot resolve its most important challenges by government regulations or nonprofits alone. but must involve businesses that balance purpose and profit. B Corps is dedicated to creating a community of leaders and companies that work together to:
- Decrease poverty levels
- Reduce inequality
- Strengthen communities
- Engage with the environment in a sustainable fashion
- Establish an increasing number of high-quality jobs with purpose
Top B Corp Certified eco-friendly banks
If you want to invest in a B Corp Certified bank – one that may proactively works toward establishing a green economy while also promoting equity – consider moving your money to a bank such as these:
Aspiration is a Certified B Corp committed to giving back to its community and sustainable investing.
Their services are available online across the United States and include personal savings and checking, retirement funds, credit cards, and investments.
Unlike many financial institutions, they do not invest in fossil fuel projects. Therefore, if you’re opposed to oil drilling, coal mines, pipelines, or other fossil fuel projects, you can be confident that Aspiration does not invest in such projects.
If you use the Aspiration Zero card, they will donate 10% of every dollar you spend to charities that are part of their “Conscience Coalition,” and they will plant a tree with every swipe of your card to help fight climate change.
Amalgamated Bank has been the largest B Corp bank since 2017.
Their services are available nationwide and include personal, small business, and commercial banking, in addition to institutional investing. Amalgamated Bank is committed to:
- Establishing eco-friendly and sustainable practices
- Enhancing access to financial services for underserved communities
- Offering services to nonprofit and social impact organizations
- Providing a Give-Back Checking account where customers can choose to donate to good causes an amount that equals half of their accumulated interest
- Investing in clean energy and tobacco-free portfolios
- Lending to projects and businesses dedicated to environmental protection efforts, community empowerment, and enhanced health and wellness
- Being carbon neutral and sustained by 100% renewable energy
Beneficial State Bank
Beneficial State Bank is a Certified B Corp and a values-based bank that provides services across the nation, with local branches in Washington, Oregon, and California.
They offer personal checking and savings accounts and are in the process of launching personal, business, and nonprofit credit card services in July of 2021.
Beneficial State Bank is committed to establishing a meaningful, sustainable community development bank that supports minority-owned businesses and offers mission-driven services. Their motto is to “Bank with Purpose,” noting that “When you bank beneficially, you choose to support people and plant.”
They describe their new Seattle location, called the Bullitt Center, as the “world’s greenest commercial building.” The Beneficial State Bank also collaborates with the Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV), delivering sustainable development for underserved people, their communities, and the environment. (Hang tight for more on the GABV later!)
City First Bank
A Certified B Corp bank, City First Bank serves nationwide, with a local branch in Washington, DC.
They offer personal banking, business checking, business lending, and nonprofit banking.
City First Bank is the only bank in DC dedicated to investing in underserved and underfunded communities. Their loans provide capital for business development and growth in low- and moderate-income areas of DC, revitalizing communities. In addition, since 1998, City First has financed affordable housing acquisition and renovation for over 7,600 housing units.
This Certified B Corp serves Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire and provides personal banking, financial advisory services, as well as business lending and banking.
Mascoma Bank offers a solar loan program and commits more than 10% annually to philanthropy, with funding priorities going directly to their communities.
Over the past five years, Mascoma Bank and the Mascoma Bank Foundation have donated over $8 million to nonprofits.
Are there viable alternatives to B Corps banks?
The great news is that even if an institution isn’t B Corp certified, there are additional criteria that you can use to determine whether a bank or financial institution is eco-friendly.
The following criteria may help you to figure out whether a bank acts in accordance with your environmental values:
- Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV). This independent network of financial institutions, banks, credit unions, and banking leaders around the globe offers values-based financial options in their mission to drive sustainable economic, environmental, and social development and to make the banking system much more transparent and accountable.
- Members of the GABV are independent, licensed financial institutions (e.g., Beneficial State Bank discussed above) that focus on retail customers and are committed to social banking and what they describe as the “triple bottom line” of people, planet, and profit.
- Fossil fuel-free credit unions and banks. These include financial institutions that have made public statements indicating that they do not invest or finance fossil fuel infrastructure, extraction, or other associated projects.
- Environmentally focused neobanks. These financial institutions partner with community banks to offer several services. Environmentally-friendly neobanks include Aspiration (discussed above), Atmos Financial, and Ando.
Fossil-fuel-free credit unions and banks
Following are a few examples of fossil-fuel-free banks and credit unions:
Clean Energy Credit Unit
The Clean Energy Federal Credit Union, which has its headquarters in Colorado, was established by a team dedicated to promoting clean energy to improve the economy and protect the environment.
They chose to begin a credit union as a cooperative business model in order to:
- Fight climate change
- Reduce pollution
- Improve overall public health
- Create new jobs and help communities
- Promote financial independence
They’re committed to ensuring affordable financing for purchasing clean energy products and services. Since they’re an online-only institution, they can pass on all overhead savings via better loan terms.
Headquartered in New York, Spring Bank is a fossil-fuel-free bank that is also one of the Certified B Corp banks.
In its role as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), Spring Bank invests in low-income neighborhoods and new businesses to support its local community.
They are a values-based bank that believes their communities deserve equal opportunities to thrive and prosper. Accordingly, they’re dedicated to offering personalized financial services and affordable products to promote positive social and environmental changes.
Environmentally focused, digital-only neobanks
As noted above, Aspiration, a B Corps bank, is also an environmentally focused institution that provides all of its services online. Following are additional examples of environmentally friendly, digital-only financial institutions:
Atmos Financial offers a high-performance savings account that they created to help reverse the climate crisis.
Called “AtmosACTION,” this savings account can maintain high savings rates from clean energy investments.
Atmos is dedicated to funding novel, innovative technologies to combat climate change, using a model to exclusively invest in climate projects to improve the environment. Atmos is FDIC-insured, has no monthly fees, and requires no minimum balance.
Ando is an online, value-based banking platform that is dedicated to fighting against climate change.
Their savings account provides an annual percentage yield (APY) of up to 5%, is FDIC-insured, and charges no monthly fees. Ando commits to its customers that they direct 100% of their investments toward reducing emissions.
Ando also dedicates themselves to providing true transparency, showing you exactly where your money is being invested and how it’s fighting climate change. Ando reports on their investments in five high-level categories–e.g., green building, sustainable industry, etc.–and more than 30 initiatives so that you know exactly where your money is going to help make the planet healthier for everyone.
Wrapping it up
If you’re dedicated to depositing your savings with a financial institution that shares your values, there are a growing number of options for you.
These include B Corp banks, financial institutions that are GABV members, fossil-fuel-free credit unions and banks, and environmentally focused, digital-only banks, all of which may fulfill your needs and values.
As always, be sure to research your options carefully. Doing this can help give you the confidence that you’re investing wisely in a manner that supports your values and your future financial security. Be sure to check out Aspiration if the environment is a key focus of your financial planning.