Capitalism worldwide is becoming more conscious of a healthy and sustainable future. Global leaders realize there will be no jobs on a dead planet. Consumers are now much more careful about how they use their hard-earned money and how those funds degrade or improve the health of the planet. And now, the financial industry is changing its behavior because of it.
The social, environmental, and economic uncertainty around the globe has caused many of us to be more aware of the financial decisions we make and how they impact our world.
What about the money we aren’t spending? The money that sits in our bank account.
Banks use deposits to make loans to other businesses. In some cases, these businesses receiving your money are making our future less sustainable. Educating yourself on how your money is being allocated is the first step towards conscious capitalism.
According to the Partnership for Carbon Accounting Financial, a group that assesses greenhouse gas emissions associated with loans and investment, “Banks have invested an average of roughly $2.4 billion per day in fossil fuel companies since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015.”
Between 2016 and 2018 J.P. Morgan Chase provided $196 billion in financing for coal, oil, natural gas, and pipeline projects. JPMorgan was the top financier of oil and gas drilling in the Arctic and tar sands extraction in Canada during the same period, the Washington Post reported.
While Black Rock isn’t a personal bank, it is one of the largest financial institutions in the world, managing $7.4 trillion. Larry Fink, the company’s CEO has recognized that their recent step in their sustainable transition was driven by workers and consumers who were worried about ethics and how climate change is making traditional investments less valuable. The firm lost an estimated $90 billion over the last decade from its investments in fossil-fuel companies like Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Shell. Our financial institutions that we rely on to manage our money must do so in a way that is in line with our values.
“I had a lightbulb moment myself thinking, wait a second, I recycle, I work for an environmental nonprofit, I do all these things,” says Kate Williams, CEO of 1% for the Planet. “But in a way, is the biggest way that I can drive impact through what’s happening with the dollars I have in my bank account or retirement account?”
Although no bank is doing it perfectly, some are leading the charge towards conscious capitalism because of customers pushing them to be more responsible.
Executive Director of Earth Day Initiative John Oppermann suggests starting your search with local community credit unions. Generally, they have better sustainability records and are more focused on your community.
There are also larger banks making meaningful changes.
Banks Putting Your Money Where Their Mouth Is
As a Certified B Corp and 1% for the Planet member, “Aspiration offers socially-conscious and sustainable cash management services and investment products, so you can make money while making the world a better place. And, unlike the Big Banks, they don’t use your deposits to fund oil pipelines or turn your fees into campaign contributions to the politicians that work against you.”
One of their features is Aspiration Impact Measurement, which analyzes data points to create scores for companies based on their sustainability records and their reputations for how they treat their employees. Aspiration customers can use this to decide whether they want to shop at CVS or Walgreens, among many other retailers.
You can also opt into programs that will automatically round up to the nearest dollar to plant a tree every time you make a purchase or to automatically buy carbon offsets on your behalf, calculated from an estimate for how much you drive based on the gas you purchase with your debit card.
Bank of the West
Bank of the West launched a 1% for the Planet checking account. One percent of the revenue the bank makes from each account will be donated to environmental causes at no cost to the account holder. They also have a carbon offset tool that estimates the carbon output of every purchase.
Bank of the West has documented sustainability policies that rule how it lends your money: it won’t fund Arctic drilling, irresponsible palm oil production, coal-fired plants that aren’t working to transition, fracking, shale, and tar sands mining, tobacco, or unsustainable wood pulp production. It has committed to divest from thermal coal by 2040 and hasn’t funded new coal projects since 2017.
Amalgamated Bank is a member of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values and a Certified B Corp. They are committed to making the banking industry more socially and environmentally sustainable. Amalgamated also signed the Divest-Invest Pledge.
The pledge promises to make no new loans to the top 200 fossil fuel companies, exit any existing investments within five years, and contribute to climate solutions. Amalgamated Bank brought North American banks on board with the Partnership for Carbon Accounting Financials, a global effort for transparency in the financial sector. Since then, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America have joined the cause.
Managing your money in a more ethical, holistic way will help rid the world of social, environmental, and economic injustice. They are problems we face together but can solve as a collective.
Vote with your dollar when you spend and when you save.