The (un)ethical nature of banking
Fossil fuel financing is a problem that sits at the heart of many large corporations and banks are no exception to this. Banks have, for years, supported the use of fossil fuels as well as other problematic industries including the support of arms to the Middle East, pipeline projects in the USA, and the Tobacco industry.
Despite an increasing demand for banks to adjust where they invest their money, little has changed. While many of us work on ourselves and our individual actions, what many of us don’t realise is that, by having accounts with certain banks, we too are contributing to the crisis. This isn’t our fault. Banks have little incentive to share where they invest their money which can lead to us, as customers, being stuck in the dark about the ethical nature of our banks.
Luckily, there are some resources out there to help us to make more informed decisions about our money. For example, in 2020, HSBC and Japan’s SMBC agreed to support the world’s largest oil producer secure a $10 billion loan. Not only this but between 2016-2020, the world’s top private sector banks funnelled $3.8 trillion into fossil fuels. In the UK, these banks included Barclays, NatWest, Santander, Lloyds, and Goldman Sachs.
Knowing which banks are supporting the climate crisis and other unethical practices is just the first step. The next is to find those banks that are ethically and environmentally conscious.
Triodos is a certified B Corp and is one of the most (if not the most) transparent banks out there. This means that they publicise all the details about where they lend their money. Set out on their website are their lending criteria. They write that they do not support “businesses involved in producing or trading in weapons, tobacco, pornography, fur or environmentally hazardous substances.” They also do not support fossil fuel industries or those with links to animal testing and inhumane labour practices.
“Triodos Bank focuses its activities across three overarching themes: Environmental, Cultural and Social. Together, these cover a broad range of sectors – from renewable energy, organic farming and social housing through to retail, charities and education.” – Triodos
With 728,000 customers across Europe, Triodos is fast-growing and an excellent alternative to other banks. The only downside is the £3 monthly subscription fee, however, as Triodos states, there is no such thing as free banking. Someone always has to pay and Triodos uses this fee to run your account.
Triodos is as transparent as you will find, and I highly recommend them.
Other Ethical and Sustainable Banks
Other highly rated, sustainably conscious banks include the Ecology Building Society, Co-Op, and Sainsbury’s. Monzo is also considered to be a highly transparent bank, and while their focus is less set on being a sustainable bank, they are leaders in diversity and inclusion.
If you want to find out the sustainability of your bank, bank.green is a great tool. Bank.green allows you to see the rating of your bank and how eco-friendly it is. Despite that banks aren’t inclined to disclose how and where they invest, bank.green gives a pretty good indication about what your bank might be up to.
Switching banks can feel like a huge effort. It can also be difficult to know which banks to trust, and what options are out there. Last year, I switched to Triodos and it was a super easy process. So far, I am really happy with my swap and encourage you to start thinking about who you bank with. There are lots of options for more ethically and environmentally conscious banks. It is not always feasible to swap banks, but you can demand that your bank become more transparent and begins to put planet and people before profit. We all have the power to demand change from those with the biggest impacts and we must do so.