Finding a Climate Friendly Bank

One way to positively impact climate change is to make sure your money isn’t being used to finance fossil fuel projects. Almost all major banks use the money you store in your bank account to finance fossil fuel projects. Some banks are taking steps to eliminate their fossil fuel funding, but many aren’t.

There are a number of credible resources to help you evaluate your bank:

The worst US Banks over the last 5 years have been JP Morgan Chase, Citibank, Wells Fargo and Bank of America.

I’ve been a Wells Fargo customer since 1980 and now across checking, savings, brokerage, credit card and now my kid’s bank accounts, my family has close to 20 accounts at Wells Fargo.

I read all of Wells Fargo’s climate change brief and was initially torn about whether I should abandon this bank that I have been a customer of for most of my life. Wells Fargo claims that it “believes that climate change is one of the most urgent environmental and social issues of our time” and lays out in detail its plan to limit the damage. By abandoning this bank am I turning my back on a company that is poised to make a big, positive impact?

I recognize the challenge a huge company like Wells Fargo would have in totally shutting down any lending to the fossil fuel industry and it appears they are taking small steps (or maybe just lip service) but ultimately, it’s going to take aggressive action from all of us–individuals, companies, governments–to reverse course. Wells Fargo and the rest of the major banks are not moving fast enough. Also, I don’t want a dollar of our money going toward fossil fuel development projects, so decided that we needed to move to a bank that is 100% committed to investing cleanly.

The more consumers that follow the path of pulling money out of these fossil fuel funders, the bigger the message it will send to these banks and the lesser funding will be available for these banks to continue to fund fossil fuel development.

I decided to move ahead to move all of our accounts to a climate friendly bank.

So where to start? The Stop the Money Pipeline site has a searchable database of green banks. There are many options out there to choose from. A few options I narrowed to:

These banks are all nationwide, have committed to not investing in fossil fuels and have different elements attractive to the green bank customer.

Another option is to look at your local credit unions. A couple options that look interesting for Washington state residents are:

  • Verity Credit Union
  • BECU

One more helpful resource to look at are B Corp ratings. Certified B Corporations are a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit. They are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. Here is a list of the US banks that are Certified B Corporations.

How to choose? Before making the transfer to a climate friendly bank you should think through the key features of a bank important to you. Here’s the banking features we looked for:

  • Washington state operator with a branch in Seattle
  • Modern technology including
    • Mobile + web banking
    • consumer checking + savings + credit cards options
    • robust online bill paying
    • mobile check deposits
    • easy transfers from account to account
    • top notch online security
  • Phone support
  • Access to an ATM network to enable cash withdrawals without fees

I chose Beneficial State Bank because it operates in Washington, Oregon and California and has a conveniently located Seattle branch. Beneficial has all of the features that I was looking for, was established from the beginning as a value driven organization and is committed to climate-friendly, sustainable investing and social responsibility.

Now came the hard part, actually switching banks which is no easy task. The Stop the Money Pipeline site has a nice checklist to help you transition your banking.

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