Updated: Feb 4, 2020
Banking ethically. This concept never so much as comes up in conversation. It wasn’t until I watched the documentary Prosperity by well.org that I got a glimpse of ethical banking, and it sent me on a long, long journey of research. So here’s the deal. We’re over here trying to save straws and compost our banana peels, while 99% of our money is being invested in some of the most polluting industries in the world. Everyone knows that the money in our bank isn’t sitting in a giant vault. It’s being invested.. and not in the right places. I’m talking big industries like oil, coal, gas, and weapons. If you have a pension plan, a mutual fund, an IRA, or a retirement plan, your money is being invested in these industries as well. Through research I found that because of this, only 2.9% of the oil industry is owned by big corporate guys. The rest is owned by us regular people.
I’m pumped, because switching to an ethical bank is like way super easy to do, guys. Was it easy for me? Not exactly, here was my journey:
I had heard about Aspiration Bank, but I wanted options. If I was going to pull all my money out of my current Wells Fargo and USAA, I needed the best bank. I found in research that “an ethical bank, or a social, alternative, civic, or sustainable bank, is a bank concerned with the social and environmental impacts of its investments and loans.” That’s different from “green” banks that can climb the scale simply by how much money they donate to charity, which is not the alternative we’re looking for. I had heard that credit unions were basically nonprofits and ethical (this is FALSE), so I then researched perks to all my local credit unions and all the ethical bank options I could find on bcorporation.net and howtodivest.org/ethicalbanks. Sadly there’s not a whole lot of ethical banks out quite yet, but there’s A LOT of credit unions.
After hours of researching annual interest rates, monthly service fees and such, I decided to put $100 into Aspiration Bank’s really cool and impactful investment program, and the rest into a local credit union. Instead of wasting hours researching credit unions, I should have first looked up if credit unions are, in fact, ethical. If I had, I would’ve found out in the first ten minutes of googling that they are not. Their profits do indeed go back to their members, but where do they get those profits? From investing your money into the big bad guys (oil, coal, weapons, etc. as mentioned earlier). During this transition of changing all my direct deposits, setting up autopays, and making an online profile for the credit union, my happy hundred bucks over at Aspiration Bank was being invested into sustainable businesses and clean energy research, and making money too.
Yeah, so I found out fast that I should put everything into Aspiration. Fast forward six months, I’ve been using it for checking and investments and I highly recommend it! Other than the great impact it is making by investing in sustainable practices and donating to good causes, it’s great that checking accounts make 1% annual interest, which is about 100X greater than most checking accounts ever make. Really though, my account at Wells Fargo made .01% interest. Also, you can use any ATM for free! My only issue is that there’s no way to deposit cash, so I’ve kept open my USAA to deposit cash then immediately transfer it to Aspiration. People across America are switching too and loving it, according to reviews online. No, I’m not getting paid to say all this, and now you’ll believe me because I’ll say that Aspiration Bank isn’t the only option to bank ethically. As mentioned before, you can look on bcorporation.net and howtodivest.org/ethicalbanks for options available in your area! Here are a few other great banks I found through research:
First Green Bank in Florida
Beneficial State Bank in California
New Resource Bank in California
OneUnited Bank in California
Albina Community Bank in Oregon
Southern Bancorp in Arkansas
Charity Bank in Europe
Triodos Bank in Europe
The Co-operative Bank in Europe
So why not choose a bank that was built on the mission to better this world and strive for sustainability? I now firmly believe that switching to an ethical bank should be everyone’s step one in starting their journey towards sustainability.
Here’s a few references I used for information, if you’d like to do your own research here’s a great place to start: