Banks play a significant role in financing the climate crisis, but you have options: ethical banks can choose to finance solutions to address the problems we face.
How banking contributes to climate catastrophes (or climate solutions)
We can transform the systems that finance the systems that cause climate change. According to the Rainforest Action Network’s Banking on Climate Chaos Report, the world’s 60 largest banks have contributed $4.6 trillion to fossil fuel financing in the six years since the Paris Climate Agreement, with $742 billion in fossil fuel financing in 2021 alone.
Banks use the money from deposit accounts to make loans, and that’s a big part of how banks make a profit. As a customer, you don’t have a direct say in what your bank supports with your money, so your deposits could be supporting activities you disagree with, like fracking, deforestation, and pipeline development through Indigenous lands.
Beneficial State Bank was founded in 2007 to challenge the business model of the banking system. Instead of working to maximize profits, we embrace a triple bottom line investment approach — we are equally committed to community impact, environmental outcomes, and a sustainable business model.
Environmental commitments are visible through practice
When choosing a bank to work with, look at what the bank invests in. When it aligns with your priorities, the impact of your deposits is magnified. Prioritizing positive environmental impacts has been central to Beneficial State Bank’s mission for over a decade, and in 2019, our Earth Services team was formed to advance the bank’s commitments to our existing environmental lending practice. Our team is passionate about finding financing solutions that benefit our commercial banking clients while supporting mitigations to reduce the negative impacts of climate change.
We recognize the important role we can play as bankers by providing loans to finance clean energy projects, net-zero building construction, and supporting environmentally focused nonprofit organizations. As of December 2021, our team has generated $94 million in loans to the environmental sustainability sector and $144 million in loans to the renewable energy sector. Our Changemakers Deposit Accounts provide specialized banking services to clients making a positive environmental impact.
Momentum, a Sacramento-based development firm focused on sustainability projects, is one of those clients. Shawn Garvey, Founder of Momentum, wanted his bank to align with his values, so he switched all their banking to Beneficial State Bank after receiving our help applying for and securing PPP funds during the pandemic. The firm has since seen significant growth and has developed more than $5.5 billion in projects which have eliminated thousands of tons of harmful waste from the environment. They’ve led projects such as the zero-emission trucks with Volvo and the West Coast Electric Highway.
Banks not only invest in others, but also make choices in their daily operations. We are committed to a positive environmental impact within operations. We use the Partnership for Carbon Accounting Financials (PCAF) methodology to measure and disclose the estimated carbon footprint of our loan portfolio. We offset our operational carbon footprint (both direct and indirect emissions) by purchasing carbon offsets and taking them off the market. We operate in green buildings in Seattle at the Bullitt Center and in Portland at the PAE building, and we maintain offices on two of our clients’ campuses at Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI) and at AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles.
How to learn more about the impact your bank makes on the planet
The ethical banking movement is growing. Several third-party organizations offer comparisons and analyses of banks’ impacts, including Mighty Deposits, bank.green, and Nerdwallet.
Choosing a bank committed to stewarding our planet and never financing extractive or harmful projects is one way individuals and organizations can make an impact. Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV) members, including Beneficial State Bank, are a great starting point to find a financial institution that aligns with your values and environmental priorities.
Beneficial State Bank proudly reports our impacts every year (read our 2021 Impact Report). We are committed to making at least 75% of our loans to mission-aligned organizations and 0% of our loans to “contra-mission” or harmful actors. We do not fund payday lenders, fossil fuel extraction, private prisons, or weapons manufacturers. Our loan clients include local businesses, nonprofits, and organizations working to combat climate change and provide affordable housing.
Move your money
Everyone who cares about sustainability and climate change can align their banking needs with their values. Find an ethical bank near you.
About the Author
Jae Easterbrooks leads the Earth Services team for Beneficial State Bank, a mission-driven community bank serving the triple bottom line of people, planet, and prosperity for all. The Earth Services team prioritizes the financing of renewable energy, net-zero or equivalent commercial and multifamily buildings, and environmentally focused nonprofits and companies. Jae is a graduate of the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business and has worked in Seattle’s commercial and investment banking industries for the past twenty-five years.
About Beneficial State Bank
Beneficial State Bank is a state-chartered, federally insured bank with branches in California, Oregon and Washington, serving the triple bottom line of people, planet, and prosperity for all. Beneficial State Bank is a founding signatory of the UN’s Principles for Responsible Banking, a member of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values, and Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), and one of the world’s top-rated Certified B Corporations, awarded B Corp “Best for the World” status every year since 2012. Visit our website to learn more. Beneficial State Bank is Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender.