More than three-fourths of Americans want businesses to address social and environmental issues. A similar number will refuse to buy from a company when they learn its values are contrary to their own. An even greater number will re-direct their purchasing toward companies that advocate for an issue they care about.
This is what people say.
A sizeable majority of Americans (especially of Millennials) say they will research to see if a company’s values are authentic or if it is merely “green washing,” and then they will shop accordingly.
I’m not so sure.
Case in point: To most of us, a bank is just a bank. And we give our choice of banks less thought than we do what cereal to buy. But there are actual differences.
If you like to travel, one of the more attractive credit cards is offered by Chase Bank. MONEY Magazine hailed it as its “Best Premium Travel Credit Card” in 2018. Except …
… except the parent company, JP Morgan Chase, is the biggest financier on planet of climate-harming projects ($196 billion in 2016-2018 — one-third more than Well-Fargo at #2), and the biggest supporter for expanding fossil fuels ($67 billion during the same period, two-thirds more than Citi at #2). These investments have come after the Paris Agreements to address climate change.
The Rainforest Action Network sums up JP Morgan Chase’s part in the climate-financing nightmare:
“One inescapable finding of [our] report is that JPMorgan Chase is very clearly the world’s worst banker of climate change. The race was not even close.”
None of this had ever occurred to me. Until I started reading about banking and the climate, I didn’t even realize: I have a Chase credit card. I never thought of its connection to fossil fuel financing.
So, what can we do?
We can ask a bank what they do with our deposits.
Or, we can rely on a financial institution’s reputation — especially when it is earned for its actual behavior. Along these lines, certain banks (such as Amalgamated Bank and Aspiration) are B-Corp certified. B-Corp certification is awarded for socially- and environmentally-beneficial (and audited) behavior. B-Corp certification makes it unlikely that a bank would make an environmentally harmful investment. And some banks, like Amalgamated, are emphatic in saying they don’t.
Certified Financial Development Institutions (CDFIs) are also a good place to look. CDFIs serve the needs lower-income people in the US. There are several types of CDFIs, including for-profit banks. Consistent with their social-mission, they too are very unlikely to finance anything causing harm to the environment. Some CDFIs may also be certified as B-Corps.
Credit unions are another good choice.
With B-Corp banks, CDFIs, or credit unions, you do not need to live in the state where the bank is to bank with them.
In summary: To do good with money, we also must know how we do bad with money. Which is hard when you simply think of your credit card as “blue.” When it doesn’t have a picture of an oil well on it. And when it offers great points.
But once we know, we can act.