How to Bank Ethically

Ethical banking has grown rapidly over the past 20 years- find out how you can bank ethically, and how the world can benefit.

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It’s all well and good living a low-impact, green lifestyle, but you can easily undo some of that good by putting your money into a bank which uses it to fund businesses which are environmentally harmful and destructive. Many of us don’t know what happens to our money once we’ve deposited it, but it’s worth doing some research to make sure you aren’t inadvertently funding a business with questionable ethics. Ethical banking has grown rapidly over the past 20 years- find out how you can bank ethically, and how the world can benefit.

 Seek advice when investing

 It is always worth speaking to a financial advisor when making any radical changes to the way you invest your money. Sitting down and talking with an expert to discuss your wishes, what you’d like your money to support and what you’d like to be excluded. Banks and investments are screened positively and negatively, highlighting what exactly your money will be supporting.

Negative screening ensures that your investment is not used to fund unethical trades and activities such as:

  • arms

  • oppressive regimes

  • tobacco

  • pharmaceuticals

  • animal testing

  • alcohol

  • deforestation

  • unethical gold or diamond mining

  • other activities which cause environmental damage

Positive screening highlights investments which fund positive change for the environment, including:

  • renewable energy

  • sustainable transport

  • companies with strong moral values, promoting employee welfare and reducing environmental impact

 Engagement

 Another way of making your money go further in ethical banking is engagement- using your funds to influence companies and encourage them to clean up their practices and adopt more ethical approaches to their business. Money always has a significant influence in the business world, making engagement a highly effective way of encouraging companies to change their ways.

Many financial advisors now specialise in ethical banking and can give useful, impartial advice on how to get the most good from your money. The Ethical Investment Association offers a range of helpful resources and can help you to find an ethical financial advisor in your area.

 Choosing an ethical bank

 Choosing a high street bank can be a challenge at the best of times, even more so when trying to factor in a range of ethical factors. Though there are limited banks with a fully ethical outlook, many are working to introduce more ethical policies into areas of their business, with some proving to be more effective than others. Take a look at www.ethicalconsumer.org for independent ratings of high street banks.

 Helping good causes as you spend

 One way to help your spending to do even more good is to use a credit card which donates a portion of what you spend to charity, which includes many worldwide environmental projects. Some of the leading environmental credit cards include:

 Barclaycard Breathe

 The Barclaycard Breathe is the UK’s only credit card which helps to fund anti-climate change initiatives, and allows customers to help make a difference every time they shop. A percentage of all charges goes directly to the charity Pure- the Clean Planet Trust, who work on government-approved causes to clean up and reduce damage to the environment.

 American Express Red Card

 American Express donates to the Global Fund every time a customer pays with the Red Card. Red is also a collaborative project between corporations in which businesses produce Red products, up to half the profit of which is also donated to the Fund.

 WWF Credit Card

 The WWF credit card from MBNA allows customers to support the World Wildlife Fund as they shop. £6 is donated to the Fund the first time a new account holder uses their card. A further 40p is donated for every £100 spent, and another £2 for every year that the account stays open.

 Savings accounts

 You can also make your savings do more good for the environment, by choosing an ethical savings account or ISA. A savings account with an ethical bank means your money will only be lent or used to fund organisations which make a positive impact on the planet- to the environment, people and wildlife. The Triodos Bank has a number of ethical savings accounts, ISAs and children’s accounts, meaning you still have the freedom to choose the right account for you. They are one of the few fully transparent banks, informing their customers of the organisations- many of which are involved in organic farming and fair trade.

Supporting environmental causes requires no extra work on your part compared to banking with an ordinary high street bank, but can help to make a huge difference to a number of organisations worldwide, so consider making your everyday finance pay off by making sure your money goes exactly where it can make the most difference.

Image sourced: Libby

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