Ethical Banking

Yes you can.

We all know it’s time to revisit our banking practices. What most of us don’t know, and what I’ve very recently discovered, is that we don’t have to wait for the changes to come from the top. We all moan and groan about Bank of America, HSBC and their ilk, just trying to make the least bad choice among financial institutions whose policies amount to highway robbery at best, and rogue support of uranium-based weapons and drug cartels at worst (hopefully).

A friend recently told me of ethical, sustainable banks. Well, I’d never heard of such a thing. This is the kind of information that should be shouted from the rooftops. If most of us don’t know about this sort of alternative, how can we make choices that don’t serve to strengthen one of the banes of our existence?

How do they work?

Well, it’s pretty simple. Instead of investing in weapons development or money-laundering schemes for drug lords, they invest in sustainable development and other socially and environmentally responsible projects.  What’s so great about this is that it’s a more powerful alternative to credit unions. Credit unions also largely avoid the moral pitfalls that big banks stumble – make that dive – into, but their focus and, consequently, their influence remains local. While there’s certainly great merit in supporting local growth, you get more influential bang-for-your-buck with banks. They have the ability to engage in projects with more widespread benefits. In other words, they can put your money where your mouth is for you in a way that credit unions don’t and big banks won’t. And they do also support local communities and growth.

Not with my money

I’m lucky to be in the Netherlands because it’s the home of the Sustainable Bank of the Year winner: Triodos Bank. Here are some in the US:

Urban Partnership Bank, Based in Chicago.

RSF Social Finance, based in San Francisco, not a ‘bank,’ but offers social investment accounts with rates comparable to bank CDs, as well as social enterprise loans.

New Resource Bank, based in San Francisco. New Resource is a commercial bank that focuses on businesses that share their mission to progress sustainability within their community.

First Green Bank, Based in Mount Dora, FL is a commercial bank dedicated to ethical practices and environmentally friendly investments.

One Pacific Coast Bank, Based in Oakland, with branches in Seattle, Portland, and Illwaco, WA.

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