Is Your Bank Account Funding Fossil Fuels?June 29, 2020 · Aaron Burr
The whole point of voting with our dollar is to divest our money from businesses and industries that are not making the world a better place. This sends a message that we not only want products that are made well and sustainably, but we want to support industries that are sustainable as a whole.
This can look like buying from a different clothing company because of their quality and eco-friendliness. Or it could look like buying less gas for our car and instead biking, train-ing, and busing more.
We are choosing to send our money to places we believe in.
But what about our money itself? More specifically, what about where our money lives?
Most of us these days use banks to store our money and protect it. And this is a great thing! What’s not great is how most banks are choosing to make money.
How do banks make money?
A quick rundown: since most of us probably don’t really know how banks make money, other than maybe fees. But surprisingly, fees only make up a portion of most banks' income.
Most banks make a lot of their money through investment and loans.
Banks can use the funds that they have from customer’s bank accounts and invest it into various businesses and industries. Hopefully making good investments and getting a good return.
They also of course provide loans and charge an interest on what gets paid back.
The problem isn’t how they are making money but who they are giving money to
This all seems like a pretty great way to make money and in a rather harmless way too. The harm isn’t in the business model, so much as it is in the industries in which banks are supporting.
Because the industries are usually reliable investments, banks a lot of times choose to invest in things like oil, natural gas, and other fossil fuel industries. They also support various mining operations that can a lot of times be rather socially unethical and environmentally damaging in practice.
This is left over from an era where the number one goal was making a profit. And if that meant terrible working conditions or environmental degradation, then so be it.
But times have changed.
We are now faced with the reality that this is where our money is going. Usually to industries that we can rarely stand behind. Whether that be for an ethical reason, or an environmental one.
How to know if your bank is or isn’t funding these industries
The simplest, and maybe most impactful way to find out is to ask! As the customer, a business such as a bank should be happy to answer your questions.
This also starts a dialogue that will be recorded in their records. So if the bank were to lose your business, they could probably assume why. You are also talking directly to the employee who cares about the success of the bank, so they should care about your concerns as well.
And if they end up not being able to talk about the industries being invested in, they will at least bring it up to fellow employees or their boss.
Otherwise, if you want to do your own research first, much of a bank's investment information is public knowledge or has now been revealed by reputable sources. Simply google whether or not your bank is funding fossil fuels or other industries. Something is bound to come up, whether that be the bank taking a stance against this or someone has already revealed they do.
If the bank is rather silent about this, and no one has revealed anything, it would be a great opportunity to talk with them. If they fail to respond or disclose that information, that is an answer in and of itself.
It isn’t like these banks are pure evil trying to destroy the planet. They are simply run by human beings who built a business model during a time where these issues weren’t as prevalent or in the spotlight.
Having conversations and keeping things down to earth is the best way to see change. And if those conversations end with a respectful “I’m taking my business elsewhere” then that is fine.
Banks are beginning to already catch on to the demands that consumers are making. This is great news! In the meantime, we as the customer should voice our opinions so the banks that we truly love invest in industries that we can rally behind.