How Switching Banks Can Help Save the Environment

You’ve changed your lifestyle to combat climate change. You recycle, ride your bike, buy responsibly sourced products. But what if we told you your checking account was potentially doing enough damage to undo all that good work? 

Here’s the deal. When you deposit money into your checking account, it doesn’t sit in a safe until you’re ready to make a withdrawal. Most major banks lend a vast majority of that cash—roughly 90 cents for every dollar—which means that your hard-earned dollars could be funding oil and gas development that’s worsening climate change. A 2019 report from the Sierra Club, BankTrack, and other organizations found that four large banking institutions fund 30 percent of fossil-fuel financing. And that bankrolling has been on the rise since the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2015. 

That’s the bad news. The good news is that there's a better option. The new 1% for the Planet checking account, only from Bank of the West, donates one percent of the bank’s net revenue from the account to an environmental nonprofit—at no cost to you. To launch the new account, Bank of the West has teamed up with Protect Our Winters to be the first recipient of the one percent donation. So instead of contributing to the climate crisis just by having a checking account, you can support climate advocacy instead. 

“Until now, sustainable finance has largely been something associated with institutional investments or mutual funds,” says Ben Stuart, Bank of the West’s chief marketing officer. “It wasn’t something your average person could participate in. The idea for this account is it allows anybody to start participating in sustainable finance.”

The account can help you make smarter purchases, too. When you buy something with the debit card (which, by the way, is made from 100 percent compostable plastic), the bank’s mobile app automatically calculates the carbon footprint of that purchase. Bought an airplane ticket or spent $100 at an electronics store? Now you can see the carbon footprint of that purchase. 

As the first major bank in the U.S. to have a sustainability-focused account, Bank of the West is actively supporting the changes we need to see in the world. That means helping finance the transition to clean energy, supporting female entrepreneurs starting sustainable businesses, and backing development in climate action, gender equality, and financial education for disadvantaged customers. 

On the flip side, what your bank doesn’t finance through those mega-loans with your money may be just as important as what it does. On this front, Bank of the West has made the decision not to finance oil and gas exploration in the Arctic, coal-fired power plants, fracking, tobacco products, or palm-oil production.

“Consumers have gotten comfortable flipping over their shampoo bottle or cereal box to see what’s in it. The same thing is necessary for one’s bank,” says Stuart. “You should know what your bank is investing in. What did they finance that yielded a return in order for them to create that financial product? This account is not just a great way for individuals to take climate action, but it’s also a way to understand how finance works.” Translation: your actions make an impact—and now your transactions can, too.


Bank of the West is a fundamentally different kind of bank: We have the strongest environmental stance of any major bank, we lead with diversity, and we have global knowledge, capabilities, and impact as part of BNP Paribas. We are taking action along with BNP Paribas to protect the planet and improve people’s lives through policies that restrict the financing of activities we believe to be harmful and by supporting sustainable finance. Member FDIC.

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