Although I’ve had a bank account since 1993 when my Commonwelath Bank Dollarmite account was opened, it never really occurred to me that my banking and superannuation choices has an affect on the world around me until recently. When I did realise, I decided to take a look at the ethical options.
Why is my current bank/super bad for the environment?
I’m no money expert, but, how I’ve come to think of it (in absolute laymans terms) is; we put our money in the bank, the bank then relends our money to others. Contrary to popular belief, our money does not sit in a vault like those at Gringotts. With a constant coming and going of funds, there is always money exchanging hands.
That concept on it’s own isn’t so bad, however, some of the projects banks and superannuation companies invest our money in include, or may be associated with:
- Fossil fuels and coal mining (or mining of precious minerals and other materials
- Weapons (guns or other arms)
- Deforestation of the environment
- Human exploitation or human rights abuses
- Pornography or sex slave trade
- Animal cruelty
What is Ethical Banking?
Canstar explains, “ethical banking can rely on negative screening (avoiding investment in companies that cause harm to the planet or people) or positive screening (actively investing in companies that do good for the planet or people)”.
For me, I’m focussing on divestment from fossil fuels and coal mining, deforestation of the environment, and investment in renewable energy.
According to Market Forces, (an affiliate project of Friends of the Earth who campaigns for banks, superannuation funds, and governments to protect rather than damage our environment) the Big 4 Banks (CommBank, ANZ, Westpac and NAB) have loaned more than 21 billion dollars to the fossil fuel industry!
To see where your bank stands and a full list of how much they have loaned head to the Market Forces site.
Where do my banks and superannuation companies stand?
Currently, I use the following banks and super:
|Institution||Ethical or Not?|
|Westpac (Mortgage)|| – Total lending to fossil fuels $2660 million
– As of 30 September 2016, 1% of total Group lending was to mining activities, with lending to coal mining being 8% of the total mining portfolio12 (TCE).
– There is a lot of talk within their “positions and perspectives” on sustainability, climate change and environmental issues. They state, “Westpac Group has long recognised that climate change is one of the most significant issues that will impact the long-term prosperity of our economy and way of life.”
– I could not find any information on plans to divest from fossil fuels
|ING (Everyday banking)||– Total lending to fossil fuels $783 (since 2008)
– ING Group is carbon neutral globally, they state ,”the most important step to take locally to support our worldwide efforts is to minimise our carbon footprint and consumption as much as possible”.
– In 2017, ING announced they would be pretty much divested from coal by 2025.
|Bank Australia (Peanut’s trust account)||– $0 Invested in the fossil fuel industry
– Bank Australia state “they have not made and will not make any loans to the fossil fuel industry, including coal and coal seam gas. Bank Australia is also conscious of the impact of its own operations and has been carbon neutral since 2011”.
– Does not lend to fossil fuels, intensive animal farming gambling, tobacco, live exports or weapons.
– “We are owned by our customers, which means we don’t answer to shareholders. Our profits are returned to customers through better rates and fees and our investments are used to create positive social and environmental change.”
|Future Super – (Superannuation)||– $0 Invested in the fossil fuel industry
– “We are the first truly fossil fuel free super fund in Australia.”
– Future does not invest in companies or activities causing social or environmental harm, including detention centres, live animals’ exports, tobacco, armaments and more.
– Instead, they seek out positive investments in industries like renewable energy, healthcare and IT.
I’ve been aware of ethical banking for some time now, which is why the newest account we have, was opened with Bank Australia. The thing about changing banks is, it’s a bit of a pian in the arsehole. You have to change a string of other things linked to your account such as your employer and any direct debits you have set up (for us it was well over 10).
Luckily, when we returned from our holidays, I was forced to shut down our ING account (don’t worry nothing dodgy) and it left me with a clean slate to open a new bank account, so my first choice was Bank Australia. Although ING plan on divesting from fossil fuels by 2025, why wait six years when Bank Australia is doing it now? Tick!
My next move will be to move our mortgage to a more ethical choice.
The steps I took to move banks:
- Choose an ethical bank
- Open an account and wait for debit card to arrive
- Go over your banks statements from the last 2 – 3 months and make note of all the direct debits
- Let your employer know of your new details
- Change over all your direct debits to your new details
- Close your old account
Moving super on the other hand is actually a hell of a lot easier than moving banks, heres how.
- Choose an ethical super
- Make an account with them
- Ask them to rollover your previous super
- Update your super details with your employer
- Give yourself a pat on the back
Responsible Investment Association Australasia
Market Forces – How to Switch Banks
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