Being sustainable in modern day America can feel like a minefield – just as you have got the reusable coffee cups, meat free Mondays and sustainably sourced fashion down, only to find out that the majority of big banks are terribly unsustainable.
In the last few years, big banks like Wells Fargo, Citibank and JP Morgan Chase have all come under fire for funneling humongous sums of money into the fossil fuel industry since the Paris Agreement. It is estimated that American and global banks (which tend to run out of the US) have invested $2.66 trillion dollars into the fossil fuel trade in the last few years. And yes, that is trillion, not million or billion. Trillion with a T.
So, the paychecks of many hardworking, ethical and climate conscious Americans is going into their banks at the end of every month, only to be invested into all of the carbon producing, oil spilling industries that they were trying to avoid in the first place.
If this sounds like you, then you probably want to divest money from institutions that are decimating the climate with their money grabbing investments and instead look at banking with institutions that are environmentally, ethically, and socially conscious.
Thankful for you, this list is here to help, and we have researched all of the best banks in America, so you can rest easy knowing that your money isn’t going towards the search for even more fossil fuels. Read on to find out where you should be banking to save the planet, and learn about alternatives to making that could cut tonnes off of your carbon footprint.
Our personal favorite on this list is Amalgamated Bank (number four) – as they have such a long track record of being a sustainable and ethical bank, and have always fought for the right side, regardless of whether it was a trend or would win them business. This authenticity and dedication to their cause is not seen often in corporations.
7 sustainable banks in the US
|Sustainable Banks||Suitable for…|
|Aspiration||Those looking for credit cards, grants, retirement funds and investment.|
|Beneficial Bank State||Those who are looking for a truly green bank.|
|Tridos Bank||Those who are looking for an ethical personal banking account.|
|OneUnited Bank||Those who are looking to support black business and communities.|
|Amalgamated Bank||The all round ethical superstar – who wants to fix every issue.|
An ethical banking alternative, Aspiration will be:
- Guaranteed to invest your money only into green industries
- Offseting all of the carbon produced in the banking process
- Donating 10% of fees that they earn to charity
Aspiration is a modern alternative to banking, and as a financial service provider, they try to us money to maximize their ethical values of social responsibility. They have a really transparent model, charging ‘pay-what-is-fair’ fees, and returning high interest rates to customers on their money, making them a great ethical banking option, both for the environment, and for your wallet.
None of your money will ever be invested in companies that support the coal or oil industries, and each purchase you make from Aspiration comes with carbon offset programs, such as respiration projects, or even offsetting gas purchases. In addition to ethical investment and high returns, your fees will also go towards charity – with Aspiration donating 10% of their customer fees to charities that help struggling Americans build themselves a better life.
Aspiration is a certified B Corp (which are businesses that stove to balance profit with people and the planet’s welfare), as well as a Green America Certified Business, a member of 1% for the Planet, and a recognized Project Drawdown.
A sustainable and ethical B Corp, Beneficial State bank also:
- Supports sustainable development
- Bolsters underprivileged communities
Beneficial State Bank is a community development bank, that have a track record of putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to upholding their values. They provide ways to empower changemakers, and support under-served people that are often forgotten about hen it comes to modern day America. They make this change by providing opportunities for sustainable development, such as affordable, eco-friendly housing, and clean energy projects.
As a company, they are a certified B Corp since 2012, before sustainability was a performative trend for companies wanting to boost sales. Beneficial State Bank consistently ranks really highly for their governance, having a firm mission, set of ethics, transparency and accountability. Overall, they uphold their values with firm, real world action, which has impacted many lives, and will continue to do so for generations.
3. Sunrise Banks
A Community Development Financial Institution, Sunrise Bank also:
- Donates 2% of their net income to charity and sponsorships
- Gives employees paid time off to volunteer.
This bank is one of the most socially responsible banks in the US, as it is a Certified B Corp, certified Community Development Financial Institution, and is a member of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values.
Putting their values into practice, Sunrise Banks make an effort to invest in communities, and generate opportunities for disadvantaged communities by injecting capital into areas that need to be financed. Sunrise also gives away a good chunk of their net income (2% total) to charity through donations and sponsorships, in addition to giving all of their employees 40 hours of paid time off so that they can volunteer.
An age-old ethical bank, Amalgamated Bank is known for:
- Providing great opportunities for all.
- Being powered by 100% sustainable energy.
- Striving for a better world for disadvantaged groups.
Amalgamated Bank is one of the oldest banks on this list, having a history that dates back 98 years. Through that near century work of business, Amalgamated Bank has championed really important social issues, such as worker’s rights, criminal justice, women’s reproductive rights, gun safety, immigrants’ rights, access to affordable banking, and LGBTQ rights.
They are another Certified B Corp, in addition to their offices and servers being 100% powered by renewable sources of energy, and they provide great equal career opportunities (with 60% of their workforce being female, or people of color).
5. OneUnited Bank
A social responsible financial institution, OneUnited Bank also:
- Works towards closing the racial wealth gal.
- Increases financial literacy among urban communities.
Thai socially responsible bank is working towards closing the racial wealth gap, through the mechanism of improving financial literacy, via things such as regular workshops and events, in urban communities, catering towards predominantly people of color. They are also the largest black-owned bank, and are a designated Community Development Financial Institution, meaning that they are making big moves towards closing dearths in financial knowledge. You can bank with OneUnited Knowing that you are investing in a socially responsible company.
6. Tidros Bank
A bank that values transparency over all, Tidros Bank is also known for:
- Facilitating green electricity, and supporting disadvantaged communities.
- Influencing positive change for the environment.
This is one of the most sustainable banks in the world – and as a company, they prize their transparency above all, which is key for an ethical bank. Consumers should always know what is being done with their money, so that companies are always accountable, especially in a field as widely untrusted as banking, and Tidros Bank knows that. To maintain their important transparency, Tidros Bank publishes the details of every business that they finance, so that their customers can see how their money is being used, and whether it is being used to influence positive change.
This has kept them ethically and environmentally motivated, and in 2020 alone, Tidros Bank (which is a certified B Corp) was able to facilitate green electricity reaching 700,000 new household, important cultural events for 8.4 million people, and support the care of 45,000 elderly individuals.
Mascoma is a bank where their accountability lies with customers rather than investors. They also:
- Have given out $170 million in New Market tax Credits.
- Boosted local communities, and enriched small town economies.
- Donated 10% of their pre-tax profit to charity.
Mascoma is totally different from other banks, as it has been designed to support the surrounding communities, and its customers, rather than investors. They have been a certified B Corp for years, and have given out over $170 million dollars worth of New Market Tax credits, which boost local communities, and help to create jobs, enriching the local, disadvantaged areas. They also donate a huge 10% of their pre-tax income to charities, and are even planning on increasing this amount in the future.
Furthermore, they don’t only boost local communities, but also help their own employees – by providing equal opportunities (53% of their management are women, which is far better than any of America’s big corporate banks), and last year, they gave out 5200 hours of paid overtime.
Which bank should I go for?
Choosing the right sustainable, ethical and socially responsible bank can be a bit tricky, as though all of the options that we have listed are great – they are all quite different in the issues that they try to target. Your banking is a huge, and really personal choice to make, so we can’t really tell you which one to go for, especially when it boils down to more than interest rates and credit card deals.
We suggest that you make two lists – one for all of the causes that these banks support, and one for the practical side of the bank (accounts that they offer, grants that you might be eligible for, and business funds), and rank both lists from most important to least important. This should give you a good idea of how to balance all of your personal financial needs, with the ‘bigger picture’ components f ethical banking. From this, you should be able to work out the bank that appeals the most to you, and to your finances.
Aspiration is a good choice if you are looking for a finance management service that will help to grow your wealth, whereas OneUnited Bank explicitly supports black communities, and is a black run business. Beneficial State Bank runs out of the most sustainable corporate building in the world, and Mascoma has a proven track record at enriching local communities with New Market Tax credits.
Big corporation banking seems like a necessary evil – it is hard to escape giants, like Chase Bank, Citigroup, Bank of America and Wells Fargo that can make sustainable banking seem impossible. But there is a solution out there for you. We have created this list so that you can find the best bank – whatever your cause – to suit your needs, location and finances.
Our personal favorite is the ever authentic and revolutionary Amalgamated Bank, who have a set of sustainable and ethical values that they ensure are upheld inside their offices and in their investments. But, all of these choices are great ones – and are a step towards a greener future, so choose the one that is best aligned with your causes, and suited to yoru needs.