Eco-Conscious Consumers on Credit Card

Eco-Conscious Consumers: Credit Cards That Align with Your Values

Sitting at my desk one evening, I was at my wits end trying to balance my monthly budget. As I allocated money for rent, utilities, groceries and other necessities, I couldn’t help but feel a gnawing sense of unease. Here I was, carefully spending only on absolute essentials, yet still barely scraping by paycheck to paycheck using Credit Cards.

Meanwhile, I knew my bank was profiting handily by lending money to oil companies actively devastating pristine wilderness areas. Every time I deposited my hard-earned pay into this bank, I felt complicit in environmental destruction. Surely there had to be a better way?

That nagging thought sent me on a quest to discover more conscious banking options. I yearned to find a bank whose values aligned with my own – one that invested in green initiatives, supported charities and lifted up local communities.

What I discovered is that value-based banking is so much more than mundane financial transactions. It integrates our personal ethics and social concerns into the very foundation of how we manage our money. The banks we choose become an extension of our deepest beliefs.

Moving Beyond Geography and Interest Rates

In the past, most people chose banks based on location, interest rates or fees. But in an increasingly digital world, online banking means geography need not limit us anymore. We’re now free to look beyond our zip code to financial institutions across the country that share our principles.

My journey first led me to explore the political values underlying big banks. Where were they investing their assets, and what causes were they supporting with political contributions? The nonprofit site lets you see exactly how much money banks give to Republican vs. Democratic candidates and committees.

I found it disturbing that some of the largest consumer banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America give predominantly to conservative causes I don’t support. Others like Citigroup skew toward liberal spending. For me, a more balanced, nonpartisan approach would give me faith that the bank isn’t pushing a partisan agenda.

Some banks proudly tout their progressive ideals right on their websites. Beneficial State Bank outlines its vision for a sustainable, equitable economy. Amalgamated Bank reveals it’s the largest B Corp certified bank, meeting “rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.”

On the other end of the spectrum are banks like First Premier Bank that appeal to more conservative customers. But if you dig deeper, you’ll find most big banks try to play it safe politically by donating to both sides. Your deposits aren’t necessarily going to causes you disagree with.

Seeking Institutions That Share My Faith

Next, I considered my faith and how I could bank at an institution aligned with my Buddhist beliefs. Credit unions like Mindful Money based in New Mexico operate on principles of generosity and non-harming I appreciate.

Other religions have their own values-based banking as well. University Islamic Financial creates Sharia-compliant products in accordance with Islamic law. Christian-based credit unions like Baptist Health Federal Credit Union require membership within their religious community.

Personally, I prefer banking with secular institutions that welcome all faiths. But it’s comforting to know I could move my money to a credit union catering specifically to my religion’s ideals if I wanted that sense of community.

Making Every Dollar Support Eco-Friendly Causes

However, my biggest personal passion is environmental sustainability. I strive to make green choices in all aspects of my life, so I needed my bank to share that core value. That led me to GABV, the Global Alliance for Banking on Values. This association only includes banks committed to social, environmental and economic sustainability.

One outstanding GABV member I discovered is Vancouver City Savings Credit Union, or Vancity. They call themselves Canada’s largest community impact bank, and it shows. Vancity devotes over half its assets to impact lending for causes like affordable housing and climate action. It’s also certified carbon neutral and powers operations from 100% renewable energy.

I’ll never forget the goosebumps I got reading Vancity’s annual report detailing the positive change my money could help drive. Everything from advancing reconciliation with indigenous people to providing green loans for solar installations that reduce carbon emissions. Now that’s the kind of bank I want to be a part of!

Socially Responsible Investing – Returns WithPurpose

As I researched further, I realized conscious banking goes far beyond savings accounts. Many wealth managers now offer portfolios focused on socially responsible investing (SRI).

Also known as ESG investing, this strategy lets you earn robust returns while still upholding moral values. You get to align investments with causes close to your heart, be it clean energy, affordable housing, racial justice or so on.

I decided to move a portion of my modest retirement savings into an SRI portfolio. It contains diverse stocks and bonds from companies rated highly for environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors. Renewable energy firms, companies with exemplary diversity policies, major green bond issuers – it’s all in there!

When I log into my investment account now, I feel good knowing I’m supporting forward-thinking brands moving the world in a positive direction. The financial returns are on par with standard indexes too, so there’s really no downside.

Keeping Money Local Has Hidden Benefits

While investigating online banks nationwide, I also rediscovered the merits of banking locally. Studies show money deposited in community banks circulates many more times locally, supporting small businesses that form the backbone of our economy.

My city happens to have several values-driven community banks and credit unions. For instance, State Bank & Trust uses local deposits to provide loans to build affordable housing, redevelop blighted neighborhoods, and finance women-owned businesses. That’s community impact I can get behind!

By moving my accounts to State Bank & Trust, I enjoy personalized service while ensuring money stays within the community. The bank’s relationship-based approach supports shared prosperity right here in my hometown.

Bank Certifications That Align with My Ethics

As I evaluated different banks, I came across an array of certifications highlighting admirable conduct. These help identify institutions truly walking the walk when it comes to social responsibility.

B Corp certification indicates high standards of environmental performance, accountability and transparency. CDFIs (community development financial institutions) expand financial opportunity in underserved communities. WEPs (Women’s Empowerment Principles) recognizes companies promoting gender equality in the workplace.

I ultimately chose a bank certified as a Benefit Corporation, or B Corp. To qualify, they passed a strict assessment of their impact on workers, customers, community and the environment. The B Corp seal gives me confidence this institution operates ethically through and through.

The Fulfillment of Value-Based Banking

In the end, I chose a credit union that aligned perfectly with my environmental and social priorities. My new green checking account supports eco-friendly causes. When I need a loan someday, they offer green mortgages and solar financing. Plus, the credit union is a certified B Corp, reiterating its commitment to values-based transparency.

Beyond that, they have an inspiring mission to build economically vibrant, ecologically sustainable communities across the country. Knowing my money fuels that purpose is tremendously fulfilling.

Of course, value-based banking involves some trade-offs. The interest rates and fees aren’t always rock bottom. The mobile app functionality may not be as advanced as at mega banks. But for me, the profound sense of fulfillment far outweighs any inconveniences.

Above all, I finally have peace of mind where my money resides. Each deposit and payment now reflects my personal ethics. My bank’s lending and programs actively make the world a little better. Aligning my finances with my deepest values through conscious banking gives me hope – both financially and as a global citizen.

Key Takeaways on Value-Based Banking

My exploration of values-based banking yielded some key lessons:

  • Online banking means we’re no longer limited by geography. We can bank at institutions nationwide that share our principles.
  • Big banks have political agendas revealed in their public spending and lobbying. See where their values actually lie.
  • For faith-based banking, credit unions like Mindful Money or University Islamic Financial cater to specific religions.
  • Move toward banks committed to environmental sustainability, like those in the GABV.
  • Socially responsible investing portfolios allow you to earn returns while supporting ethical causes.
  • Local and community banks reinvest in their neighborhoods and small businesses.
  • Look for certifications like B Corps that verify social responsibility and accountability.
  • Conscious banking provides fulfillment by aligning your money with your values.

No matter your priorities, there is likely a bank or credit union that shares your ideals. Values-based banking empowers our money to do good in the world. The search for those institutions also helps us clarify what’s most important to us as consumers and global citizens. That discovery alone can change how we relate to our finances and communities.