How to Find Out about a Bank’s Green Practices
To find institutions that you’ll be happy banking with, first talk to your current financial institution about its practices. If they’re not green enough, a quick Internet search of different local options may turn up a good alternative. Look for community-based institutions, which are often more focused on what’s important to local residents than are larger nationwide organizations. Read through their Web sites thoroughly to find out about the programs and accounts they offer. Most also have an information line that you can call to ask questions; if the customer service representative doesn’t have the answers, he or she can schedule an appointment for you to talk to someone who does.
When researching various banking institutions, consider asking about their practices in these areas:
What’s the institution’s lending policy? The lending policy is one of the biggest impacts that any financial institution makes, so finding out the kinds of customers that it provides money to is one way to determine how green a bank or credit union is. For example, does the company ensure that loan recipients don’t trade arms, harm the environment, or exploit workers? If the policy doesn’t clarify something such as this in writing, you can assume that it probably isn’t concerned about what it’s funding.
Is the institution a member of the Social Investment Forum? Many financial institutions in the United States that follow environmentally and socially responsible practices are members of the Social Investment Forum, which focuses on socially and environmentally responsible investing.
Does the institution provide an annual social or environmental report about its activities? If it doesn’t, its annual financial report should have sections devoted to its eco-friendly or social investment actions.
What amount does the institution donate to environmental or social nonprofit organizations each year? This isn’t about lending money; it’s about giving money, no strings attached.