As a rule, I’m not a fan of new year’s resolutions. But this year I decided to buck the trend and set myself the challenge of changing one thing in my life each month which reduces my impact on the environment.

At first, I wasn’t sure how easy this would be. Beyond making changes to my diet and transport choices, there didn’t seem to be obvious ways to reduce my carbon footprint.

After thinking about people’s most common everyday actions, there was one common theme which kept popping up: Money.

At first, it may seem that the biggest impact we can have on the environment with our money is by spending it on products with higher sustainability credentials. This is certainly true: but what about the money that’s sitting in our bank accounts?

As is the case with most young people in today’s world, I don’t have a lot of money. But I know that the money that I do have could be used a lot more wisely than it currently is with my bank of choice.

Big Banks’ dirty secret: fossil fuel investments

Despite improvements in their ethical policies in recent years, the 5 big high street banks – Lloyds, Barclays, HSBC, RBS/NatWest and Santander – are the largest investors in climate change. Between them, they have invested over £66 billion in oil and gas projects across the world.  Some of these banks, such as RBS, are well known to have supported the most destructive forms of fossil fuels, such as tar sands.

The growing calls for divestment from fossil fuels in all sectors are helping to raise public awareness of the financing of fossil fuels. Things are undoubtedly starting to change, but not fast enough. As it stands, big banks are still funding the demise of our planet.


Planet-friendly banks

Luckily, there are some fantastic alternatives which can help you to make your money greener. Move Your Money have a fantastic website which allows you to find out how you can move your money out of the hands of fossil fuel investors and into banks which have strong ethical policies.

Their three leading recommendations are:

Triodos Bank
Triodos is arguably the biggest name in sustainable finance and has a strong record of only investing in projects with solid environmental sustainability credentials. Triodos publish the details of every organisation that they lend to, so you know exactly how your money is being spent. Whilst they don’t currently have a current account, they do have a range of savings accounts which offer competitive rates.

Charity Bank
Charity Bank does what it says on the tin: it uses savers’ money to make loans only to charities and social enterprises. They provide excellent information on what your money is funding and where it is being used. Since 2002 they have lent over £250m to charities, making a difference to the lives of more than one million people from across the UK.They have both current accounts and savings accounts.

The Cooperative Bank
The Cooperative Bank are a common name on high streets in the UK, but don’t let their size fool you, as they are a long way from a standard high street bank. They were pioneers of ethical finance, setting up their own ethical investment policy back in 1992. This now means they don’t invest in things like weapons or fossil fuels. According to Move Your Money, the Cooperative Bank has turned away over £1.2 billion of investments which haven’t met their ethical policy standards. In a sector focused on money, that sends a pretty strong message. Coop also have a range of current account and savings accounts to choose from.

The more people that choose sustainable finance providers, the faster the big banks will act. So why not make sustainable finance your New Year’s Resolution?