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- 1 What Makes A Bank Ethical & Socially Responsible?
- 2 What About Eco-Friendly Banks?
- 3 Best Socially Responsible Banks And Credit Unions
- 3.1 Aspiration
- 3.2 Capital One
- 3.3 Ally Bank
- 3.4 Amalgamated Bank
- 3.5 Discover Bank
- 3.6 Alliant Credit Union
- 3.7 Decorah Bank & Trust Company
- 3.8 Greenpenny
- 3.9 Lead Bank
- 3.10 City First Bank
- 3.11 Mascoma Bank
- 3.12 Spring Bank
- 3.13 Sunrise Banks
- 3.14 Beneficial State Bank
- 3.15 First Green Bank
- 3.16 VCC Bank
- 3.17 Clean Energy Credit Union
- 3.18 Self-Help Credit Union
- 3.19 Clearwater Credit Union
The picks from moneysmylife include banks, credit unions, and neobanks that have strong ratings and third-party certifications.
When you open an account at a bank that is socially responsible, your money goes to projects that help people and the environment. As with any bank, money from bank accounts helps businesses and people who want to buy homes get loans.
In a broader sense, socially responsible banking institutions include banks, credit unions, and neobanks (internet-only banking fintech companies). Through third-party certifications, all types can show that their goals are to be good for the environment or help people. These certifications are some of the best ways to find a bank that cares about the community.
Right now, “social responsibility” is a very important word, and it’s becoming more common to find banks that care about society. When it comes to their personal finances, more and more people want to do things that are good for society.
People are becoming more and more aware of how important it is to reduce emissions, work for the good of society, and develop in a way that doesn’t harm the environment.
What Makes A Bank Ethical & Socially Responsible?
When we think of big banks or other financial institutions, the environment, social causes, and socially responsible investing are probably not the first things that come to mind. But some banks do help good causes, and they have a certification to prove it.
Here are the most common certifications and memberships banks use to show they are not just spending your money on whatever they want but are investing it wisely:
- B Corporation. Banks that help the social economy, reduce inequality and poverty in some way, and support sustainability and a healthier environment are usually certified by B Corp.
- Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV). GABV is a group of independent banks with the same goal: to use their money to help people, the environment, and other good causes. They all work to make the banking system better. Ideally, it will be more open and help with social, economic, and environmental issues at the same time.
- Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). The main goal of the CDFI fund is to give poor communities the same opportunities as other communities. The fund is made up of both money from private businesses and money from the government.
What About Eco-Friendly Banks?
Most of the banks in the article (one of our favorites is Aspiration) are green and friendly to the environment.
Clearwater Bank, which is working against carbon footprints, and Capital One, which runs its buildings on 100% renewable energy, are two examples of banks that care about the environment.
Best Socially Responsible Banks And Credit Unions
Now, let’s look at the best banks and credit unions that do good things for the community.
These banks and credit unions are known for being socially responsible because they have earned certifications. This means that they would spend your money in an ethical and responsible way.
Aspiration, an online brokerage and tech company that started in 2015, offers a spend-and-save account, a credit card, and investing service. Its spending tracker tool takes into account how a company treats people and the environment.
Aspiration is a well-known bank that is only available online. It has a wide range of financial products and is certified as a B-Corp. The bank is very kind to give away 10% of its annual profits to charity.
Aspiration doesn’t give money to projects that use oil or coal. Instead, they focus on reforestation, which is a type of carbon offset that involves planting trees that take in carbon dioxide from the air. When you pay with a debit card, you can choose to plant a tree.
The Plus Account from Aspiration is a savings account that pays up to 5% APY in interest. Still, you’ll have to pay fees every month to get it. If you don’t want to do that, you can choose their Basic Account with up to 3%.
Capital One is mostly an online bank, but you can also open an account at a Capital One Café if you want.
Capital One serves various social and environmental causes. For example, 100% of their electricity comes from renewable sources and 95% of their paper is Environmentally Preferred Paper (EPP) that is better for the environment.
All of the buildings they live in have been approved by LEED for being built and designed in a green way.
Ally Bank’s main goal is to help the people who live in the areas where it does business. Since 2017, the bank has given money to different causes and helped local communities.
A lot of Ally’s efforts to be a good corporate citizen have to do with education. Ally also supports diversity, inclusion, and moving up in the economic world. They also encourage their workers to help the community.
Amalgamated Bank began in 1923 as a bank for a union of clothing workers. It has stayed true to its roots by continuing to work with more than 1,000 unions, such as those for teachers and firefighters.
Amalgamated Bank is a certified B-Corp and a GABV member. The bank has always put human rights first, and it helps a number of causes, nonprofits, and social enterprises right now. Climate change, immigrant rights, worker rights, criminal justice, gun safety, LGBTQ+ rights, and reproductive rights are some of the causes that Amalgamated Bank backs.
In addition to keeping strict certifications, the bank has set a measurable goal to reduce its carbon emissions without using offsets by 2030. It also promises that none of its money will go to fossil fuel companies.
This bank has services for both individuals and businesses, as well as ways to invest money.
Discover is a great online bank that offers a full range of services.
It offers a checking account with no overdraft fees, monthly maintenance fees, minimum deposits, or other hidden costs. You can also make direct deposits, mobile deposits, and money transfers.
It is not directly certified as an honest financial institution by any group. But it still helps people in a lot of ways. Discover has spent more than $10 million to help teach high school students about money.
Alliant Credit Union
Alliant credit union does a lot to help education all over the country, and it encourages its employees to do the same.
It pays for grants for education, gives money to programs that teach people about money, and gives school supplies away. It also matches employee donations of up to $200 per year.
Alliant is not yet certified as a socially responsible financial institution, but it is taking the right steps.
It has a high-yield savings account, but you have to keep at least $100 in your account to earn APY.
It also gives you a free ATM card so you can withdraw money more easily. If you lose it or someone steals it, you can get a new one for free.
Alliant also has some problems, such as fees for international transfers and fees for accounts that aren’t used for a long time. Also, don’t let your account balance drop below $5, or they might close it.
Decorah Bank & Trust Company
Since the early 2000s, this community bank in Decorah, Iowa, has made clean energy a priority for its business and carbon footprint. It was founded in 1935. The bank also has a strong web presence, with mobile apps and a live chat feature for customers.
In 2019, Decorah Bank’s carbon footprint was zero, thanks in part to the money it put into solar energy. It also offers loans for renewable energy and is part of an international network of banks with similar values.
Greenpenny, a branch of Decorah Bank that only works online, launched in the middle of 2020. Its goal is to crowdfund the development of clean and renewable energy. The online banking provider has checking and savings accounts that earn interest, solar loans, mortgages, and more.
Its parent bank is a part of the Global Alliance, which gives Greenpenny the same access to a network of sustainable banks around the world.
Lead Bank started out in 1928 as a bank for farms and families in the area. Over time, it has grown to help more communities in Missouri. It has a set of checking, savings, and certificates of deposit options available.
Lead Bank tries to make a difference in three areas: helping women and children who are in trouble, bringing people into the economy, and supporting arts and culture in Kansas City and Lee’s Summit. In 2018, Kansas City’s Chamber of Commerce named Lead Bank the Small Business of the Year for its commitment to helping the community. Lead Bank is also a member of the Global Alliance.
City First Bank
Due to a merger in 2021, City First Bank and Broadway Federal Savings and Loan, both based in Washington, D.C., have become the largest Black-led bank in the U.S. Both banks, which were started in 1999 and 1947, were made to help communities that haven’t had enough access to capital in the past.
GABV, B-Corp, and CDFI all agree that City First Bank is a good bank. City First gives loans to help low- and middle-income neighborhoods in and around Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles grow their economies.
City First Bank has online and mobile banking, bill pay, and a free debit card.
Mascoma Bank is certified as a B-Corp and has a solar loan program to help the environment. It is a full-service bank that is best known for lending money for mortgages, personal loans, and loans for businesses.
Mascoma also tries to make the world a better place by giving money to charities every year. Even time off for volunteering is paid for by the bank.
In addition, 42% of the bank’s board members are women, which is another concrete step it has taken to close the gap between men and women in the workplace.
If you live in New Hampshire, Vermont, or Massachusetts, Mascoma is a great bank, not only because it cares about corporate social responsibility but also because it offers a wide range of banking products.
Spring Bank has great customer service, and it has five different high yield savings accounts to choose from. There are no fees, and you can make free withdrawals at CitiBank ATMs and through the MoneyPass ATM network.
Spring Bank is B-Corp certified. It gives money to the Community Development Financial Institution Fund, which helps social enterprises, businesses, and people who can’t get the money they need from banks.
Spring Bank also helps improve the lives of people in low-income areas and encourages the growth of small businesses in the area.
Since 1986, Sunrise Banks has been helping people in Minneapolis and St. Paul get loans for community development. It has many financial products and services like credit cards, checking accounts, savings accounts, and management solutions to help you keep track of your cash flow.
Sunrise says that it is “the most socially responsible bank in the world.” It gives away 2% of its net income every year to help pay for affordable housing, close the wage gap, and make the workplace more diverse and welcoming.
Beneficial State Bank
The B-Corp, the CDFI, and the GABV have all given the Beneficial State Bank their seal of approval. This bank has assets worth about $1 billion and has decided to use some good causes and programs for corporate social responsibility.
It works to help businesses owned by minorities, green buildings and services, and practices that are good for the environment.
They offer credit cards, business and personal banking, as well as checking and savings accounts.
First Green Bank
First Green Bank is a bank that serves the local community. Both B-Corp and GABV have approved it.
They give money to local businesses, lend money to people in need, and try to be good to the environment.
First Green Bank offers checking, savings, money market, and CD accounts, as well as accounts for businesses. On top of that, you can get loans and credit cards.
VCC Bank took on the goals set at the 2013 United Nations summit in New York, where world leaders were present. The goals are for 2030 and include things like ending world poverty and inequality between men and women, making sure everyone has access to quality education, reducing waste, and a lot more.
VCC is not a bank in the way most people think of banks. They don’t have ATMs, debit cards, or bank accounts you can open. It’s a nonprofit financial holding company, to be more exact.
They mostly work with real estate developers, private and public businesses, and investors by giving loans and making investments.
They have different funds and regularly invest for each of these goals to come true in the future.
Clean Energy Credit Union
As its name suggests, this credit union’s partnerships and loans are all about the clean energy movement. The credit union opened in 2018, but it doesn’t have any of its own branches. Instead, it shares ATMs and branches with other credit unions. It has a checking account with cash back, high-yield CDs, and a savings account.
Anyone in the U.S. who agrees to join the national nonprofit Solar United Neighbors for free as part of the credit union application process is eligible to become a member.
Members can get loans for, among other things, electric cars, solar electric systems, and geothermal heat pump systems. Since the credit union is Fossil Free Certified, it doesn’t fund projects that use fossil fuels.
Self-Help Credit Union
Self-Help Credit Union was started in 1980 to help people in rural North Carolina buy the mills where they worked. Since then, it has grown into a network of Self-Help organizations.
Self-Help has more than 30 branches and 90,000 members, most of whom live in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, and Virginia. Its sister credit union, Self-Help Federal Credit Union, is focused on California, Illinois, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Anyone in the U.S. can become a member by paying a one-time fee of $5 and joining the Center for Community Self-Help, a nonprofit organization that is the umbrella group for all Self-Help groups.
Self-Help helps communities with low incomes that are hit hard by pollution and natural disasters. The credit union does not invest in the extraction or production of fossil fuels, and since 1989, it has put $409 million into projects that have helped the environment.
Clearwater Credit Union
Clearwater Credit Union is certified in three ways:
- Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV)
- Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI)
- Inclusiv – a network of credit unions allied to support low-income families nationwide in reaching financial independence
Clearwater also backs causes like lowering carbon emissions, protecting the environment, and giving everyone the same pay.
Clearwater gives you a free account, gives you tools to help you plan your finances, and makes it easy to sign up for an account online.
We looked closely at U.S. banks, credit unions, and fintech banking companies that had third-party certifications that showed they were committed to making a positive social and environmental impact.
Some of the values-based certifications or networks that were looked at are:
Certified B-Corps, a member of the Global Alliance of Banking on Values, Fossil Free Certified, Green America Certified, 1% for the Planet, Certified Community Development Financial Institution, and a member of Inclusiv as a Community Development Credit Union.