Does your bank give a crap about the planet? Alongside “Can I smell wee?”, “Did I feed the dog?” and “What’s the next deceptively nutritious meal I can pull out of a hat tonight?” this is possibly a question you don’t have the time or the energy to invest in (bring on the banking puns).
But if you’re an earth-loving hippy – or just someone who gives a crap about the planet – then asking the difficult question about your bank makes cents (too much?).
The question you need to be asking is: where does my money go? You spend a lot of time and energy trying to reduce your impact on the environment. You don’t want to waste all that recycling, walking, reusing and growing by paying for a tyre worth more than your car on some mega mine, do you?
Maybe you’ve put your bank on notice but they still won’t listen. The time has come to change banks.
Choosing an ethical bank
Choosing a bank is no easy task (how many of us still have our original “Dollarmites” accounts because it’s Just. Too. Hard. to change banks?).
First, you gotta make it work for you: you want a bank with low or no fees, that lets you take your money out without charge and that has smooth online banking and other services that make your life easier.
Second, you need to think about what you define as the ethical use of your money. If coal mines and other fossil fuels are where you draw the line, visit Market Forces for an easy list of banks that invest in dirty energy and those that don’t.
Maybe you have a broader view and want a bank that values the environment but also the social impact of its investments. In that case, check out the Global Alliance for Banking on Values, which lists its members, including two Australian banks.
Another place to look is Bank Track. Search for your bank, then click on “Related Dodgy Deals” on the right to see if there are any investments that don’t serve people or the planet.
Time to change banks
Once you’ve identified your new ethical bank, the fun begins. You may not realise this, but your old polluting bank is actually obliged to help you switch according to Choice.
Here’s a step-by-step list of what you need to do to change banks:
- Open your new accounts (duh).
- Most new banks have a service where they will ask your current bank for a list of your regular payments, direct debits, regular donations, subscriptions etc. Ask for a “switch of regular payment arrangements form”.
- Ask your new bank how they can help you ease the transition of those regular payments (how helpful they are will vary on the bank, but you might find that most of your transition can be arranged by the banks without too much input from you).
- Tell your work and/or clients that you have changed accounts (I’m freelance too, I know it’s a pain).
- Tell Centrelink you have a new account, here’s how to do it quickly with MyGov.
- Shift any other regular payments to the new account.
- Leave a “slush fund” in your old account for a month or so but move over the bulk of any remaining funds.
- Once you’re sure the old account has no more money outgoing, close that sucker. You will most likely have to do this in person, which gives you a great opportunity to tell the bank that you don’t like how your money is invested. Ask the representative to pass that information on to management – this is called people power.
- Tell all your friends about your amazing new ethical bank.
Got any questions or advice to share? Go for it!