ethical banks

Ethical Banks in the US: 4 Socially Responsible Banks

Banks are an essential part of your financial life, but where are the ethical banks in the US? You know, the ones not blowing the tops off mountains or using racist lending practices.

Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and Chase are all terrible banks when it comes to how they treat the planet, how they treat their customers, and their business practices.

Wells Fargo has the worst record among major banks for lending money to Black Americans and has been accused of racist lending habits.

Chase invested $51.3 billion into fossil fuels in 2020 alone.

Bank of America has stolen money from customers and mishandled pandemic loan disbursement in 2020.

We need more ethical banks! Let’s break down what ethical banking is and choose from a list of banks that are at least trying to do the right thing.

ethical banks

4 Ethical Banks Options to Consider

As with all ethical investing, which of the ethical banks out there will be best for you will depend on what value you personally hold closest. I’m going to outline 4 options from three different ethical viewpoints; RACE, GENDER, and THE ENVIRONMENT.

None of these options is an A+ on all three. In fact, there is no ethical banking option that is perfect at everything. So instead, I want you to ask yourself what personal value you hold most dear, and do your banking with an ethical bank that is enacting that value.

None of the more ethical banks are perfect, but a LOT of them are way LESS BAD. And under our current messy capitalistic system, less bad is a good starting point.

1. Atmos

Atmos is a fintech company that partners with banks to provide high-yield savings accounts for users. And they have a 100% fossil fuel-free investment portfolio as a company!

In fact, Atmos invests in solar power, so the company is truly green. So your money can make money and you can know that you’re not contributing to climate change.

2. Amalgamated Bank

Amalgamated Bank is a B-corp bank that is 100% carbon-neutral and union-owned! Their savings account has a .40% APY as of May 2022 and no monthly fees.

Issues Amalgamated has taken a stand on are worker’s rights, solar power, and going carbon neutral.

3. Spring Bank

New York state’s first B-Corp bank, Spring is also a member of the Bank for Good movement. This is a coalition of banks and credit unions divesting from fossil fuels. Spring has been carbon neutral since 2019.

4. Beneficial State Bank

Based in CA, Beneficial is a CDFI bank. Four of their 11 board members are women, including their co-founders. Beneficial has a special focus on lending money to minority-owned businesses, such as women’s and Black-owned businesses.

What is Ethical Banking?

There’s no one universal standard for ethical banks to meet that qualifies them as “good banks.” Instead, ethical banking is usually judged by the banks’ professional practices, such as:

  • how the bank invests or lends money to earn a profit
  • how it treats employees with regard to pay, workplace safety, and hiring practices
  • what kind of impact the bank has on the environment

We usually categorize banks as ethical if they deviate from the normal financial practices we all know suck, like paying women employees less than men or refusing to lend to people based on race.

(Sidenote: isn’t it wild how terrible most financial institutions are and we just…live with it???) You can get our free “spend your values” workbook right here for more personally ethical money.

Red Herrings To Watch Out For

A lot of banks try to brand themselves as ethical banks by highlighting volunteer efforts by their employees, or short-term initiatives that the bank has taken on a specific issue.

For example, a recent news story about Chase highlighted that it will have electric vehicle charging stations at 50 locations by summer 2023.

This is a great example of greenwashing, since Chase invested $250 BILLION in fossil fuels between 2016-2019, and invested $51.3 billion into fossil fuels in 2020 alone.

This is what we as bank users need to watch out for: banks that try and shield the truth of their activities behind a shiny facade.

Read more: How to Avoid Financial Greenwashing

How an employee of a bank acts doesn’t reflect how the bank itself acts. When you see something that might be financial greenwashing, ask yourself these questions:

  • What level of impact does this action have? In the Chase example, Chase has more than 5,100 branches in the US alone. 50 of them having an electric vehicle charging station is a tiny portion.
  • Who is the good guy here? If a bank highlights that an employee organized a fundraiser for homelessness, the good guy is the employee, not the bank. Getting clarity around who is actually doing the good work will keep the rose-colored glasses off.

Making the Rest of Your Money Ethical Too

Ethical banks are really step one in making your money as value-friendly as possible.

There’s ethical investing, where you invest in companies conducting business in a way you agree with.

There’s values-based spending, where you align your spending with your personal values.

There’s divesting, where you remove your money and energy from companies you dislike.

And of course, there’s activism, where you use your time, privilege, and energy to change the terrible, problematic systems we live in. This would be running for office or volunteering your time at a nonprofit or political cause you care about.

I want you to feel excited about finding more and more ways to change the financial choices you make, and also the financial system we live in. That’s why we offer an ethical investing course that also covers ethical spending, banking, and real estate!

Ethical banks are just one part of building out your ethical financial plan. Get our FREE guide to spending and investing your values here to help round out your ethical financial strategy!

Dig this? The party doesn’t have to stop! Follow us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for money tips, jokes, and inspiration, and join our email newsletter here.

2 thoughts on “Ethical Banks in the US: 4 Socially Responsible Banks”

  1. Are there any ethical banks that are in the midwest or southwest? Those options look good, but no branches in other states. I usually try to bank at a local credit union.

    1. local credit unions are great! You can try Googling “socially responsible banks X” with your city or state as well.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top