Wake up daily to our latest coverage of business done better, directly in your inbox.


Get your weekly dose of analysis on rising corporate activism.


The best of solutions journalism in the sustainability space, published monthly.

Select Newsletter

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy. You can opt out anytime.

Leon Kaye headshot

This Bank Launched a Climate Action Checking Account

A California bank is giving customers an option to help drive climate action with a checking account that will donate funds to environmental nonprofits.
By Leon Kaye
Climate Action

Just about every large bank has announced a climate action strategy in one form or another. Some have responded with a plan to provide financing for low-carbon technologies. Others claim they are integrating climate analysis across their investment portfolios. One problem these banks face, however, is that while they say they are providing capital needed for a low-carbon economy, they also continue to fund carbon-intensive industries.

But another challenge the largest banks currently face is gaining their customers’ buy-in. It’s easy to make the connection between certain kinds of foods and their carbon footprints. Automakers make it easy by praising the virtues of their hybrid and all-electric models. For the financial sector, however, making that connection is a far peskier riddle. Most consumers won’t bother to investigate whether the institutions holding their funds are also providing loans for polluting industries. Making the connection between a bank’s operations and how they can push climate action forward is even more difficult to conceptualize.

But what if you actually engage your customers to do their part to further climate action or, at a minimum, make them aware of how their purchasing decisions have an impact on the planet? California-based Bank of the West says it’s doing just that with its newly launched 1 Percent for the Planet Account. Teaming up with the NGO that goes by the same name, Bank of the West says it’s done what it could with every aspect of this banking product to make it a more sustainable option.

Let’s start with the debit card (as no one writes checks these days, right?), which the bank says is made with a biodegradable and compostable plastic. Customers who have signed up with this account can go online and view the carbon impact of each of their purchases. And 1 percent of the revenues generated from each of these accounts goes to a nonprofit that’s partnering with 1 Percent for the Planet. As of press time, that NGO is Protect Our Winters (POW), a nonprofit founded in 2007 that brings together people passionate about the outdoors to advocate for policies that will allow the world to become carbon neutral by 2050.

There’s an economic sustainability asset too: At a time when many banks are accused of badgering their customers with countless fees, this Bank of the West checking account is free of any monthly charges.

1 Percent for the Planet says its business members have been a part of the organization’s ability to donate more than $265 million to its environmental partners.

Bank of the West is a subsidiary of BNP Paribas, the Paris-based banking giant holding over $2 trillion in assets that has its own sustainability agenda, a climate action plan that includes the funding of billions of dollars in renewable power projects.

Image credit: Bank of the West/Facebook

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye