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A bank account that’s good for the planet is one of Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas

Bank of the West is pledging 1% of revenues from its new debit account to environmental nonprofits.

A bank account that’s good for the planet is one of Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas
[Illustration: Giacomo Bagnara]
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Started by Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard in 2002, 1% for the Planet is a global organization composed of businesses—including Honest Tea and Klean Kanteen—that donate a hundredth of their sales to “sustainability oriented” nonprofits. Bank of the West recently joined the group when it launched its new 1% debit account, pledging 1% of its revenue from the new accounts to environmental nonprofits.

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$100,000 to Date

The organizations that receive the funds will rotate, but the inaugural partner is Protect Our Winters, a group dismayed by the dramatic shortening of the snow-sports season and committed to reversing the effects of climate change. Bank of the West (which is part of global banking group BNP Paribas) reports that it has generated more than $100,000 for Protect Our Winters since the July 2020 rollout of the 1% debit accounts.

Consumer Demand

A quarter of new Bank of the West customers since July 2020 have signed up for the 1% debit accounts. Consumers are “awakening” to the role finance plays in climate change, says Ben Stuart, chief marketing officer at Bank of the West. “Just as people are used to flipping around their yogurt and saying, ‘Oh, is it organic milk?’ ” he says, “they’re getting comfortable asking, ‘What is my money doing at this bank?’ ”

Future Investment

While ESG-minded investors have alternatives (for instance, switching to green funds), “there hasn’t really been a sustainable finance option for the everyday person,” Stuart says. An app allows subscribers to track their transactions’ carbon impacts down to the nearest estimated pound of CO2 emitted across various retail categories. The bank plans to offer an investment account providing the same 1% donation benefit.

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