How to use your finances to fight climate change

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GreenPortfolio teamed up with Raise Green, Atmos Financial, Carbon Collective, and Joro to share some easy ways you can align your money with your values.

To learn more about how individual action can drive institutional change, we asked Paul Moinester, Founder of The Outdoor Policy Outfit and author of The Carbon Bankroll, for his thoughts on how consumers hold the power for decarbonizing the financial sector. Read on for his letter:

A letter from Paul Moinester

We live in an era of tremendous upheaval. From climate change to a global pandemic, these “new normals” are forcing us to see and navigate the world in different and unexpected ways. Everything from the cars we buy, to the jobs we pursue, to where we live and travel, to what we eat, is changing drastically and rapidly.

 

Perhaps the most profound of these adaptations, which is only starting to emerge as a mainstream change, is how individuals, companies, and organizations bank and invest.

 

Since the advent of the modern banking system in the 17th Century, society has largely treated banking and investing as “neutral” activities, devoid of societal implications. However, over the course of the last decade, there has been a great awakening that is dramatically changing how we, as consumers, engage with the financial system.

 

This transformation is being powered by a growing awareness that banking and investing are far from “neutral” activities. Rather, they are one of, if not the most, important environmental and social decisions any consumer makes – from everyday individuals to multinational corporations.

This reality is rooted in the long-overlooked fact that the financial system, powered in part by our money, is the engine fueling the climate crisis. However, we, as consumers, have the power to transition trillions of dollars away from financing this crisis and redirect those funds toward creating a more regenerative and equitable future.

 

In May, my organization TOPO, in partnership with the Climate Safe Lending Network and BankFWD, published a groundbreaking report that exposed the hidden climate impact and latent power of corporate banking called “The Carbon Bankroll”. What we found is that for many of the world’s largest companies, including Google, Meta, Microsoft, and Salesforce, the carbon footprint generated by their investments and cash held in banks are their largest source of emissions - in some cases their financed emissions are even larger than all their emissions combined.

The point of this research was to raise awareness about a critical and previously hidden fact: for even the most climate conscious companies, their hard-earned climate accomplishments are being severely undermined by a misaligned financial system that is channeling much of their money into the carbon-intensive sectors driving the climate crisis. However, by assuming control of the environmental implications of their “financial supply chains”, companies could transform this substantial source of emissions into their biggest lever for climate progress.

 

It turns out the same is true for even the most climate-conscious individuals. The average carbon footprint of an individual in the United States is somewhere between 12-16 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year. If you drive an electric car, put solar panels on your roof, and eat less meat, you can lower your footprint dramatically and make critical climate contributions.

 

However, if you have $125,000 in cash and short-term assets at a mainstream bank such as Chase, Citi, or Bank of America, these banks are lending out your money and generating around 16 tons of emissions per year. That means for many people, especially those with means, their biggest climate impact is not their houses, cars, or travel habits. It’s their money.

 

The good news is that thanks to the advent of some amazing companies, you now have the power to take control of your finances and transform your money into a vehicle for climate progress. With their help, your money can be transformed from your largest source of emissions into a) your most effective strategy for reducing your personal emissions and b) your most powerful consumer avenue for forging systemic change by accelerating the decarbonization of the financial sector.

 

So, how can they help you actualize this great hidden power? Here’s how.

Avoid greenwashing

GreenPortfolio makes it easy for you to understand the positive and negative climate impact of your financial decisions through their proprietary rating system that scores your investments and bank accounts.

Invest directly in solutions

With Raise Green, you can drive investment directly to climate solutions in need of investment, which gives you the ability to help implement impactful solutions while earning a return on your investment.

Invest with impact

Carbon Collective is a one-stop shop that can help you build a complete investment portfolio that drives as much of your money as possible into climate solutions and delivers competitive financial returns.

Bank with impact

With Atmos, you can take control of your banking and ensure 100 percent of every dollar you deposit is used to support renewable energy projects that directly reduce climate emissions.

Spend with a purpose

Joro helps you ensure your daily spending decisions are creating a greener world by giving you the power to track, reduce, and offset the emissions of everything you buy.

In a world where we often feel powerless in the face of major global headwinds, these companies are playing a pivotal role giving people the tools they need to embrace their greatest consumer climate power – a power truly capable of forging systemic change. Personally, they are helping me transform my finances into a vehicle for climate progress, and I hope you take advantage of the invaluable services and support they provide.

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