Human Effort

142: “Ethical” banks


There are over 164 million payment cards in circulation in the UK. The vast majority of these cards are made from non-biodegradable plastic such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which contributes to harmful landfill waste.


Ethical banks

The Netherlands
In 2017, Dutch-founded ethical bank Triodos launched a current account in line with its values, which includes a biodegradable contactless card made from a plastic substitute called polylactic acid (PLA), which as it is created from renewable sources such as plant leaves and corn, rather than petroleum has not toxic leakage.Only the chip and strip in the Triodos card are not biodegradable, but they are recyclable.

Since 2016, Bevis Watts has been CEO of Triodos Bank UK Ltd. in Bristol. From 2013-16, he had been Chief Executive of Avon Wildlife Trust and Head of Business Support at The Waste and Resource Action Programme (WRAP) for 6 years (2001-07), creating their Financial Mechanisms Program.

Triodos’s no-frills account costs £3 a month and comes with no eye-catching offers or temporary bonuses. Instead it offers a simple overdraft and no unplanned borrowing facility, traditionally the most expensive way to borrow.

Customers’ money goes to a whole range of projects including organic farmers, and renewable energy.

For example, a loan from Triodos contributed to TV Chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s renovation of the 65-acre organic farm in Devon, home to the famous River Cottage cooking school. It also helped fund the build of Premise Studios, a music studio built with reclaimed and recycled materials, invested in Thrive Renewables, a Caton Moor wind farm which produces enough energy to power 10,000 homes.

Triodos is not alone. ASN Bank is a former Dutch bank, now a brand name for some consumer banking operations by de Volksbank. ASN focusses on socially responsible and sustainable investments. ASN Bank is currently the largest sustainability-driven bank in the Netherlands and was elected as the second most climate-friendly bank in the Netherlands (behind Triodos Bank).

Northern England

The Cumberland Building Society based in Cumbria, has a branch operating area covering Cumbria, South West Scotland, West Northumberland and North Lancashire. The Cumberland recognises that it has an impact on the environment arising from its activities, including the use of energy, the purchase and disposal of materials and equipment and pollution arising from its motor vehicles.


France’s la Banque Postale is taking an ethical approach with a few initiatives focused on ecology. On the customer side, the sustainable and solidarity development booklet (LDDS) is intended to support citizen projects linked to the social and solidarity economy.

It is also possible to invest in companies that integrate social or environmental issues into their financial management (renewable energies, circular economy, transport and La Banque Postale announced in 2018 its “carbon neutrality” across its entire operational scope thanks to the internal monetization of its carbon footprint via its “Carbon Fund” launched in 2015. sustainable obilities, green buildings and innovative environmental services).


The online green banking at Aspiration  was founded by Andrei Cherny and Joseph Sanberg at Marina del Rey, California. Unlike many big banks, Aspiration does not invest in fossil fuel funding, so clients’ deposits won’t go towards projects like pipelines, oil drilling, and coal mines. They also have the option to plant a tree with every swipe. And with its Aspiration Plus card—made from recycled ocean plastic—they can carbon-offset all their gas purchases and get 10% cashback when they buy from brands that are part of its Conscience Coalition, like TOMS.

In April 2017, Aspiration launched a feature on its mobile app called Aspiration Impact Measurement (AIM), which examines 75,000 data points and shows scores for companies where Aspiration customers shop, based on how those companies treat people and the planet.


Green Bond Credit Guidelines were promulgated by the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) in February 2012, a milestone directive encouraging Chinese banks to support green, low-carbon and recycling economies; to well manage environmental and social risks in lending service; and to improve sustainable performance in their operations. In 2019, the portfolio of green loans made in The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) was worth an estimated US$199 billion,, reaching 8% of its total portfolio

To achieve China’s recent pledge to become carbon neutral by 2060, new investment of around 138 trillion yuan (US$20 trillion) will be needed between 2020 and 2050 in the energy system alone, over 2.5% of annual GDP.

Italy and Spain

Banca Popolar Etica in Padua is a cooperative bank operating in Italy and Spain, owned by citizens and social organizations and inspired by the principles of Ethical Finance. With the collected savings Banca Etica provides loans exclusively to people and organizations with sustainable projects in the areas including the environment.


The UmweltBank, founded in 1997, is also profiting from the boom in ethical banking products. The Nuremburg-based institution boasts that it funds environmental projects exclusively, from building renewable energy sources to funding ecological farming initiatives.
These are just a handful in a growing number of ethical banks ready to support solutions to clean, to repair and to protect the Planet.

What you can do: Use an “Ethical Bank” or ask your own bank what environmental offers it is making.

Discover Solution 143: Recycling pandemic masks

Support 366solutions on Patreon and receive the ‘366solutions Insider Newsletter’ with updates on the monthly progress and successes of published solutions.

Leave a comment

Translate »