Stories of Money and sustainability

What Banks Do with Your Money and Why It Matters

Aug 24th 2020

By Sam Laird Senior Content Writer Bank of the West  
Nick Acosta

Hiking. Skiing. Cycling. We get it: When you’re out enjoying the natural world, banking is the last thing on your mind. But think again: What your bank does with your money makes a big difference in the natural world.

What Happens When You Put Money in the Bank

Just like people, banks choose what to do with the money they hold—which means the money you deposit doesn’t just sit in a vault. Your bank sends it back out into the world to finance things. What your bank chooses to finance with your money matters for Earth’s climate future. Here’s how.

what about the other $9o?

What is your bank doing with your money? The answer could be making a small business loan, or doing something … different. It depends who you bank with.

Status Quo Banking

You might not support fracking, arctic drilling, tar sands extraction, or deforestation. But your bank might—with your money. In 2019 alone, banks worldwide poured more than $735.6 billion in financing into fossil fuel companies. Financial institutions also provided $25.6 billion in financing to palm oil and other sectors that pose a high risk of deforestation in Southeast Asia.

Sources: Fossil Fuel Financing: Rainforest Action Network Banking on Climate Change 2020 Report; Deforestation Financing: Forests & Finance

Positive Banking

Bank of the West wants to help create a future that’s sustainable for all. That’s why in 2018 we began to channel $1 billion in financing toward clean, efficient, and renewable energy over a five-year period. We also provide loans that help people transition to electric vehicles. By 2040, clean energy is projected to play a bigger role in our world—from electric cars to solar power. Renewable energy is projected to comprise the majority of new power generating capacity in the United States.

This includes:

Sources: Electric Vehicles: Bloomberg 2019 Electric Vehicle Outlook; Renewable Energy Capacity: International Energy Agency 2019 World Energy Outlook

Financing a Sustainable Future

At Bank of the West, we know banking can be a force for good. We’ve taken action to help drive positive change.

What we don’t finance is just as important as what we do finance.

We’ve prohibited financing of:


And, we’ve restricted financing of:

So What Can You Do?

Your money talks, whether you’re buying groceries or making a bank deposit.So ask the question: “What on Earth does my bank finance with my money?”

Visit the About page for more about Bank of the West’s financing policies.

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Sam Laird Senior Content Writer Bank of the West

Sam joined Bank of the West in 2019 after more than 10 years in journalism. He’s also worked as a teacher, a grant writer, and a janitor, and prefers to spend his free time in nature.

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