Australia’s greenest banks
Curious about green banking? Discover which Australian banks are really doing their bit for the environment.
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Finder research shows that 52% of Australians are actively looking for "greener" products or services. But when it comes to industries like energy, insurance and banking, it's not always clear which companies are actually doing their bit.
This is also evident in our data with over three quarters (76%) of Australian consumers saying it's hard to know which products or services are truly better for the environment.
The Finder Green Awards solve this problem and give you the answers you need.
2021 Finder Green Awards
Winner: Green Bank of the Year
Bank Australia is powered by 100% renewable energy and is certified carbon neutral under the government's Climate Active scheme. It promises to offer not only competitive interest rates but, more importantly, that it will only lend this money to borrowers in ways that do not harm the planet.
2021 Green Bank of the Year: Bank Australia
In a closely contested category, Bank Australia came out as the back-to-back winner of the Green Bank of the Year award for 2021. There were lots of reasons to be optimistic about the change happening in this sector from all of the entries we received, but Bank Australia rose to the top.
The bank is doing a lot of work on its direct environmental impact, but where Bank Australia really stood out was with its commitment to climate-friendly financing and products. It doesn't lend money to fossil fuel companies and companies in other damaging industries like live animal export, gambling and tobacco.
It also has an impressive suite of climate-friendly products on offer. For starters, its car loans are all carbon neutral as standard which means the bank will offset the carbon emissions from your car for the life of the loan. The news gets even better if you're looking to buy a low emission vehicle, with the Bank Australia LEV Car Loan which rewards customers for going green with a lower interest rate. It's a similar story with the Bank Australia Clean Home Loan which offers customers a better interest rate if they opt for an energy-efficient home.
2021 Green Bank of the Year finalist: Teachers Mutual Bank Limited
Teachers Mutual Bank Limited, which has 4 brands (UniBank, Firefighters Mutual Bank, Health Professionals Bank and Teachers Mutual Bank), was named a finalist in this category. Teachers Mutual impressed with its carbon neutral status, 100% renewable energy usage and commitment to never lending money to or investing in fossil fuel companies.
Customers of Teachers Mutual can feel confident knowing that their deposits and home loans are Certified Responsible Investments that have received the tick of approval from the Responsible Investment Association Australia (RIAA).
What is green banking?
Green banking refers to any banking activities that are done in a sustainable way that aims to reduce their impact on the environment. This could mean a bank using solar panels to power their stores or it could mean the bank refusing to lend money to fossil fuel companies. The end goal is to help to create a world where the impacts of climate change are minimised.
The bank category was an important one for us when we started to build the Finder Green Awards. A lot of the products we compare here at Finder, from home loans to credit cards to savings accounts, are provided by banks. Banks also represent a high proportion of the biggest companies in Australia and almost certainly provide banking services to the rest. As a result, the decisions that banks in Australia make regarding climate change can have a huge impact.
The good news is that many banks in Australia are taking action to reduce their environmental impact. The biggest banks have whole teams working on their sustainability strategies whilst some of the lesser-known brands are building their whole customer offering around doing the right thing by the environment.
However, as with any sector, it can sometimes be difficult to cut through the noise to understand which banks are actually doing their bit to be sustainable and which banks are just talking a good game.
To determine how "green" the bank is, we looked at its current environmental impact and the impact of its investments.
- The bank's current environmental impact
Our methodology for making this assessment assigned roughly half of the points to the direct environmental impact that the bank has. This includes things like the energy usage and waste related to their branches and offices. The majority of marks available here were awarded for the bank's current environmental performance which we measured through data points like the proportion of the energy it used from renewable sources and the emissions intensity of its operations. In this section, we also looked at the future-facing plans of the bank including any targets that had been set.
- The environmental impact of the bank's investments and products
The other half of the scoring went to the environmental impact of the bank's investment and product decisions. This includes which companies they give their money to and how they incentivise customers to take sustainable action themselves.
When it comes to the environmental impact of their investments, we looked at whether the bank included environmental factors when deciding which companies they give loans to or invest in. This could be in the form of negative screening (for example, the bank doesn't give loans to fossil fuel companies) or positive screening (for example, the bank proactively looks to give money to renewable energy projects).
We also looked at whether banks had any climate-friendly products on offer to Australian consumers. These could come in a variety of forms but one example would be a home loan product that offered preferential interest rates for homes that have solar panels or are more energy efficient.
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