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Going Green: UBank

Posted: 26 September 2019 11:02 am
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How this online bank is helping people save money and support the environment at the same time.

Have you ever thought about what happens to the money you put in the bank? At a very basic level, when you deposit money, the bank uses it for investments and for lending to other projects, companies or sectors. As you have no say in what investments or projects are financed, this means that sometimes your money could be used for causes you don't support (or that you are against).

The good news is that, as more people become aware of this structure, banks and other financial organisations are starting to offer greener products. A leading example in Australia is UBank, which launched the first term deposit account that only supports green investments, and earned the Best Green Innovation Award for it at the 2019 Finder Awards.

So, we caught up with COO Glen Aiton to learn more about the inspiration for this account and UBank's approach to being green.

UBank COO Glen Aiton.

UBank COO Glen Aiton. Image: Supplied


What does your company do and how is it green?

UBank is a fintech with a banking licence – providing over 550,000 Australians with a range of simple banking products, great rates and local support. Since launching in 2008, we've focused on taking care of our customers and the wider community.

We're really excited to have launched the world's first Green Term Deposit (Green TDs) – certified by the Climate Bonds Initiative – earlier in 2019.

This means, for the first time, Australians can deposit their money and enjoy a highly competitive rate, while driving a positive environmental impact.

Our Green TDs are matched to a portfolio of renewable energy projects, such as wind and solar energy and low-carbon buildings. Think of it like virtually planting a tree. In the first five months [from when we launched], we saw over $212 million invested in our Green TDs and green initiatives.

The uptake has been amazing and it really goes to show how interested Australians are in making a difference, so we're proud of being able to empower them with a platform like this.

What inspires you and your business to be green?

We want to empower customers to make more sustainable lifestyle choices and be more aware of where their money is being invested.

For the last decade, we've been working hard to disrupt our industry and challenge the way things are done. Everyone at UBank knows that we have a responsibility to effect change. This is how we saw an opportunity to innovate our term deposits by creating an option for people who are environmentally conscious.

We also have only a small footprint as a business, with no branches and a head office based on two floors in Sydney. And we went paper-free in 2017, getting rid of all transaction and statement letters.

While this is really only the start of our journey of providing green products, we believe that giving our customers small but consistent steps to ensure a sustainable future is how we'll make a big difference.

Why is being green personally important to you?

Growing up in the Bahamas and the Cayman Islands, I have always loved the water, swimming, snorkelling and scuba diving – I love seeing marine life. But our oceans are being taken over by an unbelievable amount of plastic.

From food packaging, coffee cups, lids, straw, bottles and bags, single-use plastics are everywhere. And while we've always been told recycling is the answer, more than 90% of global plastic isn't recycled.

If we don't see significant and urgent action now, we face handing the next generation a garbage dump [that is] unfit for marine life, instead of an ocean.

My hope is that together we can preserve the world's beauty for generations to come.

Could you describe one small step people could take towards being greener?

People think that being green is all about having a KeepCup and metal straws. Don't get me wrong, these are great steps that people can take towards being greener, but something that's lesser-known or understood is seeking out green services.

Apart from UBank's Green TDs, there are so many different car and health insurance products that are sustainable, along with a range of energy services. A little bit of research goes a long way to reducing your carbon and plastic impact.

What is one resource that you think people should read/watch/consume to understand more about sustainability and going green?

There are so many great podcasts that are really inspiring – one of my favourites is The Minimalists: it looks at sustainability through a different lens and how you can live a more fulfilled life with less.

Going Green is an interview series that sheds light on companies, organisations and initiatives that have a focus on sustainability and ethics. We ask a representative from each company the same five questions so you can get a snapshot of the work they are doing to help protect the planet.

Want more info and tips for making greener choices? Check out the Finder Green homepage.

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Image credits: Getty Images, Supplied

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