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Could ditching your bank save the planet?


Composite image. Left: A close-up of a hand holding a green succulent plant, with more plants in the background. Right: Entrepreneur and climate change advocate Natalie Isaacs.

Entrepreneur and climate change advocate Natalie Isaacs on two simple actions you can take right now to support people and the planet.

Taking action on the climate crisis doesn't always mean going to protests or writing to your politician. While those things are very important, they're also part of a bigger picture.

I founded 1 Million Women based on the belief that we can all take action on climate change in our everyday lives. Every single thing we do affects our planet and impacts someone, somewhere else. And how we spend our money – the businesses we choose to support, the banks we choose to trust – is one area of our daily lives that holds a lot of power.

Our consumer power should never be underestimated, particularly during these uncertain times where the nation faces the unprecedented impact of the coronavirus pandemic. With this power, we can force a supermarket giant to no longer package certain items in plastic or influence a bank to not lend money in support of a huge fossil fuel project – just by flexing our consumer muscle.

So, why not feel more empowered while you practice social distancing? Here are two ways you can use your consumer power to make a real impact on our planet (and even on your wallet). You only have to do them once, and you can do both of them from home.

1. Look into who you bank with

I always just thought my money sat in my bank account, and that was that. But it turns out that when we put our money into the bank, the bank lends it out and invests it. And many banks lend money to fossil fuel projects, which means we are indirectly supporting this industry (without even realising it).

I'm not sure about you, but that's definitely not where I want my money going.

This is one of the most effective ways that we can use our consumer power, because if we start moving away from banks that are investing in fossil fuels, it shows banks that this is unacceptable and will force them to reconsider funding fossil fuel projects if they want our business.

If banks stop lending to fossil fuel projects because of pressure from the community, then those projects won't be able to get the funding to go ahead. Do you feel powerful now, or what?

As soon as I found out about this, in 2013, I looked into where my bank was lending my money. Sure enough, it was like many others. It had invested millions of dollars towards fossil fuels.

I immediately started researching ethical, fossil-fuel-free banks in Australia, and that's how I found Bank Australia, who for me is really the best.

Once you choose your new bank, opening an account is easy – the only slightly tricky part is moving all your direct debits over, as well as speaking to your employer about your new financial details. Nobody likes life admin, but you know what? I do love pulling out my card every day because it reminds me that I'm with a bank that's not supporting the fossil fuel industry and is doing good things instead, like supporting renewable energy.

2. Switch your super

Similar to banks, super funds invest our money in different industries. For many of us, this is our biggest lifetime investment, so it's really important to ensure that all of this money is going towards industries we support.

It's about investing in our future in more ways than one: having enough money for retirement, but also ensuring that our home, planet Earth, is in good shape.

Finding out where your super fund invests your money is as simple as giving them a call and asking them what their policies are on fossil fuels, or any other industries you're worried they might invest in, such as weapons, tobacco or industries that harm animals.

You can expect an ethical fund to not invest a single cent in these industries. I'm personally with Australian Ethical, which doesn't invest in fossil fuels at all. Instead, it invests in renewable energy projects and even a company that's stopping plastic fishing nets from polluting the ocean by turning them into carpet.

To find the right ethical super fund for you, you could try using Finder's ethical super comparison as a starting point. Some funds are rigorously ethical and only invest ethically.

However, more mainstream funds are creating special ethical options and they might not be as strict in what they will and won't invest in. Responsible Investment Association Australasia (RIAA) is another great resource. It is an independent third party that maintains a standard of investing, encourages transparency and helps protect against "green-washing".

Once you've got the fund for you, the switch process can take literally minutes. Then you'll just need to let your employer know, and make sure you jump on the MyGov website to consolidate your super and make sure it's all in the one place. You don't want to end up paying fees to two different funds.

Natalie Isaacs is the author of "Every Woman's Guide To Saving The Planet" and founder and CEO of 1 Million Women, a global movement of women and girls who take practical action to fight dangerous climate change by changing the way they live. Natalie's philosophy for 1 Million Women is that real behaviour change begins with personal action. Through her mission, Natalie has empowered tens of thousands of schoolgirls and hundreds of thousands of women to change the way they live. A former cosmetic manufacturer, her own climate change journey from apathy to action cuts through the complexity of this vital 21st century challenge and delivers a simple message that resonates with women and girls of all ages.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article (which may be subject to change without notice) are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Finder and its employees. The information contained in this article is not intended to be and does not constitute financial advice, investment advice, trading advice or any other advice or recommendation of any sort. Neither the author nor Finder has taken into account your personal circumstances. You should seek professional advice before making any further decisions based on this information.

Want more ways to go green?

With initiatives to reduce emissions, provide sustainable finance options and move towards zero-waste, the Finder Green Awards celebrate the businesses doing their bit to protect our planet. See the full list of winners and finalists for 2020 so you can make better decisions for you and the planet.

Read more Finder X columns

Images: Getty Images, Supplied

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