BankFWD Nudges Banks Toward a Climate-Friendly Future
Historically, most bank customers didn’t give much thought to what happens to their money after they deposit it. Perhaps they had an inkling that their money was used to back bank lending. But most didn’t consider whether that lending ran counter to their values.
Now several organizations — and at least one bank — are asking consumers to take a closer look at their banking relationships and consider whether the place they bank might be working against the kind of world they want to live in.
In a recent editorial in The New York Times, Daniel Growald, Peter Gill Case and Valerie Rockefeller, fifth-generation descendants of the founder of the Rockefeller oil and gas empire (and JP Morgan Chase), announced the creation of an organization called BankFWD. In their piece, the Rockefeller heirs put a stake in the ground, announcing that a “network of individuals, businesses and foundations will use their banking choices and public standing to persuade major banks to phase out their financing of fossil fuels and lead on climate matters.”
They continue: “Since 2016, 35 banks have funneled $2.7 trillion into fossil fuel companies and projects, a trajectory that will guarantee a world with runaway climate disruption.”
San Francisco-based Bank of the West, a McGuffin client, has helped lead the charge for change, moving to make substantive and positive shifts in their lending policies. Bank of the West has prohibited financing for activities such as Arctic drilling, fracking and tobacco, and they’ve made their sustainability efforts public and a cornerstone of their branding and customer communications.
The fundamental question posed by the BankFWD project and Bank of the West’s efforts is this: Are short-term profits worth the trade-off for long-term environmental damage? It’s not just an ethical question — it’s an economic one. As more and more Americans see firsthand the effects of climate change, banks will find themselves held accountable for — and financially impacted by — the practices they make possible.