We started our BankSwitch Campaign in 2021 and the initial participants pledged to move their money by Earth Day 2021. Unfortunately, the big 5 CDN banks still think climate change is something they can handle with PR and empty pledges. If you’re in the first BankSwitch cohort, it’s time to start moving your money. If you’re just hearing about BankSwitch now, we suggest you sign-up, contact your branch manager and tell them you’ll be moving your money on or around Earth Day of 2022.
We recommend you start the process by choosing a new financial institution, opening an account there and moving some of your money. This will let your bank know you’re serious and it will also give you time to make sure all your ducks are in a row before actually closing your accounts. You can move over one financial product or service at a time as you learn what’s available at your new institution.
For a more detailed step-by-step guide to closing your accounts, check out Tim Nash, the Sustainable Economist.
Sustainable Banking Options in Canada
Your best bet is a regional credit union. Not only do credit unions typically have few or zero fossil fuel loans, they’re structured like a consumer co-op so you will become a member, rather than a customer, giving you voting rights and perhaps even a slice of their profits, depending on their structure. Like reuglar banks, credit unions have deposit insurance so your deposits are guaranteed even if the credit union fails.
We can’t list all the credit unions in Canada because there are hundreds of options and your choice might depend on your career, where you live or even your religious views. However, we’ve contacted a few of the larger credit unions ourselves and listed them below. Meridian has never replied to our inquiries, but we believe they’re fossil free. If you’re interested in one of the smaller options, please contact them and ask about their fossil fuel policies — the more they hear from people, the more they will see that having strong policies about fossil fuels is a great way to attract customers.
DUCA Financial has ensured us in writing that they don’t have any loans funding fossil fuel expansion — although they couldn’t guarantee that they didn’t have small business loans for oil and gas services companies.
Kindred is a small Christian credit union in Kitchener that really seems to put ethics first. They are also focused on divestment from weapons companies — and that’s not a bad thing!
Alterna operates as both a bank and a credit union. They have confirmed to us that they do not have any commercial loans to the fossil fuel industry and we are waiting to hear back about their policies regarding future loans.
In British Columbia, both Vancity and CCEC have strong environmental policies and no loans to fossil fuel companies. CCEC was even tweeting about Unist’ot’en solidarity and encouraging their members to attend municipal climate policy meetings before the pandemic!
If you need to use an actual bank, we recommend Laurentian Bank which has less than 0.38% of its loan portfolio tied up in mining, quarrying or oil and gas.
Desjardins is such a large credit union that they function a bit like a major bank. They recently divested their SocieTerra funds from fossil fuel companies (https://www.wealthprofessional.ca/news/industry-news/desjardins-funds-go-oil-free-as-iea-says-fossil-fuel-support-must-end/330317) — which is a big step ahead of most Canadian banks, but they helped fund the TMX pipeline before Justin Trudeau bought it for his personal collection and we believe they may still be making loans to oil companies (https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/desjardins-group-lifts-moratorium-pipeline-lending-1.4436432).