Bank Switch is a campaign to pressure Canadian Banks to clean up their act and stop funding the expansion of the fossil fuel industry. We’re asking people to start with a letter or email and give the banks a deadline of April 22 (Earth Day) 2021 — hopefully this will trigger the human instinct of ‘loss aversion’ and get things moving within their organization. The long lead time means you can make the switch just after their Annual General Meetings next year. If the policies your bank announces over the next year are good enough, you also won’t have to deal with the hassle of actually filling out all the forms to move your money. If they fail to act, send them a reminder and then make a plan to move your money sometime in the Spring on a day that work for you.
We suggest using the demands developed by Banktrack:
- publicly clarify your position on the relation between climate change and the extraction and burning of fossil fuels
- publicly commit to immediately end your support for all new fossil fuel projects, including exploration, extraction, transportation and power
- publish a robust plan for phasing out your support for all existing fossil fuel projects and companies on a timetable consistent with what is necessary to meet the Paris targets.
But, of course, it’s up to you what counts as ‘good enough’ to earn your business.
If you live in the US, please sign up for a similar campaign through Stopthemoneypipeline.com. If you live in Europe, Asia, Africa or South America, you can see if your bank is ranked here and move your money to a better option. If you discover an organized switching campaign in your area, please let us know and we’ll add a link here.
Why switch banks?
While university and pension fund divestment campaigns put some pressure on the fossil fuel sector, exploration and expansion will continue as long as oil companies can get banks to underwrite their new projects. The big five Canadian banks are pouring money into oil and gas exploration, including particularly damaging projects like fracking and tar sands development. Since the Paris Agreement was signed, RBC has pumped $160 billion into fossil fuel companies; TD has provided $103 billion; Scotiabank $97.5 billion; Bank of Montreal $82 billion; CIBC $57 billion. In a comprehensive review of policies on fossil fuel investment and loans TD scored 3 out of 200 possible points; RBC earned 1 point and BMO, CIBC and Scotiabank earned HALF a point. To read the full report from Banktrack and the Rainforest Action Network click here. Among Canadian Banks only National Bank and Desjardins have even signed the UN Declaration on Responsible Investing which mostly just requires them to track and report how much money they are pouring into fossil fuel expansion.
Simply burning the global reserves of oil coal and gas which HAVE ALREADY BEEN DEVELOPED will exceed the carbon budget for staying under 1.5C and nearly exceed the budget for 2C – and yet fossil fuel companies are continuously seeking out NEW reserves. While our society still needs oil and gas to heat homes and fuel our vehicles, we must stop exploration and development of new projects immediately — and the only way to do that is to cut off their financing.
Who should I contact and what should I say?
The big 5 all do their best to funnel your communications into contact forms and call centres, so we the think the best approach is to get in touch with your home branch and ask for an email address for the branch manager. Some banks also have contact info for an ombudsperson that oversees complaints — they are supposed to handle complaints that can’t be resolved at the branch level, but you might as well CC them. A few banks also give fax info and an unprecedented surge of faxes will definitely get employees talking!
If you want to write your own message, the core message should be that you will switch banks in April 2021 unless they significantly improve their policies around underwriting and investing in fossil fuel exploration and expansion.
If you have already have contact info for someone at your branch that you speak to regularly, contact them. If not, follow the directions below.
CIBC: For CIBC, look up your branch here. You can call or contact one of the financial advisors whose email address is listed.
BMO: For BMO, look up your branch here. BMO also lists FAX numbers for the branch! This is fun because people in the branch will talk if they get a flood of faxes. This website will allow you to upload a word document and send it as a fax!
Scotiabank: For Scotiabank, look up your branch here. Scotia also lists FAX numbers for the branch! This is fun because people in the branch will talk if they get a flood of faxes. This website will allow you to upload a word document and send it as a fax!
What if I have a mortgage?
Even better! Threaten to move it. This will really scare the shit out of your bank. Plus, with interest rates at an all time low, it actually is a good time to shop around for a new mortgage.
Where should I move my money to?
The best bet is probably a regional credit union. Since they’re smaller, it isn’t easy to find public listings of their loans and investments online — but you can and should contact a credit union that is appealing to you and ask about their policies around fossil fuel expansion. If they get back to you, please contact us and we will add them to the list.
CREDIT UNIONS IN ONTARIO:
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 more focused on divestment from weapons companies — but that’s not a bad thing!
Alterna has 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.
CREDIT UNIONS IN BC:
Both Vancity and CCEC have very 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 a large bank, we recommend National Bank — as they have at least signed the UN declaration on responsible banking, unlike all the other big banks.
Desjardins is such a large credit union that they function a bit like a major bank. They recently divested all their 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 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).
If you must use one of the big five, TD seems to be marginally “better” than the others scoring 3 out of 200 on the most recent Banktrack report (whereas the others score between 0.5 and 1). They are pumping money into the oil sands but have some policies around loans to the coal industry.
Should I tell my friends and family about this?
Of fucking course! That’s the only way this is going to have an impact. 🙂
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