Photo: Climate First Bank/Facebook

If You’re a Traveler or Digital Nomad, There’s a Climate-Friendly Bank for You

Sustainability News
by Tim Wenger Aug 20, 2021

This is the Climate Win, the most positive sustainability news around the world every week.

Whether you’re a traveler, digital nomad, or remote business owner, a new bank offers you remote banking in a way that lets you run your finances in a climate-friendly, socially conscious manner. Climate First Bank, which opened its first physical branch in St. Petersburg, Florida, this spring, is on a mission to be the largest values-aligned bank in the United States.

“What you know with certainty when you bank with Climate First is that your dollars will not be used for a handful of exploitative industries,” says Jared Meyers, Founding Director of Climate First Bank. “Additionally, a depositor would know that we purposefully and intentionally seek out positive loans.”

Meyers, a veteran entrepreneur who has founded two certified B-Corp businesses in the hospitality industry, joined forces with serial green bank founder Ken LaRoe to bring to life the notion that banking — and financial services in general — can be a force for good.

The bank’s loan model is built upon the ideas of Project Drawdown, a business and societal framework based on the ideas outlined by author Paul Hawkens in his book, Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming. Its mantra of removing carbon from the atmosphere and developing a society that prioritizes equitable values over profit appears to run counter to the common perception of banks. The very idea that a bank with plans for growth and expansion might keep outside factors in mind while doing so might come off as suspect.

Rightfully so. Rarely is news surrounding financial institutions a win for the environment. Bloomberg reported in April that the combined carbon emissions of the banking industry’s investment portfolios and loan programs — i.e. how they make money — is 700 times greater than that of their actual office operations and accounts for three percent of global carbon emissions.

Climate First Bank is a bank, first and foremost. Its board and founders acknowledge that it must make money. LaRoe said himself in a 2020 interview in the Orlando Sentinel that in addition to being an environmentalist, he is a “rabid capitalist.”

What stands out most about Climate First Bank is that its directors appear to have stumbled on a concept that has long eluded many self-proclaimed capitalists: that making money doesn’t have to come at the expense of the environment. Climate First is a Certified B-Corporation and a member of 1% for the Planet. It operates a climate-neutral business model. The bank does not invest in the fossil fuel industry or in other industries deemed harmful to the environment or social justice, as rated by the B-Corp certification and Drawdown frameworks.

Climate First gives its customers a chance to put their beliefs into action through its loan programs. Based on the principles of Project Drawdown, which outline a three-prong solution to the climate crisis including bringing emissions to zero, uplifting the carbon cycle, and supporting environmental justice, clients are able to obtain a lower rate on loans

“Thinking of your bank and your money counteracting all the work that you do every day is painful,” Meyers says. “I tried with a number of banks in Florida to be more responsible by asking them to work through the B-Corp framework. I wasn’t successful. So when Ken reached out to me about starting this bank, I said, ‘Absolutely, let’s do it.’”

Of particular pride to Meyers is Climate First’s solar loan program, which he believes is among the best in the country. The bank prioritizes loans financing projects such as EnergyStar or LEED-certified developments.

The bank’s first branch opened this spring in St. Petersburg, Florida, and the company plans to open further branches throughout central Florida and eventually beyond. Travelers who are not based in Florida can open a personal checking or savings account remotely. Those accounts can serve their general banking needs, and they can rest easy knowing that their deposits are simultaneously funding these positive projects.

“I hope we never become one of the bigger banks that treats their customers like an account number,” Meyers says.

More climate wins this week

A federal judge in Alaska blocked the approved construction permits for a massive oil and gas project in the state’s North Slope, The New York Times reported. The Willow Plan, as it was known, had been approved by the Trump administration and backed by the Biden administration. The judge ruled that its proposal had failed to note the project’s impact on wildlife and the climate.

The Environmental Protection Agency will ban the use of chlorpyrifos on food, The New York Times reported. Chlorpyrifos has been found to cause neurological harm to children, and the ban on its use as a pesticide on common grocery items will take effect in six months.

A new railway in the United Kingdom will be constructed using 3D-printed concrete, which is expected to reduce the carbon footprint of the project by nearly 50 percent. The first phase, from London to Birmingham, is slated to be complete in 2026, Construction Dive reported.

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