Most people use one of the ‘big’ banks – Barclays, Lloyds, HSBC, etc. However although they may have plans to decarbonise their own service, many of their loans are to fossil fuel-based companies and are supporting industries which we need urgently to move away from.
When you save money in a banking institution, the bank can use that money several times over in loans. So if you hold money in one of the big banks, you may actually be supporting businesses and industries whose ethics and business practices you deeply disapprove of.
How can you be sure that your money is being used to support sustainable businesses?
The only way you can be totally sure is to move to a bank which loans only to ‘ethical businesses’. The only bank I know of where I can be sure that this is being done is the Triodos Bank.
The Triodos Bank
In 1968 three men – Adriaan Deking Dura, tax law professor Dieter Brüll, management consultant Lex Bos and banker Rudolf Mees, formed a study group to research how money can be managed sustainably. In 1971 the Triodos Foundation was established aimed at supporting innovative projects and companies.
The Triodos Bank was then founded in the Netherlands in 1980, with Triodos Bank in the UK being founded in 1995. Since then it has spread to Spain and France.
The bank only loans money to sustainable and ethical businesses and organisations. It is fully transparent and you can see all the businesses it supports on its website here.
Take a look at the video below and then read on about my experience with Triodos:
My Triodos experience
I have been thinking about moving my account to Triodos for some time. For many years I have had an account at the TSB, largely because there was a TSB branch very close to my house. However, this was closed earlier this year so my reason for using the TSB vanished.
Particularly as, since their ill-fated software upgrade in 2018, I have had numerous issues with their online service.
I, therefore, took the plunge and applied to set up a Triodos current account in July 2020. I think it took about a week or so, as I applied for a modest overdraft facility at the same time (always a good thing to have, just in case). I then received the paperwork, my ‘contactless’ debit card (which is recyclable) and a small green ‘digipass’ about two inches square.
The ‘digipass’ is what you use to confirm access to your online account and to confirm things like setting up payees. I think probably the digipass is the only thing I really don’t like about Triodos. The buttons on it are quite small and the readout can be a bit confusing in certain lights.
However, whenever I have had an issue I have been able to ring up the bank and their staff are very friendly and helpful.
Triodos also have a very nice phone app which is easier to use than the desktop online so I am using this quite a lot.
Apart from the phone service, everything is done online and so far as I am aware the only physical bank is at their main office in Bristol. However, I do not have a problem with this as I prefer internet banking anyway.
I have been very pleased with the service so I recently took the plunge and switched over completely from my TSB personal account using the ‘switching’ service. This moved everything (ie money and payment details) over from my TSB account and then closed it. It has all been very straightforward.
The only real issues that I have are that the digipass is sometimes a bit tricky to use and I can’t add the card yet to the Apple pay on my phone (although they tell me this is coming).
Triodos for Business
I would love to use Triodos for my main business account too but sadly cannot at the moment as their business accounts do not support debit cards. I need this as many of the services I use for the website are paid via the debit card.
However, I have set up a business account which I use for my regular tax savings. So at least the money I save for tax is available to help support sustainable loans before it is paid out to the government. Keeping that money separate also means I don’t spend it by mistake on something else.
Another unfortunate aspect of the business accounts is that there is at present no phone app. So I have to use the desktop system.
Hopefully, Triodos will in due course be updating their business accounts to include debit cards and a phone app – at which point I will move everything over to them.
Triodos might be a good choice for landlords, for example, who are seeking finance for works to their properties to improve their carbon footprint. This is the sort of thing that they would want to invest in.
My Triodos experience has been pretty good and it seems that others agree with me. The Trustpilot score for Triodos is at the time of writing ‘average’ at 3.5 which is probably down to the fact that as a small bank it is not as slick as some of the larger banks.
If you care for the environment and want to do something to help, putting your money where it can do the most good is a really important thing to do. So think carefully about the banks that you use for your bank accounts and for your savings. What are they actually doing with your money?
You should also think about your pension (see Richard Curtis’ Make my Money Matter Campaign here) and any savings you may have.
So be careful and don’t be an accidental investor in things you don’t believe in!
I leave you with an interview from 2016 with Peter Blom, CEO, Triodos Bank.
This post was first published on the Eco Landlords site.