Remember the Dakota Access Pipeline protests? The oil pipeline, a project backed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Energy Transfer Partners, spans roughly 1,200 miles through the Dakotas into Illinois. Its construction sparked outcry from environmental and social justice groups alike, given that it threatens the primary water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota and sacred sites near Lake Oahe.
Energy Transfer Partners and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers aren’t the only entities funding the controversial pipeline. Big banks like JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo have also put their dollars behind the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Big banks, just like other businesses such as clothing retailers, fast food chains, and technology companies, use their income to support causes or projects that best support their financial gain. Unfortunately, those include many unethical and destructive industries, such as fossil fuels, sweatshops, and factory farms. Ultimately, big banks pursue profit at the expense of people and the planet.
Better banking is possible, and it starts with divestment.
What Does Divestment Mean?
In financial terms, divestment is the opposite of investment — it means the removal of assets from an account. Divesting from a big bank into a community bank or credit union will ensure your hard-earned cash won’t fall into the hands of predatory, unethical industries.
Break Up With Big Banks
Credit unions are not-for-profit, member-owned financial cooperatives. Because they don’t seek to earn a profit, credit unions typically offer better savings rates, lower loan rates, and reduced fees than the major banks. They exist solely to benefit the well-being of their members.
You could also choose a socially responsible community bank, many of which are vital to funding sustainable and affordable housing in low-income communities, as well as providing loans to economically vulnerable populations.
B-corp certified institutions are “legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment.”
As you do your research, make sure the institution you select is insured by either the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) or National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). In the unlikely event the financial institution goes under and you lose your assets, you’ll be ensured up to $250,000.
Once you’ve decided on a new credit union or bank, you’ll want to open a new account with a small deposit (but still keep your big bank account open). Order checks, debit cards, and other products you might need from your new bank.
From there, you’ll want to move all your automatic deposits to your new account. Make sure to ask your employer to transfer paychecks to your new account if you receive direct deposits.
Once all your deposits and payments have been transferred, transfer the rest of your funds from your old account into the new one. You’re then ready to close your account and break up with that big bank — you can also write them a letter stating the reasons why you’re leaving. Seal it with a kiss and say goodbye to shady financial institutions forever!