Does Your Bank Help Support Our Society & Environment?

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We used to bank with one of the Big Four. Joining with more than half of Australia’s population, we helped contribute to the $2.86 trillion in assets belonging to Commonwealth, Westpac, ANZ, and NAB.

But five years ago, we started to consider whether banking with the Big Four was the best choice for us – and the best choice for the environment.

 If you’re familiar with the stories coming from The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, or if you’ve tuned into ABC recently, then you’re likely to be well aware of the unethical (and often illegal) bank practices plaguing our country. Even Murdoch publications are recognising the damage, with news.com.au reporting on Commonwealth’s “massive screw-up” and “failed customers”.

Consider NAB, which falsely witnessed more than 2,500 of its clients’ signatures. Or ANZ, providing “high risk”, inappropriate financial advice to 2,800 customers – advice that wasn’t in the interest of these individuals, but in the interest of the bank itself. 

The risk to customers is not only financial. In fact, some of the harshest problems begin to enter when you consider the ethics of choosing a bank that takes advantage of the vulnerable, and those who physically cannot make their own decisions. Commonwealth scammed thousands of children and parents when setting up fraudulent Dollarmites or Youthsaver accounts, reaping the benefits of performance targets; and shockingly charges services fees to their own clients after death.

Let’s not even get started with Westpac, which the Banking Royal Commission has heard attempted to take way the home of a chronically ill, elderly pensioner.

So as you can imagine, all of this didn’t sit comfortably with us. Five years ago, we knew something had to change – and it’s a wonder we didn’t do it sooner.

We didn’t see that there was much choice when it came to business banking services, but we also didn’t want to go down the same path as these customers, and support the companies dominate this unethical environment.

At the same time as these banks were damaging their customers, we started to see a new face pop up on the scene. Importantly, pop up on our scene. As we hosted our Etiko exhibits in sustainability events across Australia, we’d often come across the bank mecu crew. We started to chat and learn about what makes bank mecu different to the others, like ANZ or Commonwealth. We liked what we heard.

bank mecu is now called Bank Australia – a fitting change for a bank that is owned by the Australian community. In fact, it is 100 per cent owned by its customers. And by way of thanks, it returns its profits to these individuals by providing benefits surrounding rates, fees, and investment in environmental and social change.

At Etiko, you may have grown to realise that we value environmental sustainability. So we started to listen up when we learnt that Bank Australia doesn’t invest in fossil fuel. When we learnt that it preserves land – a Conservation Reserve part-owned by each customer, in which 270 native animals roam among 227 species of native plants. When we learnt that it supports disadvantaged school kids and the millions of Australians facing financial hardship. When we learnt that it has created its own Reconciliation Action Plan for Indigenous Australians.

Bank Australia didn’t originally offer the services we needed as a business – but with a 95 per cent customer satisfaction rating, it was always going to continue working hard to suit customer needs. And as it started to grow and change, we found it better suited not only our needs, but our values.

Sure, Bank Australia will never be huge – it’s highly unlikely it’ll join the Big Four. And that’s the way we like it. We like that the bank will continue to do great work and help individuals and businesses like Etiko. We like that it will help us as a small business apply our values to our banking practises.

We bet you won’t see Bank Australia end up in the Royal Commission.

Why you should make the change

At Etiko, we believe that it’s important to choose a bank that aligns with our values of social equality and opportunity, and environmental sustainability. But we also take a firm stance in our belief that we can’t change the world on our own. That’s why we encourage you to join with us, too.

You can find out more about Bank Australia in the UNEP newsletter, to learn about the development over the years. You can visit the Bank Australia’s own website to check out some of the projects they assist.

As a small local business, we’ve had a fulfilling relationship with Bank Australia. We’re one of a small handful of organisations invited to become a ‘partner’ of the bank – here, a reminder that the bank is 100 per cent customer-owned.

If you do choose to make the move to Bank Australia like we did, be sure to give Etiko a shout. We’ll get a small commission, and this will help provide us with even more resources to scale up and continue expanding our product range. It’ll help us bring you even more organic, ecofriendly, and Fairtrade products. We hope you’ll be cool with that.

 For more information about Bank Australia products and services contact 

Nathan.Hill@bankaust.com.au 

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