Week 27: Vote with Your Dollars
By Sherri Jackson and Laurel Hood, 52 Weeks of Climate Action
Did you know that while the rest of us (I’m calling it “us”, since you’re reading this article) have been trying to reduce our carbon footprints and looking for ways to heal the planet, our five big banks have been doubling down on investing in fossil fuels, and working against the Paris Climate Accord? It seems they haven’t gotten the message that the world is moving toward sustainability. Instead, they’re doing what lots of big business is doing. Burying their heads in the (oil)sands, and ignoring that the world is on fire. Here’s the really disturbing part. From 2016-2019, Canadian banks invested $482 Billion in the fossil fuel industry globally. And, domestically, they finance about 70% of the oil sands. OUR banks. AFTER the Paris Accord. You know, where Canada committed to serious action on climate change? Epic failure on all our parts. Internationally, Canadian banks are some of the top contributors to climate catastrophe. RBC leads the dubious pack, with over $135 billion in fossil fuel investment since 2016. That’s YOUR money. The thing is, the Big Five are behaving just like any business would, when left alone. We haven’t been paying attention, and they have been running unchecked, with scissors. We invest our hard earned money with those banks, and they do with it what we let them. While you’re getting dinged ridiculous banking charges for letting them hold your money, the 5 bank CEOs collected over $62 million in bonuses - on top of salaries - last year. Kind of sickening. But, they will argue that it’s not their fault we aren’t paying attention. Banks have no conscience, or moral compass. They just do what they can to make as much money as they can. After all, didn’t we just ask them for the fastest growth, and biggest rate of return? Come on - they’re just doing their job. It’s the nature of the beast. To an extent they’re right. When you deposit your money in the bank or buy investments, do you know where it’s going? Do you know what your money’s doing when you’re not looking? I’m betting you don’t. Because I didn’t either, until I started digging into it a few years ago. But now I do. And, you can too. Because, now, there’s a lot more at stake than there has been before, and we need to get in the game, or consider ourselves accomplices to our own destruction. Don’t you want to know if your money is actually working against you? Here’s a great study by the Rainforest Action Network on Canadian banks and Global Warming. If your bank won’t divest from fossil fuels, divest from your bank.
Challenge 27: Switch to a fossil fuel free bank.
Over the next several months, look into switching (Good). Begin by opening an account at a fossil free institution (Better). Go all in and start the switch (Best). Send a letter to your old fossil invested bank to tell them why you left (Above and Beyond). Below 2 Degrees published a great article recently called Why You Must Fire Your Fossil Bank. It argues that people can use their financial clout to influence big banks to act more ethically and sustainably. One person divesting doesn’t do a whole lot. But, a movement of people divesting, and letting the banks know why they’re divesting has a big impact. We’re not just talking about your savings account. Move your mortgage. Move your credit line. Change your credit cards. Change your investments. Change whatever you can, to get away from the Big Five. Admittedly, some are at the mercy of pension funds. Lucky you to have a pension, but unlucky that your investment decisions are out of your hands. CPP continues to invest in fossil fuels, despite our government’s commitment to the Paris Accord. That’s because the concept of “fiduciary duty” - acting in the best interests of the client - needs to come into the 20th century to reflect a broader interpretation of what’s best. It’s not in our best interests to collect pots of money while the planet burns. Write (or keep writing) to your organizers to demand divestment. It’s incredibly important that your financial profile reflects your ethics. Band together as a group to push for change. Where do you start, if all the banks are in cahoots together? Leave big banks. Credit Unions are a viable alternative. Anyone can join. The difference is, you become a member of the credit union, which doesn’t cost anything. They aren’t driven by profits, they’re driven by member satisfaction, so already you’re ahead of the game. It’s more democratic, because each member gets one vote, instead of each share. So, whether you have $1 in an account or $1 million, you get the same say. There are a few credit unions in our area, Meridian and Desjardins to name two. If you want to learn more, here’s a step by step to switching: Switch to a Fossil-Free Bank If we want our money doing good in the world, we need to take control of it. We need to invest consciously. Look beyond the names of funds, and rates of return, into where your money is going. We have to look more holistically at what our investments are doing. They may be earning you a lot in dividends, but they’re costing us everything. Yours in Sustainability, Sherri Jackson & Laurel Hood 52 Weeks of Climate Action was created by Sherri Jackson and Laurel Hood. Sherri is a writer, speaker and musician. She is the candidate of record and communications coordinator for the Simcoe-Grey Greens. Laurel Hood, is a retired secondary teacher, transportation lead for the Collingwood Climate Action Team, and volunteer coordinator for the Simcoe-Grey Greens. Visit our blog or sign up at www.52weeksofclimateaction.com.