Survey Uncovers Major Consumer Knowledge Gap: Nearly 4 in 5 (79%) Americans are Passionate about Climate Change, But Only 23% Know What their Bank Finances, Finds Bank of the West
Although business decision makers consider environmental sustainability initiatives a key part of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy, more than a third (36%) don’t know what sectors their bank is financing with company dollars
San Francisco, CA
Bank of the West, a subsidiary of BNP Paribas, today released the results of its first ever sustainable finance report, “Bank of the West’s Money Matters Report: Revealing the Sustainability Intentions Gap”, which surveyed business leaders and consumers to determine their perspective on sustainability issues and how that carries into behaviors, including their banking practices. The research reveals that 42% of business executives and 77% of consumers don’t know how their bank is investing their money.
“Conducting business sustainably is simply the right thing to do. Beyond that, sustainability has invaluable benefits for employee recruitment, retention and engagement, and a business’s bottom line,” said Ben Stuart, Chief Marketing Officer and Head of Growth & Transformation at Bank of the West. “Through this study, we found that many business decision makers believe their employer still has a long way to go to being a responsible company; finding a bank that meets those values and knows your industry is an important start.”
Business decision makers, manager level or higher, report use of sustainable finance products drove increased profitability over the past two years, 21% more than those who did not implement sustainable finance initiatives. Despite the recognized benefits, executing these sustainability practices prove to be more difficult as 30% of business decision makers say they are unsure how to truly make an impact. Similarly, consumers report they’re passionate about reducing the impact of climate change (79%), and believe individuals can have an impact on climate change just by making small changes in their own lives and behaviors (87%). However, only 15% report that their bank currently addresses climate change.
“Consumers and business leaders alike are passionate about sustainability; what many don’t realize is the large impact they can make by choosing their bank wisely,” said Melissa Fifield, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility & Sustainability, Bank of the West. “A seemingly small action, like switching your bank account, can have a huge impact if you’re putting your money into an institution that aligns with your environmental values.”
The survey results came from a nationwide survey of 550 business decision makers and 1,100 consumers conducted between September 21, 2021 and October 1, 2021 by Material. Key findings include:
- Taking Action to Advance Sustainability can Provide Companies with a Competitive Advantage – Companies with CSR plans or current implementations report increased profitability over the last two years -- 36% more than CSR laggards.
- Amidst the “Great Resignation” purpose-led organizations have an advantage when it comes to retention and hiring – About 1 in 2 decision makers would quit their job or look for other opportunities if their company did not support environmental and social issues that are important to them (47%).
- Mid-level managers are an untapped lever for companies trying to be more sustainable – 72% of business decision makers, VP level or higher, believe sustainability is extremely important, but nearly a third don’t know how they can truly make an impact (30%). Middle managers are more likely than their more senior counterparts to report that the banking and financial efforts to fight global climate change need improvement (Director level 53%, Manager level 48% vs. VPs and above 36%).
- Consumers purchase goods and services from brands that support environmental and/or societal issues they are passionate about. However, this correlates more strongly with products they put on or in their bodies — When they make these choices, more of them typically purchase food or beverage products (73%), clothing (59%) and personal care or beauty products (59%) than any other type of purchase. Fewer do the same when shopping for vehicles (26%), outdoor equipment (25%), banking/financial services (21%), hotel and leisure (19%), or air travel (12%).
- Individual climate action is not enough – consumers must consider the multiplier effect of their money – 87% of Americans believe that individuals can have an impact on climate change by making changes in their own lives and behaviors, yet 66% would remain with their bank even after learning it had no restrictions on financing issues that are driving climate change.
- Gen Z is leading the charge in reducing climate change over older generations and a majority would switch to a climate-friendly bank – Over 4 in 5 of Gen Z (88%) say reducing the impact of climate change is their passion, and Gen Z is more likely than older generations to consider it extremely important to purchase from companies that align with their own beliefs (Gen Z 46%, Millennials 34%, Gen X 33%, Boomers 25%). Furthermore, more than 3 in 5 Gen Z (Gen Z 61% vs. Millennials 53%, Gen X 59%, Boomers 47%) would switch to another bank if they knew their current bank was financing fracking.
Bank of the West encourages consumers and businesses to ask questions about what their bank is and is not financing. Bank of the West has policies in place to restrict financing for the dirtiest forms of fossil fuel extraction, such as coal and fracking, and other activities that it deems harmful to the planet, including Big Tobacco. For consumers seeking to take individual action to address climate change, the 1% for the Planet Checking Account gives back to environmental non-profits through the 1% for the Planet organization at no cost to the customer. And, the mobile app associated with the account includes a carbon tracking tool to educate consumers about the estimated carbon impact of their debit card purchases. Bank of the West also provides services for businesses and organizations of all sizes looking for a bank with strong sustainability policies.
Bank of the West is proud to serve a large and growing group of environmentally focused clients ranging from some of biggest outdoor brands to purpose-driven small businesses, like Campfire Coffee. It banks nonprofits—including the Conversation Alliance, Protect our Winters, Sustainable Ocean Alliance, Apparel Impact Institute and Sustainable Surf—and sustainable agriculture leaders like A to Z Wineworks.
“Bank of the West’s Money Matters Report: Revealing the Sustainability Intentions Gap” can be found at https://meansandmatters.bankofthewest.com/moneymatters/. To learn more about Bank of the West, please visit www.bankofthewest.com.
About Bank of the West
At Bank of the West, we know money deposited in a bank has the power to finance positive change. So we are taking action to ensure our activities help protect the planet, improve people’s lives, and strengthen communities. We are redefining banking for a better future by focusing on areas where we believe we can have a real impact: supporting energy transition, helping enable women entrepreneurs, and financing innovative start-ups. As the bank for a changing world, Bank of the West is committed to sustainable finance along with our parent company BNP Paribas. Through Digital Channels and offices across the U.S., Bank of the West provides financial tools and resources to more than 2 million individuals, families and businesses.
© 2022 Bank of the West. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender . Doing business in South Dakota as Bank of the West California.
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