When preparing an article or blog post a major part of what I choose to research is directed toward how best to personally affect change on the issue I am writing on. I am a firm believer that the best way to achieve real, large scale change is by collective, grassroots action. This includes unionisation (joining your union and getting involved not only helps your wallet but provides you greater representation in government; union lobbying is essentially akin to lobbying from banks, fossil fuels etc, except more likely to be in line with your economic interest), participation at local council levels and signing petitions or participating in peaceful protest when necessary and justified.
But a significant force can be generated by the financial pressure that every person wields. Since 2008, the big four banks in Australia have collectively loaned $70 billion dollars to the fossil fuel industry and related projects. Along with the big four (ANZ, NAB, Commonwealth and Westpac), AMP, Bank of China, Bank of Queensland, Citi, HSBC, ING and Macquarie have each loaned hundreds of millions of dollars to fossil fuel projects.
Bank of Melbourne, BankSA, Bankwest, RAMS, St George and UBank do not actively loan to fossil fuel projects, but are owned by banks that do.
What Can I Do?
Fortunately the finance sector in Australia doesn’t end with the big four or even with this list of banks. The people at MarketForces.org.au have assembled a list of banks and credit unions that have no record of funding fossil fuels.
Which of these institutions is right for you and your situation will require a little research/thought or perhaps a few visits to different options. Many of these options are engaged in ethical and sustainable investment practices.
I would suggest considering one of the credit unions, as a credit union functions differently from a bank. To put it simply, all members that are invested in a credit union are issued with a share in the company. This allows for direct democratic participation in the company where desired. This is in addition to being entitled to dividends from the investments of the company where they are paid (this varied from credit union to credit union).
It is possible to roll over debts like loans, credit cards and mortgages to these institutions, greatly increasing the financial sway of the average citizen to affect these institutions and practices.
There are also sustainable and ethical options to roll your super over to, that still provide excellent returns. I talk a little on the subject in my article here.
I have only recently begun the transition to divest from fossil fuels and can therefore not comment on the returns that I have experienced from making the switch to a credit union, I will try to update this article with results in the future.
Going beyond this, as some people may wish to do, it is also possible to hurt the pockets of ethically unsound companies by your product choices. This is too complex a subject to fully undertake in this post, but essentially you need to undertake some research into the brands that you are purchasing, the ingredients or component parts that they source and the effects of the production of their product/cultivation of ingredients or components. If any part of the making of that product doesn’t meet your ethical standard, simply don’t buy it or buy it from another more sustainable brand.
For example: Palm oil has been shown to be incredibly destructive to the soil and requires the destruction of large swathes of rainforest to accommodate its production. Greenpeace has reported that in Indonesia, palm oil groups have cleared 130,000 hectares of rainforest to provide for 12 major brands (Colgate-Palmolive, General Mills, Hershey, Kellogg’s, Kraft Heinz, L’Oreal, Mars, Mondelez, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Reckitt Benckiser and Unilever). As the world’s rainforests have been shown to be biodiversity hotspots in addition to important carbon sinks, it would only follow that purchasing from these brands (or perhaps their lines of product that use palm oil) should be avoided.
This is only one example of a possible ingredient/brand to avoid in your daily shopping. I encourage you to research all the products you use on a daily basis to find out whether your purchases meet your personal ethics and make the change.