Better Banking Blog
Our Impact

A Sustainable Bank Designed to Help Restore the Planet

Apr 18, 2024

A hand holds a delicate tree leaf while outside in nature

Banking In Harmony with the Environment

Two People Wearing Masks and Holding Signs about the Climate Crisis
Tara Hammond, founder of Beneficial State Bank nonprofit client, Hammond Climate Solutions Foundation, and her colleague Karinna Gonzalez at a Green New Deal event.

As a bank founded to prove that banking can be a force for good, our mission is to support people, in harmony with the environment. We report our environmental impact every year in our impact report and continually find ways to increase our positive impact on the planet.

As the climate crisis and environmental degradation continues, we find this work to be essential. When we build, measure, and improve upon a restorative and nurturing banking model, we prove that banks can not only avoid contributing to climate change, but can also help solve it.

From our 2022 Impact Report, here’s a look at some of the recent environmental initiatives at Beneficial State Bank.

How banks help (or hurt) the planet

First, it’s important to understand how banks impact our planet.

Banks take our deposited dollars that are sitting idle in bank accounts and lend them out, creating a lending practice. A bank’s lending practice is one of the primary ways it makes money. In 2022 alone, the world’s sixty biggest banks completed $669 billion in fossil fuel financing and have closed an overall $5.5 trillion for fossil fuel projects in the seven years since the adoption of the Paris Agreement. These loans help sustain long-term carbon-emitting projects and are key in expanding new fossil fuel projects.

In 2022, fossil fuels accounted for 82% of global energy production, global energy demand rose 1%, and global emissions from fossil fuels hit a record high with oil and coal accounting for most of the increase.

But thanks to a growing movement around values-based banking, a shift toward environmental regeneration and away from harmful practices is underway. Banks can help fight the climate crisis by avoiding extractive lending practices, and instead funnel those resources toward renewable energy and other restorative projects. And people like you make a difference by choosing a bank that participates in these ethical lending practices. By voting with our dollars, we are signaling to the banking industry that a shift toward regenerative business practices is not just the right thing to do for the planet, but the right thing to do for the future of their business model.

Aerial view of a solar farm next to a field and evergreen trees
Beneficial State Bank client, River Valley Community Solar Project (project managed by Neighborhood Power) is a community solar project located in Woodburn, Oregon that provides 30% of its power to low-to-moderate households at a reduced cost.

Our 2022 environmental impact

Impact through our green lending practice

We use our lending power to fund clean, renewable energy, as well as the environmental sustainability sector more broadly. Cumulatively through the end of 2022, we’ve done $144.1 million in renewable energy lending, resulting in the production of 1.09 billion kilowatt hours of cumulative renewable energy so far.

A graph showing renewable energy loan growth from 2007 through 2022

We also had $100.2 million in outstanding commercial loans (nonprofit and for-profit) to the environmental sector at the end of 2022. By supporting and uplifting our environmentally impactful clients like the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI) and the River Valley Community Solar Project, we work to amplify their impact so they can continue to excel and expand in their sectors.

In 2019, we developed an Earth Services team to advance our green lending practice. “More banks should be doing environmental lending – but it’s not always simple or necessarily straightforward,” said Jae Easterbrooks, VP and Earth Services Team Leader at Beneficial State Bank. “Many larger banks are slower to provide financing for renewable energy projects, including those benefiting nonprofits, especially smaller grassroots organizations.” The Earth Services team is focused on financing clean energy projects, net-zero building construction, and environmentally focused nonprofit organizations.

It’s equally important that we avoid lending to specific sectors that cause harm to the environment including coal, gas, oil, and fracking, so extractive loans like these are never a part of our lending portfolio.

Even while avoiding lending to these industries, a lending portfolio will still have a carbon footprint since almost all industries produce some sort of carbon emissions. To track the carbon emissions from our lending portfolio, we work with Partnership for Carbon Accounting Financials (PCAF). In 2022, the approximate combined emissions of our commercial and auto lending portfolios totaled 105,706 tons of CO2e, which is equivalent to 12,086 homes’ energy use for one year. By monitoring and disclosing our financed emissions every year, we’re able to continually strive for improvement.

Socially responsible internal practices

Beyond the loans that we make, what we do inside our doors also impacts the planet. Everything from selecting responsible merch vendors to choosing green buildings for our operations is carefully looked at through an environmental lens.

The Bullitt Center in Seattle WA
The Bullitt Center in Seattle, Washington is one of the greenest commercial buildings in the world. It’s also home to our cashless branch.

As a certified B Corporation, we measure, report on, and work to decrease our operational carbon footprint every year. By decreasing our operational emissions wherever we can, followed by offsetting what’s left through Carbon Lighthouse, we are operationally carbon neutral. In 2021, we emitted and offset 174 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

We also operate in green buildings whenever we can. In 2020, we opened our cashless branch in the Bullitt Center in Seattle, one of the greenest commercial buildings in the world. In 2022, we opened loan production offices in the PAE Living Building in Portland, the world’s first developer-driven Living Building, and on our clients’ campuses at the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator and AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles.

A greener banking sector for a greener future

Banks can be powerful enablers of climate change, but they can also be powerful advocates for a cleaner, greener future. At Beneficial State Bank, we’ll continue to keep the health of our planet and communities at the heart of all we do. In the coming months and years, our plans involve expanding our environmental commitments and green lending efforts, including working in coalition to best utilize the recent $20 billion made available by the Biden administration for clean energy investment in low-income communities through the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.

Since we opened in 2007, we’ve been proving that a banking model that restores our planet is profitable and impactful, and we hope others will join us. Everyone has the power to vote with their dollars by aligning their money with their values. You can support the planet with your personal, business, or nonprofit deposit accounts or loans by moving your money to Beneficial State Bank.

Read our 2022 Impact Report to learn more about our impact on people and the planet and join our email list to be the first to learn about our 2023 Impact Report coming later this year.

White leaf

People, Planet, Prosperity for All

We are proud to lend $100 million to support the environment, and $0 to fossil fuel extraction. When you bank beneficially, you choose to support people and planet.

Take action with your deposits.

Icon Payday Lenders

Banks are powerful, but so are you. When pooled together, our deposits can finance affordable housing, renewable energy, and business cooperatives – a new, inclusive economy. Whether you are an individual or an organization, where you put your money matters.

Spotlight on Environmental Sustainability

Banks have immense power to guide the resources we use. We are proud to provide banking services and lending to support the environment and renewable energy.

Read More