Bank of the West launches eco-friendly checking account

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Bank of the West in San Francisco has launched a checking account aimed at environmentally conscious consumers.

The $101 billion-asset bank partnered with the nonprofit 1% for the Planet on the new account, which offers users a snapshot of the environmental impact of their purchases. The U.S. subsidiary of the French bank BNP Paribas said it will also donate 1% of the net revenues generated by this account to environmental nonprofit groups.

“When you talk about climate change people are often at a loss as to what they can do personally to effect change,” Ben Stuart, the bank's chief marketing officer, said in a press release. “The 1% for the Planet Account allows consumers not only to bank with a group that is progressive on energy policy and is striving to meet the demands of the Paris [climate] accord, but also that donates 1% of the account’s revenue to address climate change at no cost to the consumer.”

The product launch comes at a time of heightened industry focus on environmental, social and governance issues and on climate change mitigation in particular. Those efforts frequently include commitments to using and financing renewable sources of energy. Bank of the West has pledged $1 billion to financing sustainable energy production and has vowed not to finance Arctic drilling, tar sands mining or coal-fired power plants.

The checking account is relatively novel because of the carbon-tracking tool embedded in the mobile app associated with it. That tool relies on the Åland Index, a cloud-based program developed by the Swedish fintech firm Doconomy. The index, which Bank of the West licenses from Doconomy, calculates the carbon impact of a given transaction using the merchant code and purchase amount.

In addition to the carbon-tracking tool, the checking account includes a debit card made with compostable plastic, and the bank will waive a $10 monthly service charge with one deposit per statement cycle.

Bank of the West said that the first recipient of donations generated by the new account will be Protect Our Winters, a nonprofit that helps individuals get involved in climate activism.

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