Values-based banks are accountable. This accountability is first and foremost expressed by a high degree of transparency at all levels of the business model. Transparency allows outsiders to judge for themselves how a bank is behaving against a particular set of values. As well as meeting the ‘normal’ reporting requirements for all banks, values-based banks put an extra emphasis on reporting the impact and sustainable aspects of their business model and activities, allowing stakeholders to decide for themselves if they agree with the underlying value orientation of an institution.
In September 2016, a report was published listing the banks financing the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), the underground oil pipeline under construction in the mid-western United States. The report’s release woke people up to the connection between their deposit dollars and the pipeline’s financing. Divestment movements cropped up across the United States. Suddenly, people understood more deeply the power of their deposits. Although the divestment movements spurred the first step of action – encouraging people to take their money out of banks financing the pipeline – information was lacking for better alternatives.
In response, Beneficial State Bank, located in the United States, created a “Move Your Money” outreach campaign to help depositors find socially responsible alternatives to the big banks. The bank and its bank-holding nonprofit, Beneficial State Foundation, began posting commentary online about the pipeline, thus aligning with the anti-DAPL movement. This bold advocacy earned media attention, new customers, and new social media followers. As visibility grew, the team created and distributed a toolkit to partners, allies, and any individual looking to align their money with their values. The toolkit is not only an instructional on the “how to’s” of moving one’s money, but it also gives information on how to identify a values-based bank, using the GABV Principles as a guide.
One of those new clients, Tesa Silvestre, described her “move your money” journey: Starting as “clueless about the kind of negative or positive power [her] small account could wield when joined with millions of others” she ultimately faced the difficult question, “How could I stay loyal to a bank that violated my values in more ways than I can count?” Landing at Beneficial State Bank, she finally found, in her words, “the peace of mind that comes from aligning my heart, mind and actions, and reclaiming my sense of integrity.”
While the fate of the DAPL is still being contested some years later, the “Move Your Money” campaign was an effort to change the current financial paradigm by urging people to ask critical questions of their banks: How does your bank treat the communities and people it serves, the employees it hires, and the planet upon which we all depend? By positioning banking as the most powerful form of crowdfunding, Beneficial State Bank showed people that everyone can make an individual change and imagine a world that aligns with their values of inclusivity, equity, and justice.