From Ben to Beneficial

Suppose Ben van Beurden asked you for a loan. Admittedly, that's not likely, because Ben earned about $25 million last year, but let's pretend he left his wallet in his stretch SUV limo or something. "Hey," he says, "can you spot me a few bucks to start drilling for oil in the pristine waters of the Arctic?" Did I mention that Ben is the CEO of Shell Oil? That explains the $25 million.

"Sorry, Ben," you might say (if you were feeling particularly polite). "I'll have to pass on that one."

Unfortunately, that scenario isn't as crazy as it sounds. Without realizing it, many of us actually are helping out the giant corporations that want to extract and burn every last bit of coal, oil, and gas on the planet. That's because big banks are lending Ben and his pals money to underwrite fossil fuel development -- acting as if climate disruption and environmental destruction didn't matter. Simply by doing business with those banks, we find ourselves inadvertently allowing our money to be used to help cook the planet.

But what can we do? Realistically, most of us don't have the option of not using a bank. Even Ben van Beurden has to keep his money somewhere. Have you ever tried stuffing $25 million under a mattress?

Fortunately, we have a better option. Instead of doing business with First Mega PolluterBank, we can choose to use a community bank (or credit union) that's more aligned with our values -- which, if you're like me, don't include financing the next big Arctic oil spill.  

Not quite ready to move all your bank accounts? Then you can start by simply switching to a credit card like the one that Beneficial State Bank has partnered with the Sierra Club to provide. In this case, you'd be getting a double benefit because your credit card would not only support more-sustainable, socially responsible banking but also support the Sierra Club's work. By taking one small action, you'll be making a difference every time you eat out or rent a movie.

Tell them Ben sent you.