Scroll

Money Talks: How Green is Your Green?

By Matt Millikin

This article was also published on B Lab’s “B the Change” Medium channel. 

“Money talks.”
“Time is money.”
“Put your money where your mouth is.”
“Break the bank.”

I heard somewhere that if you start an article with a bunch of trite cliches that it really screams, “hey, this is going to be a blast to read and so original.”

I’m the Senior Operations Manager at Verdical Group; a lot of my time is spent dealing with the financial aspect of running a business. I think about money all the time; I analyze cash flows, deposit checks, write checks (I don’t enjoy this one very much), consider future probabilities, look at market trends, draft raise/commission/bonus amounts (this one is more fun), help set sales/billing/revenue goals, etc. Luckily for me, money is one of my favorite topics, so let’s talk about it for a bit: where it comes from, where it goes, and what it can do.

Verdical Group stopped accepting money from fossil fuel companies in 2021. That was a biggie. Some of them gave us a lot of money to participate in the Net Zero Conference. And we took it because we didn’t fully appreciate how harmful of a messaging impact it had (their greenwashing worked!).

We divested from fossil fuels (and firearms, prisons, and tobacco) in 2022. Our investment account manager was unfamiliar with divestments (both the why and the how) and we worked very closely with them to get us to a place where we were happy with where our money was going. And we hope that in leading the way with them, that it’s easier for whomever comes after.

That same year we also switched our savings account over to a bank that was more in line with our ideals (they even gave a better APY if you set up a recurring donation to a 1% for the Planet nonprofit). This would be Atmos Financial (partnered with Five Star Bank) and their website boasts, “The World’s Most Climate-Positive Bank Account.” No, we’re not getting paid by them to name drop, by the way (other than with a really high interest rate), but we at Verdical like spreading the good ‘verd..

Then, in 2023, we wanted to change up our checking account for similar reasons. Which… is quite the undertaking for a business. All those auto-pays, all the automatic ACH/Wire deposits, etc. – they all have to shift. I had to speak with a lot of clients and sponsors to change that over. When I told them we were switching to Beneficial State Bank, there were a few responses of “Beneficial State Bank? Who are they?” so I started pre-emptively writing, “Because I’ve gotten a few questions about Beneficial (not many people know them yet); we wanted a bank for our checking account that also didn’t invest in fossil fuels. Beneficial State Bank is a fellow B Corp – and the money’s greener over there. ;)” (btw – that was the TLDR if you don’t want to read the rest of this article – but I hope you do!)

So, yeah, I just spent a few paragraphs telling you what we did – but not why. And the why is the incredibly important part.

Deep breath in, here we go-

Now, if somehow you’ve gotten this far and didn’t know anything about Verdical Group as a company before reading along with me, we’re a sustainability company – focused on green-building strategies for our clients as well as environmentally-aware and equitable events (ours and yours!), all the while fighting every single day against a future where climate change has ravaged the world and its inhabitants. (::sad trombone::)

We’ve been around for about 12 years at this point (it’s 2024 for all you future readers), are no longer thinking like a brand-new company (“oh my gosh, I hope we can make payroll”), and are thinking about how we can make the largest long-term positive impact upon the planet. Verdical Group offset our own carbon footprint, back to our founding, and then exceeded the offset amount needed to make us into a net positive company. So… funding fossil fuel companies and allowing them to grow would very much work against us in a most self-defeating manner.

But that’s exactly what our banks were doing with our money. They make bank (pun obviously intended) on some of the worst contributors to climate change. And as luck would have it, the bank we’d been using for our checking account (::cough literally cough:: Chase Bank) was number one in the world (#winning) for fossil fuel financing. You can download the report that details that finding here. If you want to save yourself the anxiety attack, just know that it’s bad, y’all.

Coincidentally, as I was writing this, we came across another article in Fast Company going into how banking affects (or should affect) a company’s ESG reporting. It was written by Kate Williams, the CEO of 1% for the Planet, another organization that we’re proud to be a member of. The subtitle on that article is, “The most significant contributor to emissions is often left unreported – and even unconsidered – by businesses: the climate impact of a company’s banking strategy.” With our forward-looking mentality and interest in long-term solutions, we switched last year to Beneficial State Bank. We love Beneficial State Bank. For the sake of transparency, they’re usually a sponsor of the Net Zero Conference (you can be one too!). Also, for the sake of transparency, I’m not really a reporter – I just always enjoy it when the NPR host says, “for the sake of transparency, such and such is a sponsor of NPR” and wanted to say that too one day. This was my chance, and I took it.

Now, to be fair, a lot of big banks have signed on to some really cool environmental initiatives – they know that immediate action is needed to prevent the worst outcomes of unrestrained climate change. Like, check this out: https://www.reuters.com/sustainability/sustainable-finance-reporting/jpmorgan-fund-arm-quits-climate-action-100-investor-group-2024-02-15/

… …. …

… ….

Ooooooh, yeeeeaaaah, sorry, my bad. That’s where Chase and a few other banks just bailed on their commitments…

Awkward.

Beneficial is great. They’re a B Corp, and you know we love B Corps! (Oh, you’re not one of the tens of people to have read my previous blog on why we wanted to be a B Corp?  Well, after you pop on over there and refresh your memory on why we’re so proud of being a B Corp, it should be clear why we wanted to stick with a B Corp for our banking needs.) Just to quote the Beneficial website that I just linked to: “Beneficial State Bank is proud to finance clean energy systems of various sources and consciously seeks to avoid extractive and dirty energy sources like coal, oil, and gas. We use our lending power to fund clean, renewable energy and the environmental sustainability sector more broadly.” I mean, how cool is that?

So Verdical Group’s billions and billions of dollars in the bank could really make some noise (just kidding; we’re actually a certified small business – I wish we had billions to work with). But together with a bunch of other companies working toward a better future, our money can make a difference.

So yeah, your money talks. What do you want it to say?