Gain customers by greening up some bank products

A church in my neighborhood is holding an electric vehicle expo this month to showcase electric cars, lawnmowers, snowblowers, e-bikes and e-scooters. It’s a hands-on event with test drive opportunities and a chance to visit with EV owners. Importantly, there will be experts on hand to explain EV charging, charging networks, rebates and other incentives for electric vehicle purchases. The expo sign caught my eye because I’ve been seeking new ways to reduce my own carbon footprint beyond using LED light bulbs, recycling and composting, and not using the air conditioner at home except for when the dewpoint creeps into the high 60s. As it turns out, I’m not alone in my desire to challenge my reliance on fossil fuels — the main contributor to climate change.

Cornerstone Advisors recently released a survey of 3,150 adults that showed nearly one in four Americans consider climate change to be the most important social challenge facing the country. Of consumers who didn’t mention climate change as the most important challenge, 44 percent said they consider climate change to be a very important issue. Of the 25 percent who said climate change was the most important issue facing the country — only 9 percent actually tracked their carbon footprint. That number dropped to 7 percent among the rest of the population. This begs the question: If an issue is important to you, why not do something about it? 

The fact is, beyond the commonplace steps I mentioned above, most people don’t know how to take meaningful steps to reduce their carbon footprint. I’ve pondered replacing my 14-year-old car with an electric vehicle, but I have so many questions and not the first idea of where to turn for answers. An expo like the one offered at the local church is a step in the right direction. Your bank could certainly organize a similar event. But it also can go further.

That Cornerstone survey queried consumers about what types of climate-focused action their banks might offer that would pique their interest. At least one-third of respondents said they’d be very interested in green lending products like home modernization loans, green mortgages and green car loans. Other items of interest include: Rewards programs for purchases made at environmentally-friendly companies; debit cards made from upcycled materials; policies that prevent deposits from funding fossil fuel exploration or production, and a carbon footprint tracker.

Many banks have embraced ESG principles; they’ve reduced their carbon footprint by adopting LEED standards; rightsized their operations; diverted equipment away from landfills, and encouraged customers to adopt paperless statements and online bill pay. These are important steps to take as an organization and they certainly support the greening of your brand. It gives your climate-conscious customers all the right feelings knowing their bank shares their values. But your customers want to do more too, and you can help them. Ron Shevlin, who wrote the Cornerstone report, said there’s a market for climate-based financial products, and banks can win new customers if they develop products and services to serve the climate conscious.