Member Stories

Banking on a better future: How customer-owned banks are making a difference for the planet


As financial institutions centered on people and communities, customer-owned banks have a long history of leaving a positive impact on the communities they serve.

The increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters like floods and bushfires have spurred mutual banks and credit unions to amplify their sustainability efforts and find innovative ways to invest in the planet.

We’ve highlighted three customer-owned banks and their remarkable sustainability initiatives, showcasing just a glimpse of the sector’s commitment to a greener future.

First Option Bank is supporting a critical rehabilitation program to help the tiny, endangered Mallee Emu-Wren bounce back in its natural habitat.

Sadly, the Mallee Emu-Wren’s native lands have been decimated in recent years due to clearing and bushfires, which has put the little birds into the endangered category.

However, a unique program spearheaded by Carbon Landscapes and supported by First Option Bank is helping to protect the Mallee Emu-Wren and other native species. The project involves managing more than 800 hectares of private Mallee woodland and removing predators to help the little birds reestablish populations and thrive.

Gateway Bank has come up with a unique way to reward its customers for their contributions to the environment.

The Pocket & Planet initiative is designed to help Gateway Bank members save money when they make green choices, such as using energy-efficient resources and reducing waste.

One example is the bank’s Eco Personal Loans, which are offered at a competitive rate for members who add environmentally friendly features to their homes, including solar panels, water tanks and insulation.

Gateway Bank also works with the community organisation Reverse Garbage, which collects items that would otherwise go into landfill and reuses them for new products.

BankWAW plants a tree for every new customer who opens an account or takes out a loan. It’s the customer-owned bank’s way of regenerating and rehabilitating the local environments,

The Banking on Trees program has helped build up bushland in the bank’s local region of Albury-Wodonga. Last year alone, over 1,000 seedlings were planted in the annual Banking on Trees Community Event, which brings the locals together to help the planet.

BankWAW will also soon encourage its customers to go green by offering a number of different environmental loan packages. Its Green Home Loans will allow eligible customers to buy or build a seven-star home with lower interest rates, while its Green Car Loans will offer competitive rates for electric or PHEV/plug-in hybrid cars. BankWAW states that it’s still working on the finer details but will go to market soon with its range of sustainable loans.

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