5 ways to make your finances more sustainable

There’s no denying that the world is currently in the middle of a climate crisis. In fact, one leading energy expert recently said we only have six months to change the course of the climate crisis. That’s why we should all consider making our finances more sustainable.

Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, said: “This year is the last time we have, if we are not to see a carbon rebound.”

Previously, I explained why we shouldn’t rush back to normal. One of those reasons was climate change. This seemed to resonate with a lot of readers, so rather than just giving a list of problems, I’ve compiled five simple things we can all do to make our finances more sustainable.

It’s important to note that this does not constitute personal advice. If you’re not sure whether an investment or savings account is right for you please seek professional financial advice.

1. Move to an ethical bank

For many of us, especially younger people, the majority of our money is held in our main bank account. This could be a current account, a savings account or an ISA – or often a combination of all three.

This means inadvertently you are supporting your bank’s values and investments. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, there are banks that focus on ethical and environmental issues that may better reflect your values. These could allow you to make a positive impact simply by having an account with them.

In the UK, there are a few ethical banks you could consider. Bristol-based Triodos is one option. Built on the premise of “your money has the power to change the world,” it has to date has issued £7 billion in loans across Europe to projects benefitting people and the planet.

Other options include Monzo, which was founded as an “alternative to the banking of the past.” Or try the Co-operative Bank, which is one of very few high street banks to have a clearly stated ethical policy covering a range of issues.

2. Check your investments

Are you aware which companies the funds you invest in hold in their portfolios? Worryingly, most people are not.

There are now a lot of ESG (environmental, social, governance) focused funds. These allow you to choose what you invest in. Even these can differ greatly in their composition, however. This means it is important to look closely at the whole portfolio.

Funds also change the makeup of their portfolios over time. Even if you know which investments you held originally, it’s worth checking at least quarterly to see if anything has changed.

This is an example of how having a trusted financial adviser can really benefit you. If they understand your preferences, values and goals, they can make sure your investments always reflect this and make suggestions of other suitable options you may be interested in. This takes a lot of the hard work away from you.

3. Do research into companies you buy from

Vote with your wallet. We all make financial decisions on a near-daily basis, whether it’s the coffee you buy on the way to work, the dress you ordered from ASOS, or your Netflix subscription. It’s always worth asking yourself ‘does this company support my values and beliefs?’

Fast fashion has rightly come under fire for its detrimental environmental impact. But, it’s also important to consider the impact of all your online purchases. When you stop and think, Amazon’s service, where you can order a book at 8pm and it will arrive by 11am the next morning, cannot be good for the environment. Waiting a bit longer for it to be delivered or popping to your local independent store will be more time consuming. But, it could have a much lower environmental impact.

There are times when you can’t boycott a shop on ethical grounds, whether due to your financial circumstances, lack of alternative availability or time constraints. But it can be a useful principle to consider, particularly when making more extravagant or indulgent purchases.

4. Switch your pension

Personally, I found this the easiest change to make. The vast majority of full-time employees in the UK qualify for auto-enrolment into a workplace pension scheme. If you’re not sure what this is, you can read more about pensions and your entitlements here.

Like most people, I didn’t pay too much attention to mine at first, other than checking I could log onto my online account and that the payments were going through correctly. However, a few months ago I logged on to see how much the pandemic had impacted my pension pot. I realised there was an option to select which fund my pension was invested in.

By default, I had been investing in the standard fund. Simply by clicking a button I changed it to the provider’s sustainable fund. The whole process took about 2 minutes, hasn’t impacted my investment performance (yet) and made a genuine difference to funding sustainable businesses.

5. Consider switching energy providers

This tip not only helps you make your finances more sustainable, but may also save you money. This is rarely a bad thing!

Some energy providers focus solely on renewable energy sources and reinvest their profits to develop new and sustainable energy sources. In the UK, one of these is Bulb. All of its energy is renewable and 100 percent of its gas is carbon neutral. In fact, the average Bulb member lowers their carbon impact by 3.4 tonnes of CO2 a year. That’s the hard work of around 1,689 trees.

Bulb also offers a referral discount, so if you can convince a friend to switch too you could both save around £25.

There are other options available such as Green Energy UK and Octopus Energy, both of which also offer 100 percent renewable energy to their customers.

If you found this post interesting, please like it and share across social media or send it to your friends. I’d also love to hear your thoughts and experiences, especially if you have any green finance tips, so please do leave a comment! How do you make your finances more sustainable?

Don’t forget to follow me on social media @Katie20Percent to keep up to date with all my latest posts and content!     

31 responses to “5 ways to make your finances more sustainable”

  1. […] While all focus has quite rightly shifted to the pandemic and the global response, there is no escaping that we are still in the midst of a climate emergency. […]

  2. […] I’ve often discussed the importance of not choosing between our finances and the future of our pla…. Our lifestyle is no different. You can enjoy a happy and full life, without breaking the bank and destroying the planet. […]

  3. […] are also environmental concerns when it comes to fast fashion. The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industry there is […]

  4. […] You can find more easy ways to make your finances more sustainable and ethical here. […]

  5. This is a great post. Here in Canada, much of our economy is resource-based. The value of our currency goes up and down with the price of oil. It’s hard to find a Canadian equity fund that doesn’t invest in an oil company. I was driving toward the lake the other day and was heartened to see wind farms and lots of solar panels. Things are changing…slowly.

  6. […] those of you who have read some of my other posts, you will know this was music to my […]

  7. Rhi // The Violet Journal Avatar
    Rhi // The Violet Journal

    This is so interesting! A lot of points here that I’ve never considered before – thanks for bringing them to my attention.

  8. I enjoyed reading this post, Katie. And wow it’s given me a fresh perspective when it comes to investing and really thinking if the companies I invest in support my beliefs and values and if they are sustainable. I wonder if there are any sustainable banks where I’m from! Great tip too on switching energy providers. Will definitely share this post 🙂

    1. Izzy, you (or anybody else looking for a more ethical and sustainable banking option) can start by checking to see if there are any banks in your country that have joined the Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV) – http://www.gabv.org/the-community/find-members.

      1. Thanks for sharing this, Laura 🙂

  9. Elizabeth Hartley Avatar
    Elizabeth Hartley

    I hadn’t thought about banks being ethical/not ethical so thats such an interesting point that I need to look into. I’ve been trying to support small businesses rather than buying from larger corporations but this is a great post!

  10. Love these tips! Buying more sustainable products is easier, but these switches you only have to do once and they can have such a huge impact!

  11. These are all such great tips on how to make your finances more sustainable. I am always looking for ways to do that so thanks so much for sharing all this information!

    1. The Twenty Percent Avatar
      The Twenty Percent

      Thanks for reading! I hope the tips prove useful to you 🙂

  12. Love this! I’ll be the first to admit that of the many things I consider when choosing a bank, sustainability hasn’t been one of them. I intend to change that moving forward. Cheers!

  13. Great post! Thank you for the tips!

  14. I work for a bank and I 100% have never even considered moving my money to a more ethical bank… which now that I think of it is freaking insane. As someone who’s worked in the finance industry for the past year and a half, I really don’t know why this conversation doesn’t come up more often – but I am looking into ethical banks as we speak. This is a great post!xx

    1. The Twenty Percent Avatar
      The Twenty Percent

      Really glad to hear the post helps. Hope your ethical banking search goes well! x

  15. I didn’t know about the pensions selection, I’ll have to look into that. And our energy contract is coming up for renewal at the beginning of August so this time I want to make sure we switch to a renewable company as well. Great tips, thank you for sharing! Lisa

    1. The Twenty Percent Avatar
      The Twenty Percent

      That’s really good to hear- good luck with the changes! 🙂

  16. This such a great list of tips!

    I’d never even thought about most of these and the impact that things like managing your finances can have.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Love Lozza x

  17. Thank you for sharing this! In this day and age, it’s certainly important to know where it is you’re putting your money and the greater environmental impact this has. The trading software I use when trading stocks now has environmental filters and data to help pick more environmentally-friendly companies which I will definitely start utilizing more after reading this!

  18. Thanks for sharing! I have no clue about the pension plan! Mine dropped so much with the pandemic but I’m definitely going to check what it’s investing into 😊

    1. The Twenty Percent Avatar
      The Twenty Percent

      I was so shocked when I discovered I could change it. It really should be made clearer to everyone, because I think a lot of people would want to switch!

  19. Thank you so much for sharing this. I find finance a challenge but I know it’s important to learn and know as much as we can. Money revolves around money, unfortunately, it’s essential to study the best way to sustain it. Thank you again for sharing😊✨

    1. The Twenty Percent Avatar
      The Twenty Percent

      Thank you for reading, I’m glad you found it useful! 🙂

  20. Checking your investments is the most actionable item here. If you don’t like how a company behaves then you shouldn’t invest in them. Where you bank is adjacent to this sentiment. When you leave money in a bank account the bank uses your money for other profitable ventures. This is why they pay you interest. Leaving your money in a bank account is essentially an investment. With every dollar you spend or invest you are voting. We should all be careful what we vote for.

  21. This is such a helpful post – I never even thought about banking as something to look into in terms of sustainability!

    Tash – http://www.agirlwithview.co.uk

    1. The Twenty Percent Avatar
      The Twenty Percent

      Thank you, glad you found it helpful! 🙂

  22. Fantastic post! Sustainability and the climate crisis are becoming more of a concern for us as well. I love the tips you suggest on how to optimize your finances for a more sustainable outlook. Another thing we did was significantly reduce the amount of meat we eat. The only animal products or by-products we purchase are eggs and cheese. We rarely, if ever, purchase meat with our groceries (but occasionally will have meat while out at a restaurant). This also SIGNIFICANTLY reduced our grocery bill. Win-win all around. Healthier, better for your wallet, and most importantly – better for the environment.

    Would love to see more posts like this – great work, keep it up!!

  23. This is really helpful and unique! I try my best to be an ethical consumer and it has never even occurred to me to think about my banking… I’ll go and do some research to see what it comes back to!

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