Investments: who are the most virtuous banks?

Sent November 8, 2022, 12:00

Who to entrust your money to to be true to its ethical investment principles, and beyond that, who offers reliable analysis of financial institutions? Various associations publish the rankings of the most virtuous banks. We will quickly pass the “Ecocittadina Guide” of Friends of the Earth, a booklet full of photos and suggestive slogans that makes a fairly binary distinction between “climaticide” banks and ethical banks, while remaining sparing of details on the methodology used.

Much more detailed is the report produced annually by the NGO Reclaim Finance on the financing of fossil fuels by the 60 largest banks in the world *. It is a mine of information for anyone interested in the behavior of their banking institution. We discover in its 2022 edition that three French groups (BNP Paribas, Crédit Agricole, Société Générale) are among the 25 largest fossil fuel lenders. However, many French still drive a thermal vehicle, so we have to accept that this sector is financed!

It is therefore interesting to go further in the report, in particular the part on the financing of coal, the most harmful of fossil fuels. Here the French establishments are fine: no one is in the Top 20 of the ranking of financiers, which Chinese banks trust. And BNP Paribas reduced its funding to the sector to zero in 2021, as has already been the case for Crédit Mutuel and Banque Postale for several years. These two banks are also identified by Reclaim Finance as the two examples to follow, for their commitment to get out of fossil fuels.

It’s not just the big bands

Even the most intransigent savers can find an alternative to large banking groups by opting for a player like Crédit Coopératif. If a regulated booklet is opened there, 70% of the deposits managed by the institution will be used to finance actors of the social and solidarity economy, which is much more than the legal minimum (5%).

The bank itself offers booklets that allow the sharing of interests with one of the partner associations or aim at the destination of funding in a region or in certain economic sectors (environment, knowledge economy, digital).

Nef, which claims the status of an ethical bank, goes beyond the logic of traceability of the loan. This cooperative, founded in the late 1980s, now has 80,000 customers, more than half of whom are company members. It does not limit itself to defining a mission – to finance only culture, ecology and society – but publishes every year all the beneficiaries of the loans (there were 585 in 2021) that it granted.

A degree of transparency currently unthinkable for large banking groups with more complex activities. In full growth, Nef is also raising € 30 million to obtain its banking license, for the time being forced to use a third party… Crédit Coopératif!

* available in English (with a summary in French) on

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