Triodos Bank has steadily gained a reputation for being the most sustainable bank in the UK.
They’ve been at the top of my banking blog lists for many years now. But I’ve never written up a full post as to why they’re at the top. Until now.
What exactly makes Triodos the greenest bank around? How are they a more sustainable choice than other banking rivals? Should you bank with Triodos if you care about the environment?
This Triodos review will take a close look into all these questions and more.
Triodos Bank are a true leader when it comes to ethics and sustainability in the finance world. They're B Corp Certified and are actively funding a more positive world.
- Most sustainable bank UK
- Actively financing positive change
- Will not finance unethical businesses
- Fully transparent dealings
- Plant-based plastic bank card
- Certified B Corp
- No physical branches
- More basic app
Triodos Bank Overview
Other banks such as Monzo and Starling talk a good green game, but they don’t back it up with actions. In fact, you could argue that these ‘digital disrupter’ banks are going backwards in terms of the environment.
But not Triodos. Triodos have remained steadfast to their mission, which is:
“To help create a society that protects and promotes quality of life and human dignity for all. Since 1980, our sustainable financial products have enabled individuals and organisations to use their money in ways that benefit people and the environment.”
It can also be summed up with another phrase they use: “Make money work for positive social, environmental and cultural change.”
This quote covers Triodos’ three primary themes: Environmental, Cultural and Social.
It’s important to make the distinction that Triodos Bank goes beyond merely avoiding environmentally harmful sectors and practices. This is a given. Triodos does not and will not finance businesses involved in:
- Fossil fuels
- Fast fashion
Instead, Triodos actively finance sustainable and ethical projects that aim to bring about positive and lasting change.
This covers a broad range of sectors, such as regenerative farming, renewable energy, education, charities and social housing. To back up their positive mission, Triodos Bank has recently received a number of recognitions:
- Best Ethical Financial Provider 2023 – British Bank Awards
- Named as an Eco Provider by Which? Money
- Ethical Consumer Best Buy 2023
- Named as most active Clean Energy Leader in the world by Clean Energy Pipeline
If that wasn’t enough, Triodos is a Certified B Corporation and have been since 2015. Last time they were assessed, they received a mightily impressive score of 131, way over the 80 required for B Corp status.
Who are Triodos Bank?
Let’s take it back a notch. Who are Triodos and where have they come from?
Triodos Bank is a European bank. They became established as a fully fledged bank in the Netherlands in 1980. This came after the Triodos Foundation was set up in 1971, with the aim of supporting innovative projects and companies.
Did you know that Triodos is derived from the Greek for ‘three roads’? For the bank, these are people, planet and profit.
Over the years, Triodos edged into other countries, including Belgium (1993), UK (1995), Germany (2009) and Spain (2004). Triodos have 744,500 customers across these five countries.
Although established in the UK since 1995, Triodos was first focussed on their commercial arm, supporting sustainable organisations and offering everyday savings products. They have since grown to offer stocks & shares investments, launched a UK personal current account in 2017 and an ethical crowdfunding site in 2018. Their UK headquarters are in Bristol and the current Chief Executive is Bevis Watts.
Triodos Bank UK is a subsidiary of Triodos Bank NV. The company operates as an independent bank with a UK banking licence. They are not listed on the stock exchange, but have their shares held in a foundation to make sure they can safeguard their principles and values.
What Makes Triodos So Sustainable?
We know Triodos Bank has built a strong reputation as a leading green bank. So, what makes them so sustainable?
Transparency is a big one in the financial sector. Or rather the lack of it. Big banks love to hide away the murky details of their dealings.
For example, you don’t hear Barclays shouting from the rooftops that they’re Europe’s biggest fossil fuel financier, do you? Or how about HSBC plastering on billboards that they’ve funnelled $145 billion into fossil fuel projects since 2016?
This is because these banks know it’s ultimately the wrong thing to do. Yet they continue to do it.
Now, on the flip side we have Triodos. Their stance is crystal clear. They won’t lend money to any business involved in non-sustainable products, services and working practices. Triodos have published information on their ‘minimum standards’ for lending.
Don’t just take their word for it though. Triodos publishes details of every organisation they finance, which you can see from their ‘Know where your money goes’ page.
Close to me, I can see Triodos have supported a number of projects. One of these is Kindling Farm, a large scale community-owned organic agroforestry farm in Manchester. Another is 42nd Street, a charity providing emotional wellbeing and mental health care to 11-25 year olds. There are also several social housing projects.
Triodos Bank has committed to a range of environmental policies and initiatives to reduce their carbon footprint and support the transition to clean energy.
They have a target to achieve net-zero emissions across 100% of their loans and investments by 2035 at the latest. This goes above and beyond targets set by the Net-Zero Banking Alliance (NZBA), of which they were a founding member.
Once they achieve net zero, Triodos aim to continue pushing so their business activities are carbon negative and nature positive. How can they achieve this?
First of all, Triodos are using a science-based targets approach. This ensures that efforts are data driven and accurate in helping a company to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
In terms of intermediate targets before 2035, Triodos Bank expects their absolute emissions to remain stable until 2025. After this, they expect to see a decline, reducing net emissions by 32% by 2030.
To get there, Triodos will invest heavily in the green energy sector, as well as in nature-based projects to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Alongside their environmental plan, Triodos Bank is keen on making a positive change in society.
As they state, it’s no good transitioning away from fossil fuels if it means exploiting a whole load of people. What’s the point in reducing emissions if it’s come at the expense of important natural resources and biodiversity?
For Triodos, the road to net zero needs to work for the environment as it does for people.
With this in mind, Triodos Bank provides much-needed support for charities, social enterprises and disadvantaged people. This takes many forms, such as ensuring people have access to decent, affordable homes, as well as community renewable energy projects.
Creating positive impacts
It’s easy to talk a good game, but Triodos are putting their big ideas into positive actions.
Here are a few stats on the positive impact Triodos had in 2022:
- Co-financed 611 sustainable energy projects (providing the equivalent electricity needs for 7.4 million homes)
- Financed 33,900 hectares of nature, conservation land and sustainable forestry
- Supported 238 social housing projects, providing 22,000 people with social housing
- 738,000 individuals benefitted from educational projects financed by Triodos
- Financed the equivalent of 29.5 million meals produced by the organic farming sector
While we’re being transparent, Triodos achieved all of these fantastic impacts and made a profit of EUR 49.9 million for 2022.
B Corp Certification
Binding all sustainable aspects together, Triodos Bank is a Certified B Corporation. Achieving B Corp status is a rigorous process. The organisation has to supply information and evidence on five core areas:
It’s fair to say that Triodos breezed past the B Corp requirements, and have done since 2015. Triodos is one of few B Corp certified banks in the UK and the only one that offers current accounts to the regular public.
You can read my guide to what B Corp Certification means here.
Available Accounts With Triodos
Triodos have a number of bank account options depending on your scenario. It’s worth noting that Triodos Bank UK is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
The Triodos Bank personal current account is perfect for individuals who seek a responsible and sustainable banking option.
You can manage a Triodos current account with online banking or via their app. You’ll receive a contactless Debit Mastercard made from renewable plant materials.
There’s a £3 a month fee for this account.
Savings & Standard ISAs
Triodos Bank provides a range of ethical savings accounts for individuals wanting to invest their money responsibly and still see a return. These accounts offer competitive interest rates and support positive environmental and social projects.
Triodos savings accounts include (details given correct at the time of writing):
- Everyday Savings: Instant access, up to 3.45% gross interest rate, open with £1
- Ethical Savings Bonds: Fixed savings for 1 or 2 years, up to 4.5% gross interest, open with £500
- Online Cash ISA: Instant access, 3.45% tax-free / 3.48% AER, open with £10
- Fixed Rate Cash ISA: Fixed rate for 2 years, 4.5% tax-free interest, open with £1
Triodos do have existing children’s savings accounts, but they are not currently accepting new applications.
Triodos Bank no longer offers current accounts for new businesses and charities. This came as a disappointment to me as I recently wanted to change my business bank account to a more ethical one – and they don’t get any more ethical than Triodos.
For existing customers, it’s still possible to open a new business account.
Businesses can still apply for loans and financing from £100k all the way up to £20 million. Lower amounts than £100k may be considered in exceptional circumstances.
Of course, any business that Triodos lends money to will have to meet the minimum standards set out to benefit people and the planet. Triodos will only finance businesses and organisations who are creating a positive impact.
In addition to current accounts and savings products, Triodos Bank provides customers with investment options. With Triodos’ focus on true responsible investing, also known as impact investing, customers can be confident that their money is contributing to a greener and more socially balanced future.
Triodos have three impact investment funds to choose from:
- Triodos Pioneer Impact Fund – invests in small and medium sized companies working for good across the globe
- Triodos Global Equities Impact Fund – invests in large well-established companies
- Triodos Sterling Bond Impact Fund – invests in corporate, green and social bonds, plus UK government gilts
Once you’ve chosen your fund, you can start investing via a Stocks & Shares ISA, which is the most popular and tax efficient way. If you’ve used your ISA allowance (lucky you), you can open an Impact Investment Account, where any returns may be taxable. You can read more on my guide to impact investing here.
Triodos Bank also offers crowdfunding investments on their own platform, Triodos Crowdfunding. This allows you to invest directly in bonds with organisations delivering positive change. Some of these can be held within an Innovative Finance ISA.
It’s important to note that investing in funds, stocks and shares or crowdfunding bonds isn’t the same as sticking your money in a savings account. There’s no guarantee that you’ll get your money back with investing.
Are there any downsides to Triodos Bank?
Despite this improvement, there are still a few niggling downsides for Triodos Bank customers.
You can’t integrate your Triodos Bank account with Apple Pay or Google Pay. Although I’ve been assured by Triodos that they are working on this. For most people now, particularly millennials like me and Generation Z’ers, this is one of the most frequent forms of payments when you’re out and about. Even with online shopping, Apple Pay is being used more often.
There is a work around for this though if you’re interested in making mobile wallet card payments with a Triodos debit card. It’s a little bit faffy, but it can be done. For example, you can register your Triodos card with the smart card Curve, then add this to your phone. It’s worth saying that fees or charges with a provider may apply.
Doing this with Curve also side-steps the foreign transaction fees that are applied when using your Triodos Mastercard abroad. With the Triodos card, all transactions outside of the UK will incur a 2.5% foreign transaction fee. This can be a little off-putting but there are ways around this.
The final niggle with Triodos is that you won’t get your own unique IBAN number for receiving international payments. You can still receive international payments, but you’ll need to supply a bit more information to the sending bank. If you receive regular international payments, this might be annoying.
Wrap up on my Triodos Bank review
With Triodos’ unwavering commitment to ethical banking, business practices and a greener future, they are the most sustainable bank in the UK.
Triodos demonstrate how banks and other financial institutions can help balance profitability with sustainable practices and creating a more positive world. They are a highly transparent bank with clear environmental policies and ethical lending criteria.
This differs enormously from the status quo in banking and even with the digital banks. You can read my Monzo review and Starling Bank review here, but rest assured Triodos is the most sustainable bank you can go with.
So, if you’re looking for a green bank that is actively creating a brighter future for all of us, Triodos Bank is the choice for you.
*This post was written in collaboration with Triodos Bank who checked over the facts. Any personal views stated throughout this article are purely my own and were in no way influenced by Triodos. Thank you.
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I’m the Creator and Editor of Tiny Eco Home Life. I write and publish information about living a more sustainable, environmentally friendly life. Away from the laptop, I love spending time in nature and with my young family (plus Murphy the dog!). I write and send out the Eco Life Newsletter.