3 min

5 Ethical banks

5 Ethical banks
Published on
December 2022

We are increasingly aware of the impact of the banking sector on the environment. Traditional banks mainly finance fossil fuels. They have a significant contribution to global warming. That's why a new type of bank is slowly taking its place between all the banking giants we know. We are talking about eco-banks. We will mention 5 ethical banks so that you can make your choice if you want to take the pludge. If you want to know more about the impact of banks on the environment it's here.

What is an ethical bank ?

An ethical bank is defined by the FEBEA (European Federation of Ethical and Alternative Bank) as "a bank that works for the common good and ensures the right to credit through a banking activity that consists of collecting funds and reallocating them in the form of credits to cultural, social and environmental project".

In other words, a so-called ethical bank concentrates on the primary activity of a bank (collecting deposits and offering loans) while supporting social inclusion, sustainable development, the development of the social and solidarity economy and social entrepreneurship.

What actions should an eco-bank carry out ?

The action of alternative bank is materialized in different ways. They can allow their clients to directly transfer a part of their interests to NGOs that support the protection of the environment or the respect of human rights. They may also allow customers to choose precisely which project their money will fund.

They generate and implement financial innovations, such as an in-house "Tobin tax", a voluntary contribution on foreign exchange transactions : 0,01% of the amount of each transaction is deducted and then paid to international development actors.

This tax, set up by Crédit Coopératif in 2011, has produced 230,000 euros. This money has been used to finance sustainable energy, passive housing and energy saving projects in India, Morocco and Mali. Finally, alternative banks implement policies to promote access to credit for people neglected by traditional banks, such as the working poor among others. Indeed, an ethical bank does not exclusively consider real guarantees, but it also knows how to value the personal and/or social guarantees provided by the territorial networks of the area where the financing is carried out.

Top 5 of the most ethical banks in 2022

Over the last few years, Les Amis de la Terre have analyzed the different banks and put together a real guide to help choose the ethical bank that best suits one's projects and values. Here tip 5 ethical banks made by Les Amis de la Terre.

Their ranking of French banks from the most ethical to the leat ethical is based on climate risk :

  • Minimal impacts : La Nef, Crédit Coopératif are the two most ethical banks.
  • Moderate to high risks : La Banque Postale, Crédit Mutuel - CIC, Banque Populaire, Caisse d'Épargne.
  • Maximum risk : Société Générale, Crédit Agricole - LCL, BNP Paribas
  • As yet unknow impacts : Helios - Green-Got, OnlyOne

The must have of the sector

La Nef

La Nef is the ethical bank to turn to when you want to invest your funds in a responsible way.

Created in 1978, this bank, elected by the control bodies of the banking institutions, is based on the system of a "financial cooperative". Its customers can participate in general assemblies to decide together on the orientation of the cooperative.

La Nef is the most transparent bank on the market. It reinvests between 65% and 75% of the savings collected in alternative projects and supports about 490 sustainable initiatives, none of which produce negative externalities.

The major problem of La Nef is the impossibility of having a current account. Its services are reduced and concern credit, savings, participatory financing plans and professional accounts.

Crédit coopératif

Founded in 1938, Crédit Coopératif is the only cooperative bank that can be found throughout France with 74,000 clients. It is part of social and solidarity-based Development account (like the Banque Postale)

A real ethical bank in the making, its supports meaningful projects and encourages its members to participate in its cooperative model.
Unlike the Nef, it is not 100% transparent because it belongs to the Banque Populaire group and the French savings bank (BPCE)

La Banque Postale

La Banque Postale is part of an ethical approach by offering diversified responsible financing. But it is not as transparent as the Nef or the Crédit Coopératif.

It is also a green bank in the making, taking a turn towards ethics and responsibility thanks to the development of a "Carbon Fund". The challenge is to achieve carbon neutrality and to be the first banking structure to gave all of its open funds labeled SRI.

It also offers a Sustainable and Solidarity Development savings account, but its carbon impact is still greater than that of La Nef or Crédit Coopératif and its eco-solidarity line remains limited.
Many French ethical online banks are emerging. They respond to the wish of French people to open a current account so that their money has a positive effect on their daily life. We present two of them.


"Let's build the bank that matters to you" is the slogan of the ethical online neo-bank OnlyOne. Every purchase counts, since all the income from the transactions, paid by the merchants, finances projects that aim to protect biodiversity.

Each project selected by OnlyOne has an environmental and/or social impact. Transparency is crucial, you know exactly what your money financing. This ethical and French online bank offers a French IBAN and a reduced rate for people under 25.


In addition to having a card made of cherry wood, Helios offers a current account and 100% transparency on the projects finances by your money. Only initiatives in favor of the ecological transition are chosen. You can be sure that your money does not finance fossil industries since deposits are separated.

As with OnlyOne, every purchase is a committed act thanks to transactions that support ecological initiatives. "Let's clean up the bank", Helios's slogan emphasizes the polluting impact that money can have. Once you are aware of the impact of your finances, it is difficult to go back. Fighting against climate change is also done through actions that at first sight seem small but whose consequences are strong and measurable.

We all know switching bank is not a smooth process. However, if you still want to help and have a more responsible approach before diving in the hassle of opening a new account in an ethical bank, you can simply download Retreeb and start your ethical payments today. It's easy, 100% free and you're helping important causes.

Switch to ethical payment with Retreeb

Retreeb is a 100% ethical and transparent payment solution. Its promise ? To give 33% of its turnover to associations selected by the users of its application.

As a consumer

As a consumer, you can download the Retreeb application. You have a map that allows you to find partner merchants near you in order to buy your products with Retreeb.
Moreover, in the App you can decide which association you want us to donate the 33% of the transactions fees. At Retreeb, you are part of the movement.

As a retailer

As a merchant, you may wish to be an actor of this ethical movement. But you may also want to opt for a cheaper payment solution compared to other market players. What if you could do both ? - Retreeb gives back 33% of the transaction to an association that the consumer will have chosen to finance through his purchase act.
Moreover, the application allows you to increase your visibility than to our in-App map. The users of Retreeb will be able to find your store easily.

To learn more, please visit our dedicated page for Retreeb Business. Or our specific articles for each category of merchant : VTC / Itinerant merchant / Eshop

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