Oil, gas, and coal account for more than three-quarters of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and 90% of its carbon dioxide emissions, according to the Stockholm Environment Institute. Those emissions wouldn’t be possible without money to fund fossil fuel operations, and much of that money comes from the world’s biggest banks, which put $3.8 trillion into fossil fuels from 2016 to 2020.
JP McNeill envisions a different role for banks. He’s the founder and CEO of Ando, the first mobile and online banking provider that allocates 100% of customer deposits to sustainable financing.
Ando, based in San Diego, launched in January 2021 with a simple mission: to fund clean energy, sustainable agriculture, and other green initiatives that can help preserve the planet for future generations.
There are two things Ando looks for when weighing its investments, McNeill told The Business Download in an email.
“First, we want to maximize emissions reduction,” he said. “Different investments enable different emission reductions. Ideally, we want to use our customers’ money to maximize those emission reductions. Secondly, we need to make investments across every sector if we are to hit the Paris Agreement’s target of reducing emissions by 50% by 2030. This will require making investments across every major economic sector.”
To help it achieve those goals, Ando forms partnerships with like-minded community banks.
“We partner with banks who want to grow their green-lending programs or want to start a green lending program,” McNeill said. “Community Banks serve a broad number of businesses and consumers, and our aim is to partner with as many Community Banks as we can to help expand their green-lending programs across the country.
VCC is a Christiansburg, Virginia-based Community Development Financial Institution that has partnered with Ando on several solar projects, including helping a solar contractor in Washington, D.C. grow his business, funding the installation of solar energy systems in low-to-moderate income homes through Washington’s “Solar For All” program, and funding an initiative to install a solar energy system in a Virginia veterinary clinic.
In early September, Ando announced its partnership with WebBank, an FDIC-insured, state-chartered industrial bank headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah. This partnership aims to make solar energy more accessible through residential solar installation loans. WebBank has utilized Ando customer deposits to fund 75 solar installation loans across 23 states. The loans are estimated to produce about 65,000-kilowatt hours per month, resulting in about $8,000 in utility bill savings per month.
Another partnership is with world-renowned rock climber and environmentalist Alex Honnold, who joined forces with Ando in July to help raise awareness of sustainable banking.
McNeill first became interested in sustainability issues back in 2000, when he heard a speech by designer, architect, and author Bill McDonough, a globally recognized leader in sustainable development and design.
“He discussed how nature creates abundance without any waste, explored the possibility of creating a sustainable economy, and highlighted the importance of designing better solutions,” McNeill said.
In 2009, McNeill launched a business that partnered with more than 700 cities and counties across three states and financed more than $3 billion in green loans. A decade later he spent “about 300 hours” reading about and researching the changing climate – a process that would later inform his mission at Ando.
The company offers many of the products and perks you’ll find at other digital banks, including checking and savings accounts, no monthly fees, and access to a large, fee-free ATM network through MoneyPass. Other offerings include an app, a debit card, direct deposit, and a Grow Your Savings account with an annual percentage yield of up to 5.0%. Ando deposits are FDIC insured up to $250,000 through its partnership with Community Federal Savings Bank.
The company aims for transparency through its Impact Center, which lets customers see where their money is going, how it staves off negative environmental impacts across five categories, and what their carbon reduction impact is based on average balances. Ando also plans to provide quarterly reports to its customers, as well as an annual report for 2021.
In an August review, Business Insider said Ando offers a “solid online banking platform” whose strongest feature is that it “uses your deposits to invest in companies that help the environment.” Business Insider gave Ando 4 out of 5 stars for its checking and savings accounts.