The US’s largest retail bank, Bank of America (BofA), says it
will significantly expand its ethical banking product portfolio in
2008, including a range of green deposit accounts. The bank made
the announcement at the launch of its first full-blown ethical
credit card, a product being marketed as a way for US consumers to
“reduce their contribution to climate change and invest in the
development of clean, renewable energy projects”.

The bank has employed US-based consultancy Brighter Planet to
develop the credit card as well as its ethical retail banking
product portfolio. The Brighter Planet Visa credit card enables
customers to earn one Earth¬Smart point for every $1 spent in
purchases, and each 1,000 points earned is projected to offset 1
ton of carbon dioxide.

The bank is marketing the card heavily: for every two base points
earned through to December 2008, BofA will make a matching
contribution of one additional point, and customers can earn 1,000
bonus points after the first card use, which, the bank says, should
“more than offset the impact of the creation and delivery of the
new card”. Cardholders can also earn an additional 1,000 bonus
points after signing up for paperless credit card statements.

Points earned with the card are automatically redeemed each month
to support community-based renewable energy projects across the US.
Examples given include wind and methane capture projects.

Brighter Planet’s partnership with US carbon offset provider
NativeEnergy means that only projects resulting in emission
reductions and those that have community social value will be
included in the programme, states BofA. In addition, all projects
will be reviewed by Brighter Planet’s Project Selection Committee,
a group of leading environmentalists.

In addition to the Brighter Planet Visa credit card, Bank of
America and Brighter Planet are offering millions of Bank of
America WorldPoints cardholders the option to redeem points to
offset greenhouse gas emissions. The two companies said they were
also planning to launch deposits products in early 2008 to further
support the construction of renewable-energy projects.

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David Donegan, chief marketing officer at Brighter Planet, told
RBI: “Some 81 percent of Americans feel that tackling
[climate change] is their responsibility… There is an active wedge
of consumers expanding aggressively, from all walks of life, that
have made commitments to do something… it has taken off in a
profound way.”

Asked about selling ‘ethics’ to the US mass market, Donegan said:
“There is absolutely a challenge here to make people understand the
products. Transparency is absolutely vital, transparency with a
focus, and communication.”

Through Brighter Planet’s website, BofA cardholders can calculate
their carbon footprint, learn ways to reduce their own
environmental impact, participate in an online community to get
more involved in the green movement, monitor clean energy projects
funded from their card use and track their footprint reduction
progress from the use of the card.