People are becoming more aware — and more concerned — about how their money is helping or hurting the environment. Andrei Cherny, CEO and co-founder of the environmentally-focused personal finance company, Aspiration, wants to give these thoughtful spenders, investors, and savers a means of financing their values.
Financial institutions are deeply entrenched in funding fossil fuels. The 60 largest banks in the world invested $3.8 trillion in the oil and gas industry between 2016 and 2020. Andrei Cherny worked in politics and law before founding Aspiration, first began working on issues relating to climate change as an aide to Vice President Al Gore. As a financial fraud prosecutor, Cherny saw the need for change in the finance industry and eventually decided to focus on providing a model of green financing. “I knew if we took a different approach, we could improve people’s lives by giving them better, more accessible financial products while also moving the needle on an issue as immense as climate change,” says Cherny.
Aspiration is not a bank per se but serves many of the same purposes. Aspiration offers a variety of services, all aimed at helping clients reduce their own carbon impact as well as support climate-friendly investments. These include a “Spend and Save” account, credit card, and investment accounts.
Since Aspiration’s founding in 2013, Cherny has witnessed the successes and challenges of an eco-friendly financial institution. The greatest difficulty according to Cherny — awareness. “There are so many people out there who are conscious consumers and think about the environment when they’re making daily spending decisions, [such as] buying coffee or clothes or cartons of eggs but then pay for it with a Big Bank card,” Cherny says.
Despite these barriers, Cherny says, “I’m inspired every day by the Aspiration community. So much of the media is filled with gloom and doom, but more than five million Americans have signed up to be Aspiration members.” This makes Cherny hopeful that awareness will spread and there will be behavioral shifts across sectors of the economy. He looks forward to Aspiration joining other industries in making change, such as its upcoming partnership with the LA Clippers.
“We all need the government and big businesses to do their part, but change is happening from the bottom up — from everyday people standing up and making a difference.”
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