San Francisco-based Bank of the West created a sand billboard on a Northern California beach with the aim to send a powerful message about the threat climate change poses to coastal ecosystems.
The image, by artist Andres Amador — and created through a partnership with the nonprofit Sustainable Surf in a campaign to protect kelp forests — would be washed away the same day it was created.
Designed to leave no carbon footprint, the artwork aims to throw a spotlight on the role banks can play toward a more sustainable future.
“We hope ‘Before It Disappears’ raises awareness about the connection between banking and the environment,” Ben Stuart, Bank of the West’s chief marketing officer and the bank’s head of growth and transformation, said last week in a press release. "Putting your money into institutions that align with your values is one of the most impactful actions you can take as a consumer or business.
Less than one-quarter of Americans know what their bank finances, Stuart said, citing one of the bank’s recent surveys.
Kelp forests play a critical role in protecting the planet by helping to sequester carbon and reduce the impact of climate change. In some parts of California, more than 90% of kelp forest have disappeared within a decade. Bank of the West and Sustainable Surf’s partnership has funded the restoration of more than 3,000 square feet of wild kelp forests along the Palos Verdes peninsula, the bank said.
This is not Bank of the West’s first attention-grabbing climate campaign. The bank launched a climate-conscious checking account in partnership with the nonprofit 1% for the Planet in 2020. As part of that effort, the bank pledged to donate 1% of net revenues generated from the account toward environmental nonprofits.
The San Francisco-based lender is also a subsidiary of French finance giant BNP Paribas, which ranked among the world’s top 12 banks in financing fossil fuel-related projects between 2016 and 2021, according to the Rainforest Action Network. Bank of the West’s parent firm may change in the coming months. Bank of Montreal proposed buying Bank of the West from BNP Paribas last December in a $16.3 billion deal.
"Where we bank can either support or detract from our goal,” said Michael Stewart, co-founder and director of Sustainable Surf. “Not only [does Bank of the West] restrict the financing of activities that are harmful to the planet, they are actively funding initiatives, like our SeaTrees project, that make a measurable positive impact in the world."
Among other initiatives, Bank of the West includes a tracking tool on its mobile app that gives customers an idea of the carbon impact of their debit card purchases.