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Why Costco Should Clean Up Its Citi Credit Card

Costco must drop Citi as its credit card provider.


This is a re-publication of a blog from Third Act. Read the original blog here.

Costco is in a pickle (and we’re not talking about free samples): they’re partnered with Citibank, one of the world’s dirtiest banks. Since 2016, Citi has funneled a staggering $332 billion into new fossil fuel investments. As the third largest retailer in the US, Costco, along with its vast membership base, is a massive client of Citi.

That’s where you come in. Sign this petition to tell Costco to drop Citi as its credit card issuer if Citi doesn’t clean up its act.

Climate-driven catastrophes are wreaking havoc worldwide with devastating consequences for communities. Even Costco’s own stores have had to evacuate due to wildfires and severe flooding. From dangerous heat waves to destructive hurricanes, climate extremes are worsening.

We all deserve a future worth living, free from climate chaos and the pollution caused by dirty fossil fuels. The giant oil, coal, and gas corporations––bankrolled by institutions like Citi––are obstructing our transition to clean, renewable energy. Big box retailers like Costco are uniquely positioned to hold the banks to account.

Costco is a beloved brand. It strives to keep prices low and recently adopted na decent climate policy. Its motto is simple but powerful, “do the right thing.”

Since our founding, Costco has operated under the guiding principle of doing the right thing – for our members, our employees, our suppliers, our communities, and the environment. We understand that when we do the right thing, good things happen.

We want Costco to do the right thing here and demand change from Citi. That’s why we’re launching the Costco: Clean Up Your Credit Card campaign, spearheaded by Third Act, Stop the Money Pipeline, Stand.earth, Climate Organizing Hub, New York Communities for Change, and other dedicated partners.


The Climate Problem with Costco’s Banking & Credit Card

We’ve got the receipts on Citi: Citi is the second biggest funder in the world of dirty fossil fuels, providing more than $330 billion in financing to fossil fuel companies and projects since 2016, and is the largest US funder of coal. This funding is making it possible for big oil, gas, and coal companies to keep expanding dirty, polluting projects that are contributing to relentless climate disasters. The Wall Street banks are growing even bigger from corporate cash, retail customers, and credit card profits. From credit card partners to the cash it keeps in the banks, large retailers like Costco need to take the climate impacts of its financial relationships into account and compel its banking partners to stop undermining its own climate progress..

To demonstrate the need for Costco to take into account the climate impacts of its banking, Third Act and Stop the Money Pipeline commissioned analysis of Costco’s “financial carbon footprint” by TOPO, a “think and do” tank known for its work on The Carbon Bankroll report in 2022, which revealed the hidden and substantial climate impacts of corporate finance. TOPO’s analysis estimated that the pollution stemming from Costco’s cash in the banks it uses is more than one-third of Costco’s greenhouse gas pollution from its own operations. TOPO’s analysis is based on an average across US banks and is not Citi-specific, since Costco does not disclose publicly which banks it uses, separate from its credit card partnership.

If Costco considered the emissions generated by its banking as part of its operational carbon footprint, these estimated “cash emissions”—a total of 1.53 million metric tons of planet-heating carbon dioxide—are its biggest single source of carbon pollution, even more than the emissions from all the energy used in Costco’s warehouse stores for lights, heating, refrigeration, and deliveries. This amount is equivalent to more than 340,500 gasoline-powered vehicles driven for one year, or 1.7 billion pounds of coal burned, or 3.8 gas-fired power plants operating for one year (using EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Calculator). That’s a lot of pollution!


The Solution: Costco, Push Citi on Climate or Else Drop Citi

Costco is one of Citi’s largest credit card clients. Citi makes a lot of money from its relationship with Costco, and you know what banks care about? Money. That’s why Costco has the power to persuade Citi to stop financing fossil fuel expansion or else to switch to a better credit card bank partner that isn’t wrecking the planet. By pushing Citi on climate or ending its credit card relationship with Citi, Costco can step up, keep its own climate promises, and compel Citi to stop funding fossil fuels.

In keeping with Costco’s existing climate policy and commitments, Costco should include the financed emissions associated with the banks it uses in its own annual reporting on its carbon footprint, just as it will report on the emissions associated with the suppliers of the products it sells. This will reflect Costco’s true carbon footprint. Lastly, Costco should include climate-friendly criteria in its requirements for how it selects its bank service providers, including credit cards.

Costco has the opportunity to be a leader among large retailers by addressing the climate impacts of its banking relationships. There are other credit card company options, and reporting a company’s complete carbon footprint will soon be required by a new law passed in California.


What You Can Do

We know that Costco cares about its reputation. Costco listens to its members, and Citi listens to Costco.

You can join us by signing this petition urging Costco to drop Citi as its credit card issuer if Citi doesn’t stop financing fossil fuels.

While Costco members have a special voice, anyone concerned about climate can sign the petition. To win this campaign, we will need lots and lots of people to sign. So, let’s make sure Costco hears from members and non-members alike!

There are other ways you can help too, as described in the FAQs below. Many of us like shopping at Costco—free samples, infamous cakes, bulk buys, $1.50 hot dogs—and we’d like it even more if Costco shopped for a better, cleaner, climate-friendly credit card.

Read the blog on Third Act’s website.

Check it out