Banking on Sustainability

Last week I met with Francis Janes, the Vice President of ShoreBank Pacific. For those of us interested in social and environmental responsibility, ShoreBank Pacific provides an excellent model for responsible banking. Back in the 1970s, ShoreBank was started on Chicago’s south side in order to provide savings accounts, business loans, and other

Founder Milton Davis (middle) with Senator Obama in 2000

banking services to a community that was systemically excluded from access due to racial and economic discrimination. The bank proved their success and expanded into Cleveland and Detroit. In 1991, Spencer Beebe of Ecotrust convinced one of the founders of ShoreBank that the bank needed to include environmental sustainability in its mission. In 1997, Ecotrust and ShoreBank Corp., launched ShoreBank Pacific, the first commercial bank in the U.S. with a commitment to environmentally sustainable community development.

ShoreBank Pacific seeks to change the nature of business commerce by lending money to businesses that are socially and environmentally responsible. They provide opportunities to environmental entrepreneurs who may not be able to secure loans in traditional banks. For instance, when two brothers wanted to start a business turning manure waste from small-scale dairy farmers into renewable energy by using German-tested technology, ShoreBank provided the loan. The brothers opened their first facility two years ago and have proven so successful that they have opened a second facility and are planning for a third.

Francis Janes, Vice President of ShoreBank Pacific

According to Francis, one exciting outcome of ShoreBank Pacific’s model is that they are documenting behavior change within their customer base. ShoreBank Pacific implements a scoring system in order to assess how closely the bank and their customers align with the mission of profitability with social and environmental responsibility. Over the years, both the bank and its customers have steadily improved their scores on key criteria including energy use, land and water capacity, job retention and creation, provision of living wages, social equity/diversity issues, and cash management.1

These improving scores demonstrate the positive impact that ShoreBank Pacific is making on their stakeholders, both changing the behavior of existing customers and attracting new customers who are deeply committed to sustainability.

What can you do to support this important company that is based in the Pacific Northwest?

First, get the word out. If you know a social and environmental entrepreneur who is seeking a loan or someone looking for sustainable business models, tell them about ShoreBank Pacific.

Second, consider banking with ShoreBank Pacific. As you know, the more deposits ShoreBank holds, the more money they can lend so that they can continue to promote sustainable business practices in our region.

1See this behavior change for yourself on pages 18-21 of their 2008 Sustainability Report at this link: http://www.eco-bank.com/SBPNews/sustainableReport.php.

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