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Money Makes The World Go Round?

The beginning of the end: people play with money, open bank accounts, pay in money, get interest, and don’t ask what the bank does with the money. They borrow money from the bank, don’t ask where the money comes from, pay interest. The bank works with the money: gives receipts, borrows and lends; irrelevant what the client does with the money; the bank plays, launders, speculates, wins and loses, bets, invests, creates new products, deceives, falsifies balance sheets, pays bonuses, buys, sells, goes bust, is rescued, continues winning and losing. People want more and more.

 People. Planet. Profit.

New bankers are what the country needs.

We approach the topic of MONEY from the air. As we sit in the climate killer, well aware that each of us is burdening the atmosphere with a further 1.2 tonnes of CO₂ for this edition, the Airbus 320 from Lisbon prepares to land in Berlin. In its luggage, the magazine ECO123 has an invitation to the annual meeting of the GABV – the Global Alliance for Banking on Values. We want to find out how sustainable bankers aim to change the global economy for the better. Of course, two air tickets from Lisbon to Berlin and back to Faro increase our personal carbon footprints. On average, every European pollutes the atmosphere with ten tonnes of CO₂ per year. That is seven tonnes of waste gas per person per year too much. If we still wanted to reach the UN’s 2 degree climate goal, each of us would have to emit only three tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. Environmentally friendly mobility would go hand in with slowing down, needless to say. But there isn’t enough money to implement the new European TGV high speed railway system, which could get us from Lisbon to Berlin via Paris in one night. Which brings us to our topic.

* The Global Alliance for Banking on Values ​​(GABV) is made up of 25 sustainable banks from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and Latin & North America. The members include micro-finance providers in emerging markets, credit unions, community banks and sustainable banks which finance social, ecological and cultural businesses. www.gabv.org

 The world is a casino.

In September 2008, with loans accumulating non-stop into a huge mountain of debt, the financial, bank and monetary crisis began, which still affects Portugal, Europe and the world today. Many private households are in debt, as well as businesses, cities and local authorities, whole countries and last but not least the “system relevant” banks themselves. Everyone borrows MONEY from everyone else. But it’s not only in the USA** and in Europe that bankruptcies and ecological catastrophes take place, they occur all over the planet, and not only since 2008. Financial crises here, insolvent banks there, bankrupt businesses, local authorities with so much debt they are insolvent, empty pension and social security funds, cash-strapped consumers, flight from the land, unemployment: one crisis after another. But every economic crisis has its roots in people getting into debt. It is not that we are living beyond our means. No, it is slowly becoming clear what the system is suffering from. MONEY, which is nowadays shifted to and from New York via London to Singapore and from there onwards around the world, knows only one yardstick, profit: even more MONEY. Are bankers only concerned about the accumulation of money, or is there some kind of business ethic underlying their work? Are natural resources and the oceans simply plundered, thus providing an impetus for speculation, or is there something like a new value-orientated, ecological banking business? The increase in poverty amongst many people and the huge wealth of a few big banks, speculators and hedge funds fuels the social powder keg. The financial crisis, which began in 2008, continues and is increasingly developing into an existential and systemic crisis. And so there is widespread public expectation nowadays that the banks’ practices should change and that they should react appropriately to social, ecological and economic challenges. The global debt economy is a declaration of the bankruptcy of an avaricious economy and the banks which fund it. In his book “Debt: the first 5,000 years”, the American anthropologist David Graeber argues that every change of system, every upheaval and every revolution starts with unpaid debts.

 ** 477 bank bankruptcies in the USA between 2008 and 2013, www.start-trading.de/blog/liste-der-pleitebanken-usa

*** English edition: Debt. The first 5,000 Years, Melville House New York 2011

Our researches begin in Berlin, in the snow and ice and with temperatures of minus 13 degrees Celsius. We, two journalists from ECO123, take Line 2 on the underground to the Mohrenstraße station to get to the Axica Congress Centre, Pariser Platz 3, 10117 Berlin. This is the headquarters of the German DZ Bank with a Congress and Conference Centre standing between the British and American embassies; the Brandenburg Gate on the doorstep, the Russian and French embassies just a stone’s throw away. We find a smart bank address for an international banking conference: conference ticket 360 euros, charitable institutions 220 euros and students 80 euros. There are 300 participants from all over the world. The press get in for free. The GABV Bank Congress starts with a press conference.

Grafic Sustainable Banking

Have we learnt anything from the financial, banking and monetary crisis? We ask whether banks and hedge funds need new rules for their casinos, or whether legislators should go much further and close the casinos down? Peter Blom, the GABV’s spokesperson and CEO of the Dutch Triodos Bank (Zeist/Utrecht), replied that the world needed a healthy banking system. This had to be based on ethical values of course, on transparency, sustainability and the diversity of many small regional banks. The GABV was interested in promoting and funding sustainable economic projects and processes. Money had to be there for people. High frequency trading with its potential risks and lack of social benefit had to be outlawed.

pressekonferenz GABVThe press conference takes place at the Berlin branch of the GLS Bank at Schumannstraße 10 in 10117 Berlin, 150 metres away from the Congress Centre. It’s 10 o’clock. Sitting at the table at the front are Christof Lützel (right), the press spokesman of the German cooperative bank GLS, who introduces Peter Blom (left) and Thomas Jorberg, the GLS’s CEO (centre). One colleague from the Reuters news agency and two other freelancers join the two of us from Portugal. It is annoying to find that the press conference of an international banking congress in the German capital is only attended by five journalists. The next day we look in vain for information in the daily papers. The TV and radio channels also ignore the topic.

Peter Blom: “When in 2006 we started thinking about founding a global umbrella organisation, we couldn’t have known that there was going to be a financial crisis in 2008. Global Alliance was founded in Holland in 2009. At that time, we called together the banks we were close to. We said to ourselves, now is the time to found this alliance. To start with there were only nine banks. But we wanted to talk to the market leaders. Banks which were concerned about values. Of course, with banks, you can always say that those are financial values, and they are. But for us the important question was, how we can create values in society, help people and businesses and their sustainable development. Sustainable banking is not only something for Europe. That’s why we started with it worldwide. You can do sustainable banking in Bangladesh, as well as in Mongolia and Africa. Today there are 22* members and we manage 66 billion euros worth of investments. There are many others who would like to join. But we are looking for role models. It is not the case that in Canada, for example, where we already have three member banks, we will take on another five or ten. We will grow globally, to 50 or 60 members. We also need new bankers, sustainable bankers. There aren’t that many of them yet. We have to train them. We want to be a source of inspiration, especially for clients too, so that they at least know that we exist. Sustainable banks where one can do one’s completely normal banking business. By 2020, we want to be serving some two billion people worldwide. Much needs to change in the world of banking, and we want to make our contribution.”

*In June 2013 three new banks joined the GABV: Vision Banco (Paraguai), Clean Energy Development Bank (Nepal) und Ecology Building Society (GB). GABV now has 25 worldwide member banks.

ECO123: What does sustainability mean in the banking business, and what are the issues at the top of the list for lending by GABV banks?
Thomas Jorberg: “Ecological agriculture, regenerative energy production, sustainable mobility. (…) We need a change of culture, not only among banks but also among consumers. Because they must ask their banks, what are you doing with my money? (…) If we want to change something in our society we need a systemic and a cultural change. Because the decision-making system in the world of finance is exclusively based on the fact that, if the term and the risk are comparable, and one of the offers is 2% and the other is 3%, then the decision is effectively given. The question of responsibility for social and economic matters does not enter into it. That is why I describe the normal banking business as systemically organised irresponsibility.

That has to change if we want to change anything in our society. This means questions of a social or ecological nature must be integrated into the decision-making systems. That must change on the part of banks but also on the part of clients. Legislators can create the general conditions for this. And then there are changes in the culture. At present in the banking industry, we have a culture which is fundamentally antagonistic. On the basis of this culture, banks apply regulations to their clients which prevent losses from arising. But the real question is, how do I nurture my relationship with my clients. The normal banks believe that the interest rate is the measure of a bank’s performance, its core offering. That is wrong. The interest rate isn’t even the full price. We pass on part of the interest rate from the borrower to the depositor. The margin is the price. The actual service of a bank, however, is to ensure that money flows to the places where it is really needed in society. And that is a cultural matter, it is not something that today’s bankers ask about at all.

The core service of a bank is unfortunately reduced simply to the level of the interest rate and not to bringing together the assets and liabilities sides of a bank. The shaping of the relationship between banks and the individual client is the first level. But the second is to facilitate, at least in terms of people’s awareness, the relationship between clients who need money and those who invest money.”

ECO123: Have you got any ideas about how Portugal’s economic problems could be solved?
Peter Blom: “We can see that there are many new projects starting on the Iberian Peninsula. Organic agriculture, for example, but also solar power. The property bubble is yesterday’s topic. We find young people who are well trained. Portugal and Spain will get through this difficult economic phase and at the end be successful on a more sustainable level. I can see a real future there, where and if people work together. That is a movement that comes from below and grows.”

ECO123: Can you see a bank in Portugal which you would have as a partner?
Peter Blom: “To be honest, no. Not in Portugal, and not in Spain either. The cooperative banks there are going through a very difficult phase. That has nothing to do with solid, sustainable banking work.”

ECO123: Money makes the world go round. Can sustainability justify an interest income of three, five or ten percent?
Peter Blom: “Money should make the world go round and not the opposite, that the money goes around the world. At least it should make business possible. How high or low interest has to be? It depends very much on the local situation. We earn as a bank in risk management. We have people, professionals who need to have a living. That is the price of banking. But it has to be fair and transparent, a very important condition in banking.”

peter-lammert rede GABVLadies and gentlemen… The congress of the Global Alliance For Banking On Values begins with the opening speech by the President of the German Bundestag, Norbert Lammert, of the conservative Christian Democrat governing party. Politicians are good with words, especially when they are well trained in rhetoric. The president of the German parliament is a first class speaker. He gets generous applause from the audience. He speaks for 45 minutes and wishes the congress a successful outcome. From time to time, he gives a hint about how powerlessly the politics of a parliament with its hands tied spectates as the global finance and banking world shifts huge sums of money around the planet in seconds. Between the parties in their own country and in the internal disputes in the EU, the room to manoeuvre was limited to reacting to crises. Given the hectic pace of life worldwide, the avoidance of chaos and travelling diplomacy were in the forefront of weekly conferences, whose results, regrettably, were already obsolete by the following day …

 

When the last tree is uprooted, the last river poisoned and the last fish caught, only then will you realise that you can’t eat money.

The greed for more and more

sedlacekProgress? Where to? Why does everything have to grow all the time? “In the economics of desire, frugality is abolished,” writes the Czech economist Tomáš Sedláček (36), author of the bestseller “Economics of Good and Evil”*** In his book, he describes the way in which desire is awakened in human beings. Being constantly dissatisfied and wanting more is a natural phenomenon. “We can even go as far as to say that discontent is the engine of progress and of market capitalism. In our constant desire to have more and more, we have sacrificed the pleasantness of labor. We want too much and so we work too much. We are by far the richest civilization that has ever existed, but we are just as far from the word ‘enough’ or from satisfaction, if not further, than at any time in the distinct ‘primitive’ past. In one sentence: If we ourselves did not have to constantly increase GDP and productivity at all costs, we would not have to also constantly overwork ourselves in the ‘sweat of our faces’.”

Sedláček, Yale scholarship holder and one of the main speakers at the banking congress, identifies the banking industry’s problem today of correctly defining the interest rate, as both an ethical and mathematical evil. “If bankers knew how to calculate interest rates correctly then Greece’s bankruptcy would be just business as usual”. He thus compares the banks’ work of lending MONEY and determining the interest rate with a Friday visit to your local and with drinking beer, brandy and wine. Mind you, interest rates were always travelling through time. So, what are the similarities between MONEY and alcohol? People would soon realise that they could dance and even sing with alcohol. It would give them lots of energy. But with too much alcohol you know only too well from experience that the next day you would have a hangover. That could be precisely calculated and overcome during the weekend. With alcohol you could also do a bit of time travelling: you could already scupper your Saturday morning energy on Friday night.

But if you got drunk on a Sunday evening and had a hangover on a Monday morning, much would be different, which would not be especially clever and not recommended to beginners. But two properties of alcohol were different: you knew that the headache was linked to the hangover, and about how long the whole thing would last.

Sedláček to the audience: “Imagine that would not be the case. Imagine hangovers would come at irregular intervals. In other words, you get drunk on a Friday evening and then it is Sunday evening and you realize, oh I did not have my hangover yet. Damn it. And that gone to issue Wednesday noon time while you’re driving or while you have a very important business meeting. Now, of course if that would be the case we would drink much more cautiously, because we can’t predict the future.” (…) He said that, with financial products and a term to maturity of 40 years, you could also never say whether the full repayment would be made against the risk of a loss; because we can never predict the future and also because we cannot calculate the future with the best economic mathematicians, we would never be in the position of being able to predict economic crises.

So, how could bankers solve the problem? What they would have to include in their calculations is the knowledge that they are dealing with high percentage energy that they couldn’t influence. Even in the 21st century, people cannot calculate correct interest rates for bank products over a longer period. The future is unpredictable: both the inflation rate and the level of GDP. Tomáš Sedláček, economic advisor to the former Czech president Václav Havel, chief economist of the biggest Czech bank CSOB and university lecturer at the Charles University in Prague brings his presentation at the GABV congress to a close with the words: “We should not look upon economics as a neutral body like physicists do. You cannot have a financial and banking world without an ethical value system. Let us swim against the flow and clear up the banking sector.”

**** Economics of Good and Evil. The Quest for Economic Meaning from Gilgamesh to Wall Street; New York, Oxford University Press 2011

What do two journalists at a banking congress do during their lunch break? They stand in a long queue, get a meal from the buffet, eat standing up and discuss solutions.

Says one to the other: Why has Portugal got debts of 185 billion euros?
The other replies: Because we’re not happy with anything and never will be. But we firmly believe that satisfying our needs will make us happy.
Says the first one: That’s wrong. Because the more we have, the more we want. On credit. That’s how we get into debt. Work to pay it off? Oh, we can do that tomorrow. Anyway, do debts even need to be paid off?
Second: Good question. We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like. I doubt whether we will really be happier and freer the more we earn and own.
First: Own? In fact, my laptop belongs to the bank. Everyone complains about the drastic cuts. Let everyone be spared this fate. Do you drink water if someone offers you wine? Humans are just naturally greedy and insatiable. If the banks offer you money for a computer, a car or a mobile phone, you take it, don’t you?
Second: Buy a piece of rubbish and you get another one free. It has to be cheap, no matter how much a worker in China earns for it.
First: But the origins of our debt crisis are that we have forgotten why we are alive. We are convinced that consumption will satisfy us. But it has proved to be the case that the opposite applies. Consumption is like a drug.
Second: What is wrong with society, also goes wrong in the economy. Every day, we are fed a diet of news and soap operas which tell us stories of greed, meanness and self-interest and try to persuade us that that is what life is like. Cultural norms and values, on the other hand, mean nothing to us.
First: Actually, we should be grateful for what we’ve got, because we’ve got so much. The earth is a paradise. But with topics and stories like these, journalists don’t earn any money. Maybe that’s why we’re the only ones here?
Second: Very good. Then, this is our chance.

Transforming the World.

wendyluhabeDr. Wendy Luhabe (55) has come to Berlin from South Africa. She is one of the few established women economic specialists in her country. The former BMW manager with a Master’s degree launched the first equity fund for South African business women: the Women Investment Portfolio Holdings. With a funding budget of 120 million rand (approx. €10 million), she financed women’s training and business ideas. ECO123 spoke to her about the new role of women in the economy and banking.

ECO123: Please could you tell us your very personal success story from South Africa.
Wendy Luhabe: When South Africa became a democracy I was inspired to look how women could participate in economical changes. We created an investment company and for two years we traveled through the country educating women about the economy and how to become investors in their own area. We were organizing 18.000 women to become investors.
This has been a very successful example. It has not only inspired other women in South Africa to find the confidence to participate in economy but to become entrepreneurs in different fields of the economy. We have now women who are entrepreneurs in mining, in different sectors of economy, what 20 years ago before South Africa became a democracy, didn’t exist.
As we do understand it is a pioneering initiative and it is an example what has not be done anywhere else in the world. We are extremely proud of it and would want women from other parts of the world to learn from how they can create something similar in their own country.

ECO123: What do you think women can do better than men?
Wendy Luhabe: I don’t think it is the question of making something different and better than men. I think it’s making women become part of the equation; of leadership, part of the decision making, part of being custodians and providing stewardship of the resources that are available in the world. At the moment we have an imbalance because men have just one agenda that has assumed most of the responsibilities and we can see that this is not sustainable. We need to tap into the entire human capital that exist in the world because we all exist here for a limited time – and therefore if we don’t tap into the potential that we each represent – it is always half a solution. If we see it as a holistic solution we have to tap in both men and women.
If we move further into the 21st century we will consciously create opportunities for women participating decision making roles: for women as leaders of countries, we have only a few women as presidents. We don’t know what happened if women would rule the world, how the world would look like if women were in charge.

ECO123: How does South Africa solve its problems in ecology and economics, for example in the case of jobs?
Wendy Luhabe: We have similar challenges to the rest of the world. We have high unemployment levels and what we were doing during the last 20 years and in what I have been involved in is promoting social entrepreneurship. It creates a culture in society where people create enterprises that are profitable – at the same time enterprises that are responding to social challenges. In my view this is really the solution. We have to create a revolution amongst the next generation of young people that are not follow just a capitalistic model that is completely unresponsive to the social challenge combines the idea making profit with the idea of social investment.

Thank you very much.

Dr. Simon Kagugube, Executive Director of Centenary Bank from Kampala (Uganda) is one of 300 participants at the GABV congress. It is not only bankers and economists from the USA, Canada, El Salvador, Bolivia, Peru, Switzerland, Italy, France, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Uganda, South Africa, Mongolia, Bangladesh and Australia that have come, but also project workers from NGOs, academics from all disciplines from respected elite universities and professors with their students. The audience under the glass dome of the conference building is diverse. The weak sun over Berlin shines on the slim Dr. Simon Gagugube: short grey hair, dark suit, white shirt with tie and pullover under a dark camel hair scarf. He asks to speak. What he says is to the point and is captured in one sentence. “We need to get together the proof that what we are doing is better and then we share it with all the others outside”. He said he was convinced that banking had to be done on the basis of ecological and cultural values. We will have to share our knowledge, learn from each other and cooperate internationally. Cooperative Culture. Having reduced it to this common denominator, the congress participants head for the workshops and discussions.

 From the Egosystem to the Ecosystem

In 2010, the total value of worldwide foreign exchange transactions was 1,500 trillion US dollars; in contrast, the total value of international trade was just 20 trillion US dollars.* Less than 1.4% of the foreign exchange transactions were directly related to the real economy. If you add in the foreign direct investment to trade, you get to 5%. 95% are transactions that have neither an economic nor socially useful purpose, Dr. Otto Scharmer reported at the GABV congress. In the process, ecology is not taken into account at all.

Scharmer, who is an anthroposophist and completed his doctorate at Herdecke University (Germany) in Economics and Management, is co-founder of the Presencing Institute, teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (collective wisdom shapes business) and is vice president of the Global Agenda Council at the Geneva-based World Economic Forum. For him, one of the pre-conditions for solving the financial crisis is that bankers learn to let go. His strategy for a solution: to move away from the egosystem towards an ecosystem.

At the congress, Scharmer analyses the disconnect between the international finance and banking sector and the real economy, which led to the Latin American financial crisis in the 1980s, to the Asian financial crisis in the 1990s, to the crisis in the new economy of the 2000s and the global financial crisis of 2008. Despite the many different facets of these crises, the underlying problem was always the same: the growing disconnect between the financial world and the real economy. In his analysis, Scharmer noted a total of eight core problem areas (which he calls “disconnects”) in a world which trades more and more globally and is in a state of fundamental upheaval.

An economy working in accordance with old paradigms and only orientated towards linear monetary profit, operated with a footprint of 1.5 planets on an earth with a significantly reduced regeneration capacity, he said. That also led to a social dilemma. 2.5 billion people lived below the poverty line, which continually fed the social powder keg. In the USA, the richest 1% owned more assets than the bottom 90%.

According to Scharmer, a further serious problem was that many of the leading figures in politics, business and society no longer understood the realities of people’s lives. They disregarded the fact that GDP in the industrialised countries did not lead to greater prosperity or quality of life. (see ECO123, Edition 1)The sixth disconnect was about serious shortcomings in decision-making processes: democratic institutions ignored hundreds of millions of people in relation to topics such as living conditions and the future. The rescue of key banks, insurance companies and countries with taxpayers’ money was just one such decision.

The question of ownership created a further disconnect: alongside private and state ownership, there was a need in international law for a third, social concept of ownership, which would give general protection for common property such as rain forests, ground water, the oceans, the land, the Arctic and Antarctic against overexploitation. The eighth disconnect concerned the topic of technology. Spending on research and development still did not target the needs of people and societies and did not focus on problems that really existed.

* Dr. C. Otto Scharmer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – current book “Theory U”

The Berlin Declaration.

In its concluding declaration, the GABV congress calls on legislators to require that all banks commit themselves to providing full transparency on their business models and the use of the funds entrusted to them and to documenting the social and ecological impact of banking business using regulatorily binding indicators; that the diversity of (regional) banks will be stipulated as a separate, important goal within the new regulation of the (global) banking system.

Goodbye to Berlin. On the way back to Portugal, the question arises about which Portuguese bank will be the first to adopt a sustainable business model, and when that will be. Next year, the GABV will be meeting in Melbourne, Australia. By ship, it’ll take us a good six weeks to get there …

The end of the beginning: people work, earn money, open bank accounts, pay in money, get interest, and ask what the bank does with the money. They borrow money from the bank, ask where the money comes from, pay interest. The bank works with the money: gives receipts, borrows and lends; the bank asks clients what they’re doing with the money; the bank invests, profits, donates and gives away money, creates social and ecological financial products, finances work and the environment. People assume responsibility.

Interview – Peter Blom

peter-blomECO123: How can sustainable banking change the world?
Peter Blom: I think we need money to change our economy to change our world. You can only finance change if you change finance.

ECO123:What are the first three steps to change the banking world?
Peter Blom: First, we need to gain trust of the people through transparency. Second, banks have to make clear how they want to contribute to the society, how to contribute to a better planet and a better life of the people, through sustainability. Third, we are not going to change the world with a few big banks, too big to fail. Therefore we need diversity. Banks need to be close to people and need to understand the needs of the people, through diversity. We need to reconnect with the people, in our neighborhoods, in their working sector.

ECO123: If you see the southern European countries Italy, Spain and Portugal. From your point of view, how can the situation in these countries be changed?
Peter Blom: What I see is a strong sense of community. We see that a lot of people want a change, but changes must come from the bottom. Triodos bank has an office in Spain. This is where sustainable banking plays its role and where we can facilitate. Together we can make it. That is the difference, doing things for the country. The old system cannot facilitate. They are too busy cleaning up their mass what they have left. The bottom up approach is really important.

ECO123: There are 22 banks in GABV and you said there are some more banks in the queue?
Do you see any candidate from southern Europe – like from Portugal – participating in GABV? We have operations in Italy and Spain, not yet from Portugal. There is an initiative coming in Portugal. The country will need it. If such a bank would be started in Portugal it would be very welcomed in the Club of the Global Alliance.

Interview – Thomas Jorberg

thomas-jobergECO123: The GLS already has 143,000 clients and a turnover of 2.7 billion euros. It is a bank that has grown well in the last 25 years. What is the bank’s goal?
Thomas Jorberg: It is true, we are growing fast at the moment. We are currently getting between 2,000 and 2,500 new clients per month and we can see that we will continue to grow in this way in the coming years. The demand for social-ecological banking is there. 

ECO123:Where will GLS be in five years’ time?
We look at the development there has been in recent years and can see that it will continue at a rate of about 20%. We are witnessing an acceleration.

GLS from Bochum has branches in Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Freiburg and Munich. Do you want to remain a German bank or are you already considering opening branches in other European countries?
Thomas Jorberg: We are a cooperative bank. Our business policy is that we want to remain close to our clients. To that extent, Germany is our area of business. We also have clients from abroad who have accounts with us; we don’t often give loans. We do that in cooperation with other members of the Global Alliance. Can a client from Portugal open an account with you in Germany? Of course. We have clients from Portugal, Spain, and France, and many from Austria.

 See also: Change Makers at ECO TV

 

CHANGEMAKERS:
The Stories behind the Values Based Banks Transforming the World

bankmecuaustraliaBANKMECU
Melbourne, Australia

Women’s Property Initiatives (WPI) provides long-term safe and secure housing for women and their children – many of whom are escaping domestic violence. Since 2009, BANKMECU has funded WPI to the tune of some 3.4 million dollars. This enables affordable accommodation to be provided for 110 women and children.

absschweizABS – ALTERNATIVE BANK SCHWEIZ AG

Hotel Marta belongs to the Frauenhotel AG Zürich and offers ten jobs to women with mental health problems. The hotel works on a sustainable basis and proves that it is possible to hold one’s own successfully in the market as a social enterprise. For ABS as a social bank for the hotel, daily learning is part of the business: how will ecological and social projects work in the future?

bancapopolareitaliaBANCA POPOLARE ETICA
Messina, Italy

Social work in Sicily, which has to resist the presence of the Mafia on a daily basis. The reintegration of former inmates of the psychiatric prison into everyday life through education and training, craftwork and cultural initiatives. The projects of the Messina Community Foundation are transparently funded by the Banca Popolare Etica and supported by the OECD, UNOPS and WHO

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bancosolboliviaBANCOSOL
La Paz, Bolivia

David Santos Condori Sarco used to work in a dress-making business owned by a Korean company. His salary was barely enough to support his family. And so David started thinking about becoming independent. BANCOSOL helps clients with a special programme, information and micro-loans, quickly and without bureaucracy. David Sarco runs his own tailoring business together with his wife.

creditcooperatiffrancaCRÉDIT COOPÉRATIF
France

Transparency, solidarity, human respect and a commitment to a fair society: Groupe SOS began in 1984 with social work against drugs and HIV with housing and employment. In 44 social businesses in 2011, some 10,000 people were employed in over 300 hospitals, nursing wards, homes for the elderly and children, which helped more than a million people. CRÉDIT COOPÉRATIF is the Groupe SOS’s partner bank.

culturabanknoruegaCULTURA BANK
Norway

2004: Kolonihagen Distribution & Maaemo in Oslo started very small as a producer and home deliverer of ecologically grown fruit/vegetables and baked items. They had ten clients and packed the baskets in the kitchen. In 2007, they opened a baker’s, in 2007 their café and in 2010 the gourmet restaurant. CULTURA BANK finances the growing business. In 2013, they now have 1,300 clients and the restaurant has 2 Michelin stars.

triodosbankhollandaTRIODOS Bank
The Netherlands/Great Britain Bristol

Together is a project of ex-offenders who cannot find a job anywhere. Then Jim hit upon the idea of the Community Interest Company, which buys up houses at auction that are ripe for demolition, refurbishes them and re-sells them. TRIODOS BANK from the Netherlands was with them from the outset and funded the company’s start-up, which is now being imitated in other parts of the country.

centenarybankugandaCENTENARY Bank
Kampala, Uganda

Mpanga Growers Tea Factory in western Uganda has been one of four former state-owned tea producers since independence in 1966. It was privatised in 1995 and all staff were able to have a financial stake in it. Thanks to CENTENARY BANK and a 7.5 million euro loan, Mpanga has become one of the biggest tea producers in Uganda and provides for some 4,700 employees in approximately 800 families.

bracbankbangladeshBRAC Bank
Bangladesh

Mustafa Bepara in Faridpur produces mattresses and sofas from coconut fibre. Mustafa did an apprenticeship with his uncle and learnt the craft, business, management, the search for and maintenance of business partners and relationships. From 2006, BRAC Bank helped Mustafa with several loans and with further training in the DANIDA Business-To-Business Network. His natural fibres continue to take the place of plastic and foam.

firstgreenbankeuaFIRST GREEN BANK
Florida USA

King Grove (founded 1874) in the heart of Florida, is a fourth-generation farming business. As an alternative to monoculture of residential housing development, King Grove has evolved into a multi-crop organic farm that includes oranges, blueberries, peaches and timber. FIRST GREEN BANK got its bank licence a few weeks after the start of the 2008 financial crisis and immediately started financing the business, including electricity generation.

vancitycanadaVANCITY
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

For the Songhee people, the bank finances their own community centre with a school. Where other banks back-pedalled on the loan of the 18 million dollars for building costs, the bankers of VANCITY reconsidered and for five years discussed all the funding possibilities until they found a solution, because, as is well known, where there’s a will there’s a way. Repayments are linked to future tax revenues.

glsbankGLS Bank
Germany

Max Göbel always wanted to start a kindergarten, and then found an old hunting lodge, the Jägerhof, an old UNESCO cultural heritage site in the Glienicke Park near Berlin. As the GLS bank finances education, culture and health as well as ecological agriculture, renewable energy and housing projects, an agreement was reached and the building was converted.

About the author

Uwe Heitkamp, 53 years old, started working after university in daily newspapers and from 1984 on in public tv broadcasting companies such as WDR (Collogne), NDR (Hamburg), SDR (Stuttgart/Baden-Baden) in the ARD (first programme), wrote several books and directed the cinema movie about the anti nuclear movement in Germany in 1986 (Wackersdorf). After emigration in 1990 he founded 1995 the trilingual weekly printed newspaper “Algarve123”  and later the online edition www.algarve123.com. Heitkamp lives for 25 year in Monchique, Portugal. He loves mountain hiking and swimming in streams and lakes, writes and tells stories of success from people and their sustainable relationship between ecology and economy. His actual film “Revolutionary Roads” tells the 60 minute story of a long walk crossing Portugal. 10 rural people paint a picture of their lives in the hills of the serra and the hinterland. The film captures profound impressions of natural beauty and human life. Along which path is the future of Portugal to be found? (subscribe to ECO123 und watch the documentary in the Mediatec)

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