January 23, 2003
by William Baue
Ten exemplary "green banking" enterprises were honored recently, highlighting the growth of
environment-friendly community investing.
Although green is the color of the money involved in most banking transactions in the United
States, traditional banks often do not practice "green banking," or community investing in
environmentally beneficial businesses and nonprofits. However, green banking is becoming more
prevalent. Yesterday ten organizations that best exemplify green banking were honored by the Community Investing Campaign, a joint
project of the Social Investment Forum
(SIF) and Co-op America.
"We are honoring these ten groups today because they are outstanding examples of how
community investing dollars quite literally can transform the world in which we live," said
Community Investing Campaign Chair Deborah Momsen-Hudson. Ms. Momsen-Hudson is also Vice President
of Durham, North Carolina-based Self-Help
Credit Union, one of the organizations honored. "The organizations singled out for praise today
are among hundreds in the U.S. that are building a better planet through the wise stewardship of
community investing dollars."
The honored organizations include such diverse enterprises
as Vermont-based Chittenden Bank, San
Francisco-based Rudolf Steiner
Foundation, and Santa Fe, New Mexico-based Permaculture Credit Union. These and the seven other
organizations practice green banking in myriad ways, from forest preservation to clean water
production to eco-tourism.
"Community-based financial institutions work with low-income
individuals earning the minimum wage in North Carolina to purchase homes, assist impoverished
battered women in Texas in opening a community-based shelter, and provide displaced timber workers
in the Pacific Northwest with loans to start successful and environment-friendly businesses," said
Social Investment Forum Foundation President and SIF Chair-Emeritus David Berge. "In addition to
supplying urgently needed capital in under-served neighborhoods, community investment groups make
available key services, such as education, mentoring and technical support."
is also president of Underdog
Ventures, which was also singled out for its green community investment through venture capital
funds. The related Underdog Foundation illustrates this provision of additional services.
Underdog Ventures' investors and invested companies donate portions of their returns to the
foundation. The foundation uses the funds to provide communities with grants, mentoring, and
Another honoree, Washington- and Oregon-based ShoreBank Pacific, distinguishes itself as the first
environmental bank in the United States. To advance the environmental sustainability of the
companies and projects it supports, ShoreBank employs a full-time staff scientist who advises
borrowers on efficient energy use, waste and pollution reduction, and natural resource
conservation. One such company, Portland, Oregon-based Century West, specializes in
sustainable engineering, such as developing fish-friendly hydropower.
"Before I came to
ShoreBank Pacific, I had been bounced around by larger banks who did not seem to care about my
business and what I was trying to accomplish," said Century West President Ned Dempsey. "Working
in sustainable development, I needed to find a banking solution that understood my goals and my
business. ShoreBank Pacific recognized that and worked with me to develop a plan to help my company
and, more importantly, the planet."
Other sustainable companies have benefited from green
banking services offered by the honorees. Chittenden Bank provided loans to furniture handcrafters
Bruce Beeken and Jeff Parsons of Shelburne, Vermont. Spurning the wasteful lumbering practice of
sawing logs from the outside in and discarding of the heart, Beeken Parsons uses "character wood" harvested from
sustainably managed forests, which highlights the knotty beauty of the tree's core.
Other green banking honorees include Coastal
Enterprises of Wiscasset, Maine; Vermont
Community Loan Fund of Montpelier; Wainwright Bank & Trust Company of Boston; and Sustainable Jobs Fund of
Durham, North Carolina.