I know what you’re thinking…an ethical bank? Isn’t that an oxymoron?
With the global financial crisis of 2007/2008 and the subsequent years of recession fresh in our minds, you could be forgiven for thinking banks are only out for their own gain.
Happily though, that’s not true across the board.
Triodos Bank, founded in 1980 in the Netherlands, is a front-runner in sustainable banking.
We spoke to the team there to understand what that really means.
What is it that Triodos does?
We promote responsible and transparent banking with an overarching ethos that money is a force for good. The bank only finances companies that focus on people, the environment or culture – examples being things like renewable energy, organic food and farming, social housing and charities.
Originally set up in the Netherlands, the bank now operates in six European countries. As a certified B Corporation, Triodos does not see any conflict between a focus on people and the planet and a good financial return. Instead it believes they reinforce each other in the long-term.
The Triodos website has the details of every organisation that Triodos finance, so you can see for yourself how your money is delivering positive change for people and planet.
In the UK, Triodos has over 54,000 customers using personal current, savings or business accounts. Other products include business loans, ISAs, impact investments and investment bonds (hosted on a crowdfunding website). Triodos provides people with a clear choice, the opportunity to create positive change with their money.
How did this idea of an ethical, sustainable bank come about?
Triodos evolved from research into how money can be managed sustainably which was undertaken by a study group in Holland in the late 60s. The group included an economist, tax law professor, a management consultant and a banker who all held strong social values.
They came up with the ground-breaking concept of positive direct investment to help to change the world for the better and in 1980 this led to the launch of Triodos Bank in The Netherlands.
From the start, Triodos pioneered new ways to use money positively. For example, it financed the renewable energy industry in its infancy – widely regarded as high risk in its day.
The bank´s activity grew to include green, ethical, social and culture-oriented investment funds, dedicated venture capital funds and private banking services.
Your UK headquarters are in Bristol. What made the UK a natural fit for the bank?
There was a growing movement towards more sustainable ways of banking in the UK throughout the 70s and 80s. During this time Triodos Bank worked closely with a number of UK banks and institutions which shared its sustainability goals.
This led to Triodos taking over Britain’s first ethical bank Mercury Provident in 1994 and the creation of an official UK branch of Triodos in 1995.
What is unique about Triodos that sets you apart from your competitors?
Triodos was established to provide financial and banking services for savers, investors and organisations who want to change the world for the better. Decades later this underpins everything that Triodos do and every decision made.
It’s this approach and transparency which sets Triodos apart. It is very rare for a bank to publish a full list of every organisation that they lend to. Triodos were also the first UK bank to own and operate a crowdfunding platform – with a focus on fundraising for pioneering organisations delivering positive change.
Why is it important for Triodos to exist right now?
The climate emergency was a concern for Triodos even in 1980 and Triodos were one of the first organisations to put it at the top of the agenda. However, as more and more individuals and organisations now appreciate the urgency to act to tackle climate change and meet the UN Sustainable Development Goal, it seems Triodos have never been more relevant.
With just over a third of British people stating they feel anxious because of the climate emergency there’s a real desire for people to act and become more conscious about how they use their money as well as how they live their life, travel, eat and recycle.
Why should someone switch to Triodos?
Hopefully, the knowledge they are positively impacting the lives of people living in the UK, helping to build strong communities and protecting the planet.
By banking with Triodos, they are aligning their banking needs with their values and are joining a community of like-minded people who want to make the world a better place.
Learn more about banking with Triodos here.