Green Banking flourishes at the grassroots
provided by the Community Investing Campaign
"Green banking in which community investing dollars from banks, credit unions, venture capital firms, foundations and other organizations are directed to support environmentally beneficial businesses and nonprofits that might otherwise be overlooked by traditional financial institutions is making major strides across the United States. In January, the Community Investing Campaign (www.communityinvest.org), a project of the Social Investment Forum Foundation and Co-op America, singled out 10 organizations that best exemplify the building of economic opportunity and hope for individuals through community investing.
Forest preservation, clean water production, eco-tourism, responsible farming practices and the recycling of discarded materials are just a few of the Earth-friendly activities that are being supported through community investing dollars. Individual and institutional community investors make it possible for local organizations in urban and rural areas to create jobs, provide financial services to low-income individuals, and supply capital for small businesses, affordable housing and vital community services.
The organizations recognized by the Community Investing Campaign are: Chittenden Bank (Brattleboro, VT); Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (Wiscasset, ME); Permaculture Credit Union (Santa Fe, NM); Rudolf Steiner Foundation (San Francisco, CA); Self-Help Credit Union (Durham, NC); ShoreBank Pacific (Ilwaco, WA); Sustainable Jobs Fund (Durham, NC); Underdog Ventures, LLC (New York, NY); Vermont Community Loan Fund (Montpelier, VT); and Wainwright Bank & Trust Company (Boston, MA).
The Social Investment Forum's Community Investing Campaign Chair Deborah Momsen-Hudson said, We are honoring these 10 groups because they are outstanding examples of how community investing dollars quite literally can transform the world in which we live. Americans who want to make a change in the lives of others need to understand that community investing is a powerful and personal way to get the job done. The organizations singled out for praise are among hundreds in the United States that are building a better planet through the wise stewardship of community investing dollars.
According to Social Investment Forum Foundation President David Berge, This is socially responsible investing at its best, for people who want to improve our environment and communities. The environment is part of the community investing story, but there is much more to it. 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. 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.
Examples of Green Banking
For socially aware individuals and institutions, the powerful attraction of community investing is the opportunity to connect with the lives of people and make a concrete difference in them. Consider these examples:
Becoming a community investor
Any individual or institution can become a community investor. Community investing dollars often come in the form of savings accounts, checking accounts, mutual funds and even direct high impact investments.
Many community investors use community development banks and credit unions for their basic banking needs. These institutions are committed to strengthening low-income communities across the country. Everything from checking and savings accounts, to CDs and IRAs, to mortgages and other loans, can be provided through a community bank or credit union. If there is no such organization in your community, you can use ATMs, the mail and online banking options.
Other individuals become community investors by focusing on mutual funds with a community-investing component. Still another approach is to invest directly in what are often called high impact investments that go directly into community investment programs.
For a comprehensive list of community investing alternatives, go to www. communityinvest.org.
About community investing
A 2001 study from the Social Investment Forum shows that community investing is now the fastest-growing category of socially responsible investing in the United States: Individual and institutional assets flowing into community investing organizations grew by a substantial 41 percent between 1999 and 2001, increasing from $5.4 billion to $7.6 billion. According to the Social Investment Forum, the overall growth rate for community investing now exceeds that of socially responsible mutual funds, all types of screened portfolios (including separate accounts for institutions and wealthy individuals) and socially concerned shareholder advocacy.
The Community Investing Campaign is a joint partnership of the Social Investment Forum Foundation and Co-op America. The Social Investment Forum Foundation is a national nonprofit organization providing research and educational programs on socially responsible investing. Co-op America is a national nonprofit organization founded in 1982 that provides the economic strategies, organizing power and practical tools for businesses and individuals to address today's social and environmental problems. The campaign's Web site is www.communityinvest.org.