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Can banks be ethical, stay ethical? A look at Triodos Bank

A bank founded in Zeist (Holland) in 1980, with branches in Europe, that only gives loans to cultural, environmental or ethical projects, using deposits of their more than 100,000 clients.

In the Middle Ages, the first middle-class cities of present-day Holland and Belgium, such as Bruges, Antwerp, The Hague and Amsterdam, were the cradle of the first modern banks.

In 1980, Holland served as headquarters for the creation of this commercial bank with an ethical character not only in its actions and its products, but in its founding statutes.

Since its birth in Holland, Triodos Bank has extended its network to offices in Belgium, the United Kingdom and Spain, and is considered the pioneering bank of ethical banking.

As defined by the company, Triodos Bank finances companies that “bring lasting positive change” by contributing to cultural value, people and the environment.

What differentiates the Dutch entity from savings banks, ethical funds or cooperative banks are its credit concession policies. Triodos lends only to businesses and institutions or organizations that “benefit people and the environment”.

The bank uses the money deposited by more than 100,000 clients to lend to hundreds of organizations such as fair trade initiatives, organic farms or the so-called “social businesses”.

Their clients can open savings accounts, ethical funds and high risk funds (venture capital and hedge funds). Similarly, the company relies on an international department to support microcredit initiatives in the most disadvantaged regions of the world.

Triodos is one of the few commercial banks in the world that reports on the loans they have granted so that investors know exactly how their money is being used.

The opposite model would be the practice by tax haven companies and states that protect with banking secrecy laws potentially illegal practices.

Switzerland, headquarters of so many respectable international agencies and meetings such as the World Economic Forum, practices credit privacy to protect banking secrets.

The accounts related to the Nazi theft of Jewish assets carried out in the countries conquered by the Third Reich, as well as those related to dictators, mafia and murderers through the years, have been protected for decades in this civilized Alpine country. The African dictators that Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski names in his book Ebony have or have had savings in European banks.

The CEO of Triodos Bank is Peter Bloom. In 2004, the company had 264 employees. The Triodos group currently has a balance of 2.3 billion euro.

  • More information about Triodos, at the official website for Triodos and in Wikipedia.