By Marcos Eguiguren, managing director of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV). Illustration: one of the imaginary banknotes created by an artist to celebrate #BankingOnValues International Day 2019
What do you think about banks and bankers? It doesn’t matter how large and diverse the world is, the answer to this question in most places tends to be similar — and it’s not always a very positive one…
To many, “banks” and “banking” holds a negative connotation, and those who work in the banking industry are often seen as the bad guys. But a global movement to improve the industry and use financial services as a tool for social good has emerged and has the potential to change the way we see the banking sector.
Millions of people in the world have chosen an alternative way of banking and are celebrating it now, weeks before and after International #BankingOnValues Day (7th November).
I am proud to represent the Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV), made up of close to 60 values-based banks and financial institutions on five continents. This year we are celebrating ten years of successful work in supporting human needs, not individual greed.
Here are ten reasons why you should consider joining the banking on values movement.
1. Because it is a different banking model, not just marketing
The first modern banking on values organisations were born from civic movements. The participants in these movements discovered that while they were fighting for social justice, their money was too often used to finance harmful developments (speculation, polluting activities, weapons, etc.). Their own money was acting against the causes they believed in.
What if banks only supported projects with a positive value?
This powerful idea has produced and inspired many different values-based banking projects in the world. Indeed, ten years ago, the GABV members agreed on six principles of values-based banking:
- It goes beyond making a financial profit, and is focused on human dignity and environmental considerations as top priorities
- It supports the real economy
- It focuses on establishing long-term client relationships
- It is financially sustainable
- It is transparent about where customers’ money goes, with an inclusive governance system
- It aims for a real change in banking culture
2. Because it benefits you and your communities
Values-based institutions invest 72% of their assets in the real economy, while mainstream banks invest only 41%, according to our latest report Real economy, real returns. The values-based institutions show a stronger commitment to support the productive economy, which creates jobs and improves social conditions, instead of concentrating wealth in the hands of a select few.
3. Because it takes climate change seriously
We use more than words to fight climate change. More than half of the GABV members, institutions that are frontrunners in values-based banking, have agreed to disclose the carbon emissions of the projects supported with their loans and investments. They will be able to set targets that ensure their climate impact is in line with the Paris Climate Agreement. Likewise, banking on values institutions do not finance fossil fuels and are pioneers in investing in renewable energies.
4. Because it prevents socially damaging crises
Values-based institutions showed resilience during the last financial crisis. Beyond that, they promote a safer and longer-term banking model, which avoids speculative investments behind most of the crises, which are especially harmful for those with less financial resources.
5. Because it was born to change the system, not to benefit from it
The GABV and its members are working with international and local institutions to change the banking system and the economy, not to get a better position in it. In partnership with organisations such as Finance Watch and Mission 2020, we have suggested stricter capital requirements for banks that perform unsustainable investments. We believe the reason behind the existence of banks should be to contribute to the common good. Our ideas are influencing more and more institutions and mainstream banks.
6. Because it produces knowledge for a human economy
Money has been linked to egoism. Bankers to greed. Unless we change culture, we’re not going to change the economy and the world. That’s why the GABV is partnering with universities and other supporting partners to research the ways money is used and how banks and companies can act as instruments for justice and human wellbeing, instead of abstract goals without a social purpose.
7. Because it promotes financial inclusion
Most values-based financial institutions are at the forefront of microfinance and other financial inclusion instruments that change the life of millions around the world.
8. Because it promotes a more active citizenship
People don’t usually think they have power in their pockets. Values-based banking is tasked with creating awareness about how much power citizens have when it comes to finance. Everyday actions — how you spend your money, choosing fair-trade or organic, etc.– are ways of voting for the kind of world you want to live in. By being transparent, values-based institutions also make it possible to choose a financial institution that uses your money in ways that align with your personal values as a citizen.
9. Because it works
The GABV has demonstrated that banking on values works and is not a utopian ideal. More than 50 million customers have chosen values-based banks, operated by upwards of 67,000 values-based employees striving to change the financial industry for the better.
10. Because it addresses what you care about
What do you think at the end of your workday or when you have a break? Is it the wellbeing of your family? Is it a planet that can offer a decent life to you or your children? Is it addressing unfair conditions of migrants and other people who experience difficulties? Or are you concerned about achieving real gender equality?
You care, and we care about these causes, too, because this is the motivation that drives our co-workers, our customers and our partners. Ultimately, banking is about creating a more equitable and sustainable world. Recently, we discussed this during our GABV Summit in Vancouver, focusing on issues of climate, equality and migrants’ rights. If we remain dedicated to these causes, we can progressively change the world for the better through banking on values.
Participate in our campaign to learn more about banking on values and to help us spread the word, because we are all in this together. There’s another way of banking for the people who care about society and the planet. It’s time to talk about it and time to act.