Ecology Building Society is dedicated to improving the environment by supporting and promoting ecological building practices and sustainable communities. We provide mortgages across the UK for environmentally-positive properties and projects, funded through a range of fair, transparent ethical savings accounts.
Our unique approach supports individuals and communities to adopt environmental building practices, improve the energy efficiency of our building stock, and live or work in a way that promotes a sustainable economy. As a mutual, we are owned by our members and create a partnership between our savers and borrowers, based on shared values and a commitment to sustainability.
In 1980, at a Green Party conference, a Yorkshire solicitor complained of the difficulty he had in finding a mortgage for a property needing extensive renovation. Someone suggested starting a building society and Ecology was formed. Then, as now, a group of people came together to make money work for the good of people and the planet.
We began trading in 1981, from a tiny upstairs office in Cross Hills, West Yorkshire, just a few miles from our current eco-HQ. By 1985, we had more than 1,000 investors and assets of £1.25 million, and by 1993 we were no longer the smallest building society in the UK. By 1997 our assets had reached £20 million, and ten years later our membership reached 10,000. In 2011, our assets passed £100 million for the first time.
Today, Ecology’s lending encompasses new builds, renovations and conversions, commercial properties and the ecological refurbishment of existing housing stock – something which is critical to reducing the UK’s carbon footprint. We also lend for alternative forms of tenure such as cohousing and housing co-operatives, as part of our focus on affordable, sustainable housing.
Ecology Building Society is a mutual financial institution, owned by our members and constitutionally dedicated to promoting their interests and our environmental mission. We operate from our head office in Silsden, West Yorkshire, giving members access to their accounts via post, telephone and our Interactive online service.
Every eligible member is entitled to one vote at the Society’s Annual General Meeting, regardless of the size of their account. Our members elect our Board of Directors and are able to influence Ecology’s strategy and policy via our Annual General Meeting and direct engagement with Society staff.
At 31 December 2013, Ecology had total assets of £124.8m, of which £83.3m represented mortgage assets.
Ecology’s mission is realised through four inter-related principles:
1. Sustainable mortgages
We base our lending decisions on the environmental and social impact of projects, such as building materials, energy consumption, land use, lifestyle and impact on local communities. We assess each project individually and will often consider innovative or unusual properties that other lenders may reject. We offer a simple variable rate mortgage and adjust our pricing according to the sustainability of the project through a range of mortgage discounts.
2. Affordable housing
We believe that affordable homes are an essential part of sustainable communities and lend in support of affordable, energy efficient housing and social forms of tenure, through means such as community land trusts and shared ownership.
3. Ethical saving
Our commitment to ethical savings means using our members’ money to make a positive environmental and social difference. We offer a simple, transparent range of savings accounts and personal customer service from our head office. We strive to be ethical in all of our operations, aiming for long term relationships, rather than short term profit, and we ensure that we treat all of our saving members fairly.
4. Mutual values
Our mutuality is at the heart of our work. We believe that co-operative governance models are a better way to create a sustainable economic and financial system, in which community and local involvement can flourish. Our business model is based on a partnership between savers and borrowers and we extend this approach to support for the wider mutual movement, such as co-operative businesses and housing projects.
Beyond our core activities of lending and deposit-taking, we achieve our aims through: