Alternatives: Ethical banks

"Traditional banks" operate using one basic goal - profit. Ethical banks combine profitability with respect for human rights and the environment. Ethical banks only invest in projects which add value to the society, whether that be social, environmental, cultural, educational, etc, while providing transparency about where client's funds are invested.

Ethical banks are the seed of a new financial system, one in which we can invest our savings, knowing they will lead to benefits for both investors and society: social, environmental, and economic profits. The association Ethical Financing with Solidarity - or FETS (Finançament Ètic i Solidari) uses 5 principles to measure whether financial institutions are using ethical practices:

• Applied Ethics: Using ethical considerations at every point within the financial institution in terms of investing and loaning funds.
• Accountability: Money must be spent in ways consistent with those same values.
• Participation: Decision-making must be done in a democratic manner. Not only can members and shareholders vote, but they can also participate in the definition of the basic policies of the institution.
• Transparency: All of the activities and their consequences must be available to the  public at regular intervals.
• Implication: In order to ultimately transform society, financial institutions have to go beyond a criteria of simply eliminating certain unethical investments and define their investment policies in positive terms of what ethical investments are.

These principles must be present in every and each one of the activities of ethical financial institutions.

In Spain, there are ethical banks, credit cooperatives, and associations which promote ethical finance and respond to the principles of solidarity and a social economy. Here are some of the Institutions which are offering an ethical banking alternative in Spain:

  • FIARE, Foundation for Investment and Responsible Saving, a Basque bank created in 2003.
  • Triodos Bank, an ethical bank with offices all over Europe, which arrived to Spain in 2004
  • Coop57, a cooperative with a network-based organizational, growth and development model.
  • Enclau, a group in Valencia which works on alternative financing.
  • IDEAS, a cooperative in Cordoba which works for social and economic transformation.
  • IUNA, a promoter of employment agencies that works to achieve the highest social benefits for all concerned.
  • GAP-Madrid, offers financial support by means of solidarity loans to social projects
  • Oikocredit, an international cooperative which seeks to disseminate the concept of socially responsible investments.
  • FIDEM The International Foundation for Women Entrepreneurs, founded in 1999, has a program of micro-credits for women with no collateral.