SMEs should align banking with their values
Rob Keegan, small business lending team manager at Triodos Bank UK | 08:59 Wednesday 12th June 2019
With the UK reportedly spending over £83bn on ethical goods annually, there is an increased demand from customers for products and services that support people and the planet.
With this in mind, entrepreneurs and businesses are expanding and developing new ethical and sustainable goods. Whether it’s an eco-friendly tourism business, a company selling organic beauty products or a restaurant focused on locally sourced, sustainable food, there are thousands of enterprises across the UK focused on offering consumers an ethical alternative.
These values-driven businesses are operating with missions not just to pursue profit, but to prioritise working for the social and environmental good. For example, B Corporations are certified to voluntarily meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. Or community organisations, where we are seeing people working tirelessly to take back control of their local assets and improve their surroundings.
Start asking questions
If an organisation has a core value of sustainability, this needs to be reflected in all areas of its operation. In considering its environmental and social impact, an SME may well think about everything from energy provider and recycling to travel and workplace wellbeing — but what about banking and finance?
When looking for finance — whether that’s to grow, help cash flow or develop property — it’s important to remember that this is a procurement process, just like any other. We want to encourage organisations to question their bank, not just about interest rates and borrowing fees, but also to find out whether its objectives and values align with what the organisation does.
By and large, traditional banks have chosen to lend the money that has been invested with them to the person or organisation that will maximise the bank’s profits — this could include companies that work with heavy polluting industries, GM crops or other harmful activities. We want to invite values-led SMEs to question their bank around its lending policy and put pressure on them to prioritise transparency.
SMEs are uniquely placed to make an impact
SMEs are well placed to challenge the status quo of banking. While one SME’s financial choices may not have the same impact as a large corporation’s, the collective sum of these organisations can send a message out to the business and banking community that planetary and social considerations must be taken seriously in daily operations.
At Triodos Bank, our mission is to make money work for positive social, environmental and cultural change, and that’s why we provide finance to values-driven SMEs to help fulfil their potential. Our team of relationship managers have in-depth and broad sector expertise. The impact of these kind of entrepreneurs and social enterprises is more than purely economic. Their innovative solutions and business models can start changing lives, protecting the environment and building strong communities from the ground up.
As a conscious business, it’s not enough to just recycle any more. If you want to join a strong and growing community of people and organisations working for a better world, it’s time to consider your finances, too. Every investment creates an impact on society: the business community should not wait for governments and policymakers to force its hand towards sustainable choices.
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