of Community Money
Green banking pays economic, environmental
dividends at grassroots level.
which community investing dollars from banks, credit unions, venture
capital firms, foundations and other organizations are directed
to support environmentally beneficial businesses and non-profits
that might otherwise be overlooked by traditional financial institutionsis
making major strides across the United States. Forest preservation,
clean water production, eco-tourism, responsible farming practices
and the recycling of discarded materials are just some of the activities
that are being supported through community investing
Individual and institutional community investors also make it possible
for local organizations in urban and rural areas to create jobs,
provide financial services to low-income individuals and supply
capital for small businesses, affordable housing and vital community
The Community Investing Campaign, a project of the Social Investment
Forum (SIF) Foundation and Co-op America, has singled out 10 organizations
that best exemplify the building of economic opportunity and
hope for individuals through community investing. Organizations
recognized by the campaign are: Chittenden Bank (Brattleboro, VT);
Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (Wiscasset, ME); Permaculture Credit Union
(Santa Fe, NM); Rudolf Steiner Foundation (San Francisco, CA); Self-Help
Credit Union (Durham, NC); ShoreBank Pacific (Ilwaco, WA); Sustainable
Jobs Fund (Durham, NC); Underdog Ventures, LLC (New York, NY); Vermont
Community Loan Fund (Montpelier, VT); and Wainwright Bank &
Trust Co. (Boston, MA).
Making a Connection
For socially aware individuals and institutions, the powerful attraction
of community investing is the opportunity to connect with the lives
of people and make a concrete difference in them. Consider these
* Chittenden Banks Socially
Responsible Banking Program allows depositors to benefit conservation,
affordable housing, business and economic development, community
building and education. Chittenden lendee Beeken Parsons of Shelburne,
VT, designs and creates hand-crafted furniture with wood harvested
from sustainable forestry.
* Coastal Enterprises, Inc.
(CEI) is a non-profit community development corporation and community
development financial institution. Candice and Dan Heydon of Oyster
Creek Farm & Mushroom Co., Damariscotta, ME, first came to CEI
in 1993 for start-up financing for their gourmet mushroom business.
Among the environmental aspects of the business are its reliance
on the sustainable harvest of a renewable, non-timber forest product
and its virtual elimination of any waste products.
* Lea Clayton borrowed from
Self-Help Credit Union to purchase 15 acres near the Haw River in
rural Alamance County, NC, where she is developing an organic farm
using a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) business model.
* Underdog Ventures, LLC, a
community venture fund, made an investment to help Happy Planet
Foods of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, grow its organic juice
business. Its Legacy Fund invested $250,000 in Happy Planet. As
part of that investment, Happy Planet employees and shareholders
have agreed to donate $500,000 in cash and stock to the Underdog
Foundation to support grants to environmental organizations.
* Wainwright Bank provided a line of credit to the Silent
Spring Institute, a non-profit research institute in Newton, MA,
dedicated to identifying the links between environmental exposure
and womens health.
Community Investing on the Rise
A 2001 study from the SIF shows that community investing
is now the fastest-growing category of socially responsible investing
in the United States: Individual and institutional assets flowing
into community investing organizations grew by a substantial 41
percent between 1999 and 2001, increasing from $5.4 billion to $7.6
billion. According to the SIF, the overall growth rate for community
investing now exceeds that of socially responsible mutual funds,
all types of screened portfolios (including separate accounts for
institutions and wealthy individuals) and socially concerned shareholder
The Community Investing Campaign is a joint partnership of the SIF
and Co-op America. For a comprehensive list of community investing
alternatives, visit the campaigns Web site at www.communityinvest.org.