Beneficial State Foundation Perspectives

Our thoughts on changing the banking system for good and building the new economy

The Freshwater Trust moves money to make bigger difference

This post originally appeared on The Freshwater Trust’s website. Haley Walker is the Freshwater Trust’s Communications Director, based in Portland, OR.

The Freshwater Trust (TFT) began the New Year by partnering with Beneficial State Bank, one of only a few financial institutions in the world certified as a B Corporation.

Certified B Corporations are for profit companies that meet strict social and environmental standards.  There are more than 2,000 in 50 countries.

“These companies are retooling the way ‘success’ has long been defined,” said Joe Whitworth, president of TFT “It’s not just about financial returns but also what’s being given back to the society and to our natural resources.”

“Our core mission is to fix rivers, but our positive impact doesn’t have to be reserved for just a river system. Fortunately, it can – and should – extend further than that.”

Philanthropist and environmentalist Tom Steyer and his wife Kat Taylor founded Beneficial State Bank in California in 2007. Just in 2016, the bank loaned $86 million to nonprofits, $57 million to affordable housing projects, $36 million for renewable energy, and $122 million to low and moderate income communities.

“The mission of Beneficial State Bank is to build prosperity in our communities through beneficial banking services delivered in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner. We believe banks can nourish communities instead of extracting from them. Together we can build a new banking system, and a new economy, that helps restore the environment and invests in economic security for all,” said Randell Leach, president and chief operating officer of Beneficial State.

In 2017, TFT evaluated its systems and practices to identify areas of improvement–in its internal operations and externally in terms of restoration work on the ground.

“We audited ourselves to be candid about where we could make a bigger difference,” said Kimberlee Myers, TFT’s operations director. “Moving our money was one pretty immediate way we could do better.”

TFT also recently pursued and won a $20,000 grant from Meyer Memorial Trust to provide its staff and board with diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) training. The two-day training session will focus on capacity building, creating a shared understanding of the importance of DEI work and exploring issues, challenges and opportunities for the organization and its partners.

Beneficial State reports seeing a steady increase in the number of people, nonprofits, and businesses opening new accounts at the bank since images of water protectors at Standing Rock Sioux first appeared on television screens across the country. Recognizing that many people wanted to move their money out of the big banks funding the pipeline – but were unsure of where they should move their money to – Beneficial State released a Move Your Money toolkit in 2016 to help individuals, businesses, and institutions take action with their deposits. Joining the Beneficial State banking family means joining a values-based banking movement that continues to gain traction as people wake up to their agency in the banking system and demand more from the banks that serve them.

Reflecting on this new partnership, Matt Anderson, Beneficial State’s SVP and director of nonprofit banking says, “We are very focused on helping nonprofits increasing their impact, and our relationship with The Freshwater Trust is prime example of how aligning our vision for beneficial banking with their tremendously effective model for conservation, research, and advocacy, moves us all closer to the reality of an economy that nurtures and protects our natural environment. Our entire team is excited to support such an impactful organization.”

This blog post reflects the author’s personal views and opinions, and does not represent the views and opinions of Beneficial State Bank and/or Beneficial State Foundation.