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Sustainability assessment tool shows customer commitment

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New Resource Bank

Most of New Resource Bank’s commercial lending customers are already several steps down the sustainability path, judging by the first group to take the bank’s Client Sustainability Assessment: the majority scored above the Learner (beginner) level, indicating that serious sustainability efforts are under way.

The aim of the Client Sustainability Assessment, according to Bill Peterson, executive vice president and chief credit officer, is to ensure that depositors’ money is invested in companies, projects and organizations committed to sustainability.

“It’s a way to determine where our customers are on the sustainability scale,” says Peterson. “We’re committed to serving customers who are committed to achieving and maintaining sustainable businesses. The assessment is a means to measure their commitment, but it’s also a way we can show our shareholders that the bank’s mission to promote sustainability is being achieved.”

The bank started testing the assessment tool in July 2010. After working with a trial group of existing customers for several months, the assessment team revised the tool based on that group’s responses and suggestions. All new commercial lending customers began taking the assessment in November; existing customers participate when their loans are renewed.

To date, some 40 New Resource customers have completed the assessment, which pinpoints where a customer is on a four-level sustainability scale: Learner, Achiever, Leader or Champion.

“We want our customers to know where they are on the scale, and to give them resources to help them improve their rating,” says Peterson. Upon completing the assessment, clients receive a “tool kit” geared to their results that provides guidance on becoming more sustainable. The bank’s goal is to have customers advance to the next level—or higher—with each successive assessment.

For Alison Bailey Vercruysse, founder of San Francisco-based 18 Rabbits, a three-year-old company producing organic, kosher and wheat-free granolas, the assessment reinforces the bank’s commitment to partnering with organizations that are working toward sustainability. “It was an easy-to-complete and thought-provoking assessment, not only of where we stand, but of where we can improve and what to consider as our organization grows,” says Bailey Vercruysse. Her company scored 63 out of 100 and ranks as a Sustainability Leader.

According to Peterson, once the bank has a large enough pool of participants, the collected information may be used to compare markets, sector by sector, to determine whether certain types of businesses are scoring higher than others on the sustainability scale and what their challenges are. New Resource could then use that information to devise industry-specific solutions.

Currently, clients take the assessment by downloading a PDF from the New Resource website, completing it and returning it to their relationship manager for review. The bank hopes to simplify the process in mid-2011 with an interactive online assessment tool that will be easier to complete and will process and quantify the results automatically.

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