Ecosystem loss, carbon constraints, economic instability, volatile energy prices, and water and food scarcity are among the global drivers of change that make sustainability efforts imperative, New Resource Bank President and CEO Vince Siciliano told attendees at a March 28 event in San Francisco sponsored by Silicon Valley Microfinance Network. Siciliano and One PacificCoast Bank President Daniel Skaff were the featured speakers at “Beneficial Banking: Are YOUR Bank Deposits Changing the World?”
New Resource wants to change the way the world thinks about banking, Siciliano said, drawing a contrast between the philosophy and structure of sustainable banks and those of mainstream banks. Mainstream banks, he said, focus on shareholders and operate in ways detrimental to sustainability; sustainable banks focus on stakeholders, pursue conscious capitalism, and practice sustainable leadership.
“Our mission is to promote sustainable living in our community,” said Siciliano. “Sustainable living is achieving the well-being of all people and our planet.”
New Resource, Siciliano noted, has committed to sustainability in everything it does: lending, internal practices, and thought leadership. Among the bank’s lending-related sustainability principles are supporting businesses that are grounded in communities and that serve the real economy and establishing long-term client relationships.
With those principles in mind, Siciliano said that New Resource has focused on lending to cleantech, green building, organic products, and sustainably managed businesses as well as nonprofits. “We know our target markets very well, and we understand their risks and opportunities better than traditional banks,” he said.
Two years ago, New Resource developed a Client Sustainability Assessment, a “mission test” to determine where prospective and current clients are on the sustainability path. Siciliano has described it not as a “pass/fail test,” but as the bank’s way of “ensuring that our clients are on a journey, as we are, toward sustainability.”
Siciliano fielded a variety of questions about individual consumers’ impact on and role in sustainability. His response? “Do you know where your money spends the night? Would you be proud of the work it does?”
“One message I heard repeatedly at the event,” Siciliano said, “is that the economically disadvantaged have borne the brunt of the recent economic downturn and often are the ones most affected by environmental degradation and other social injustices. It underscores the importance of our lending to nonprofits whose mission is helping these communities.”