Vince Siciliano, head of California-based New Resource Bank, has what he thinks is an abrupt question for people asking about his business and where they might put their hard-earned savings.
“Do you know where your money spends the night?” he asked. “They haven’t thought about that, and I tell them it’s not in a mattress and I assure you it’s not in a vault either. It’s out there somewhere in the world, doing something.”
That “something” might not just be traditional activities either, such as home and small-business loans. According to the bank watchdog BankTrack, the largest U.S. banks are funding a host of controversial activities, from rainforest removal in Indonesia to speculation on global food prices and the manufacture of cluster bombs — banned by 84 state signatories to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
None of that is surprising news, of course. But in Europe and other places, some consumers are pushing back against the large banks and their lending practices. Banks have sprung up to offer “ethical” services, like Netherlands-based Triodos, with branches all over Europe, and the Canadian Vancity. These banks operate on a set of so-called ethical principles, defined in terms of the social and environmental well-being of the communities they serve.