It may be a surprise to some to learn that Triodos currently holds over £40 million of loans to religious-based organisations, spanning multiple faiths and the groups within them. While Triodos is not a religious bank, over the past 25 years we have developed a relationship with this wide range of faith groups and our loans to these Philosophy of Life customers now account for 3.7% of the bank’s total lending in the UK.
The reasons behind these loans vary – for example many wish to purchase buildings – but all those who are offered a loan must first demonstrate that they are not coercive, respect people’s freedom (for example with regards to LGBTQ+ rights), allow people to leave and are tolerant of other faiths.
The Dalai Lama is quoted as saying: “My religion is simple. My religion is kindness,” and it is a similar conscious intention to support others and focus on human dignity that motivates the bank’s lending in this area.
Making a difference in communities
When assessing who to lend to, Triodos looks to support groups that play an active and inclusive role in improving their community, and these groups must show that they are operating in line with the mission and values of the bank. We do not prioritise any faith over others but look at each organisation’s potential impact and consider its opportunity to improve society.
“We are committed to being people-reaching, potential-releasing and community-restoring,” explains Dan Fryer at Jubilee Church in Hull. “That means supporting those beyond our congregation to engage with as many people within our city and surrounding region as possible, especially those who are struggling or are in need”.
Jubilee Church Hull is an example of one of our Philosophy of Life customers. The organisation has a community-focused approach and has developed a programme of activities that proactively reach out to local people, offering support for the whole city.
The Church works with Transforming Lives for Good, a charity that enables programmes in over 200 UK churches, offering holiday and lunch clubs and running education centres, one of one which is based at Jubilee Church.
Another key strand of Jubilee Church’s work aims to combat loneliness and foster connection. As well as offering craft and conversations clubs, volunteers help the local homeless. Currently they run a morning drop in, providing laundry and shower facilities for those sleeping on the streets, and act as the office for Big Issue in the North, distributing the weekly Big Issue magazine to vendors.
Another Triodos customer, Kagyu Dechen Buddhism, promotes community wellbeing through spiritual exploration. It provides a place for people to learn about, study and practice Buddhism and meditation, offering classes, retreats and information events to support spirituality and exploration.
The centre prides itself on a people-centric approach and welcomes a diverse network of all ages and backgrounds to its community. Over time they have been able to build from a single centre in Manchester, and now offer visits from schools and education centres, sharing information about Buddhism and the practice of meditation. During the Covid-19 pandemic they took their classes online, joining many other faith-based organisations in finding new ways to reach their congregation and offer support to wider society.
Protecting people and the planet
As well as a promoting a more compassionate society, many Philosophy of Life customers are focused on positive action for the planet. Sometimes this is linked to their work to support the most vulnerable or through charity fundraising for climate causes, but often organisations approach the bank because they want to refinance existing lending, moving their accounts away from organisations that finance destructive or harmful industries.
The intersection of faith and environment was highlighted in 2017, when the United Nations launched its Faith for Earth initiative. The scheme notes that spiritual values influence the behaviours of 80% of the world’s population and calls on faith-based organisations to strive towards contributing towards the Sustainable Development Goals. An increasing number of faith groups are responding to this call, engaging their congregations in modelling positive change.
The move towards sustainable banking from spiritual and faith groups is taking place on both an individual and collective scale. For example, in 2020 the Church of England confirmed that by 2023 it will no longer invest in oil and gas companies, building on its earlier resolution to divest from companies that did not take seriously their responsibilities to assist with the transition to a low carbon economy.
John Sharpe, relationship manager for many of Triodos Bank’s Philosophy of Life customers reflects: “We have a genuine understanding and appreciation of the vital role faith groups play in their local community. We are a bank that has quality of life and human dignity at its heart. Like business or charities, many faith groups are seeking to align their lending with their commitment to improving society. They are supporting important action to combat the climate crisis and its impacts, increasing their sustainability commitments in day-to-day operations and searching for finance that enables them to make even more positive difference.”
Read more about the impactful customers we support
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