Banking for Impact: 100 Years of Purpose-Driven Services Add Up for B Corp Bank
May 3, 2023
Amalgamated Bank Helps Customers Align Their Money with Their Values
This article was created with Amalgamated Bank, a B Lab U.S. & Canada partner for Champions Retreat 2022.
When the B Corporation community launched with the first companies certifying their positive impact in 2007, the concept of using business for purpose in addition to profit had been practiced by some companies for much longer. One of those is Amalgamated Bank, a B Corp that recently marked its 100th anniversary. The bank was started by women and immigrants to serve the financial needs of workers and continues to help customers align their money with their values.
As companies and individuals look to align their values with their banking and investments, B Corp banks are an option certified for their commitment to people and the planet alongside profit. Amalgamated is one long-standing example of how banking and investment practices can be financially sound and enable customers to have a positive, values-aligned impact.
Founded by a union called The Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America in 1923, when banking services generally were only available to wealthier Americans and corporations, Amalgamated set itself apart from the start. The bank’s initial progressive practices included free savings accounts and loan opportunities for the growing urban industrial working class. In celebrating Amalgamated’s centennial as a socially responsible business, CEO Priscilla Sims Brown said the bank’s original purpose continues to drive its work for impact. “It was the vision of those pioneers to offer affordable access to banking for all, a commitment to the greater good and a desire to change the banking system, that still informs much of what we do today,” she said.
Through the years Amalgamated has broadened its impact focus and commitment to its stakeholders, further formalizing that when it joined the B Corp community in 2017. As a B Corp, the bank must measure, manage, and improve its impact on workers, customers, community, and the environment. “We know that we can make impact in even more areas,” Sims Brown said. “Great areas of inequity still exist in wealth gaps, racial inequality, and environmental justice, to name a few. We are confident that together, working with our values-aligned organizations and partners, we can create the products, policies, and services needed to address these vital issues.”
As it moves into its second century of operations, Amalgamated continues to shape policies and services to help create a more inclusive and regenerative economy with its stakeholders as well as other impact-minded businesses and organizations. Through investments for social and environmental impact and policies for inclusion and equity, the bank is pursuing a more just and resilient economic system.
Examples and Resources to Demand an Economy for All
This free downloadable resource shares how B Lab U.S. & Canada and the B Corp community are building a stakeholder economy and driving collective political action to make the rules of the game more equitable and beneficial for all.
Banking for Impact: Investments and Services That Help Protect the Planet
Amalgamated aims to reduce its environmental footprint and address the effects of climate change through its practices and advocacy. The B Corp bank does not lend to fossil fuel companies and devotes nearly a third of its loan portfolio to climate solutions. Its climate advocacy and leadership efforts include being one of three U.S. banks to sign the UN Principles for Responsible Banking and ranking as a global leader of the Partnership for Carbon Accounting Financials, which measures the carbon footprint of bank loans and investment assets.
In April 2023, the bank announced the launch of its climate impact debit card, which is made from renewable resources such as corn. As part of the bank’s commitment to climate justice and climate action, the new card is the first product in its sustainability-focused series and replaces up to 80% of fossil-based plastics found in traditional debit cards. The bank worked with its existing card vendor, which offers a variety of renewable card materials. “Stakeholders across the company collaborated seamlessly to develop this new eco-friendly card,” said Lisett Ovalle, Retail Product Manager. “Sustainability is an important value for many of our team members, so it made getting everyone on board that much easier.”
Banking for Impact: Policies and Advocacy That Support Workers
Building on its union-founded roots, Amalgamated was the first bank to develop strike funds that support workers fighting poor working conditions. The bank’s largest shareholder is Workers United, an affiliate of Service Employees International Union, which represents nearly 2 million workers in the United States and Canada.
Amalgamated has used its organizational voice to advocate for fair pay legislation in New York state, where it is headquartered. Leading by example, the bank raised its hourly minimum wage for full-time Amalgamated workers to $20 in 2019. The bank’s other worker rights advocacy includes investment in organizations like the Action Center on Race and the Economy, Workers Defense Project, Equal Rights Advocates, and the Powershift Network. Amalgamated does not make loans to companies and organizations that impede workers’ rights.
Impact Improvement Through Collaboration
This downloadable guide from B Lab U.S. & Canada features B Corp collaboration examples to help more businesses and organizations find ways to go beyond their own impact to support other companies, community members, and more.
Banking for Impact: Products and Services to Reach Underserved Customers
The bank’s client list has expanded beyond unions and individuals to include nonprofits, unions, political organizations, and social impact enterprises. Its services for individual customers include donations to a social impact fund with every debit card purchase above $10 plus socially responsible investing options and fossil-fuel-free portfolios.
Amalgamated aims to help transform financial and economic systems so they work for all people, including people who face barriers to banking. This includes a restart checking program for people who have been denied checking accounts by other financial institutions due to credit problems such as failure to pay overdraft fees on previous accounts.
Banking for Impact: Donations and Advocacy to Give Back to the Community
In 2017 the bank launched the Amalgamated Foundation to move financial resources for social change. With $80 million in contributions by 2020, the foundation has seen rapid growth and wider impact. “There is an opportunity to shift corporate philanthropy from being a self-serving endeavor to defining what it means to be a good corporate citizen in the world,” said Amalgamated Foundation Executive Director Anna Fink.
The Amalgamated Foundation recently announced a partnership to increase charitable giving by encouraging holders of donor-advised funds to commit to granting at least 50% of the funds to charitable causes and providing matching grants for donated funds.
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