- Product: Banking
- Purpose: To make money work for positive social, environmental and cultural change
- What can we learn? Challenge the status quo
Triodos demonstrate the power that comes from challenging the status quo. Knowing that banks have for a long time profited from a system that serves a small percentage of people, Triodos swam against the tide and established a new financial system representative of their values. When looking at your own business, like Triodos, consider how you can drive the most impact- even if that means challenging the industry 'norm'.
The truth is, when it comes to business, there are no rules, but it's often the outlaws that dare to do things differently that result in the most success.
What's Triodos Bank's story?
Founded in 1980 in the Netherlands, Triodos Bank embody a progressive and sustainable model for banking as a force of good. Their ethos is built on putting people and the environment before profit, promoting the message ‘Live by your values, bank on them too.’
The 2008 financial crash, which generated huge mistrust towards big corporations, has arguably only accelerated Triodos’ success. Typically, banking has been largely characterised by short-sightedness and self-interest with a small percentage of the population profiting exponentially from investments in industries like fossil fuels, the arms trade and tobacco production. However, as Triodos have demonstrated, things don’t have to be this way. Having invested solely in renewable energy, protecting diversity and building societies, Triodos challenge a common misconception that impact isn’t profitable.
CEO, Peter Blom, has openly talked about the banking industry at large, explaining “I’m convinced banks should look more at what is needed in society and then out of that, build a feasible business. You need some profit, of course, but don’t start with profit, profit becomes the result. Profit is not something you aim for, it's a sign of a healthy operation emerging from healthy transactions. It’s [also] one of the things that has created all the issues in the industry.”
Consumers are often fed a fairly one-dimensional narrative that suggests, in order to live sustainably and slow the pace of climate change, you must turn off the lights, have shorter showers, travel less or eat less meat. Though these are all moral responsibilities, there is far less conversation surrounding the impact of where consumers put their money. Money is in fact one of the most powerful forms of democracy, and where consumers invest it has never been more important. By choosing to bank with corporations who fund destructive industries, consumers are actually only sustaining the problem- albeit unwittingly.
What can we learn from Triodos bank?
Triodos’ unwavering commitment to 'impact investment' in industries that build a better world has galvanised a loyal customer base who see their own values reflected in their banks. Their principled identity pushed them to second place in the Best British Bank Awards in 2020, showing promise of a world where corporations start to consider the interests of the many, not the few.