Image for The ethical bank helping UK social projects bounce back from Covid

The ethical bank helping UK social projects bounce back from Covid

The pandemic has highlighted a host of social challenges, from loneliness to healthcare inequality. More than ever, organisations that boost quality of life need support. We meet some whose choice of bank has made all the difference

The pandemic has highlighted a host of social challenges, from loneliness to healthcare inequality. More than ever, organisations that boost quality of life need support. We meet some whose choice of bank has made all the difference

It’s a cruel reality of Covid-19 that the organisations at the vanguard of supporting communities – looking after the vulnerable and improving our quality of life – have been among the worst affected. Social care providers have faced higher overheads due to necessary safety measures yet increased demand on their services, while many arts and community venues have been forced to shut. Many are confronted with an uncertain future at the very time when they are most in need.

“The pandemic has put huge pressure on us financially,” says Charlie Hoare, director of the Huntington and Langham Estate, a family-run care home in Surrey, which offers residential, nursing and dementia care. “Care homes have started closing around us, which is a great shame. Fortunately, having support from Triodos has enabled us to act quickly to be financially proactive.”

Founded 40 years ago, Triodos is one of the world’s leading sustainable banks. A certified B Corporation, its 721,000 customers across Europe can be confident that it only invests in and lends to organisations and businesses that are making a positive impact – to the tune of £7bn in loans so far.

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Organisations that support communities have been among the worst affected by Covid-19. Image: Cristina Seri

“We strongly believe in helping create a sustainable and inclusive society,” says Paul Nicoll, social and cultural team leader at Triodos Bank UK. “Our relationship managers build long-term relationships with people and organisations that benefit communities, leveraging the power of our depositors’ funds.”

Hoare has found this approach “a breath of fresh air”, after the care home switched to banking with Triodos in early 2020. In the past, he says, the home was often criticised by mainstream banks for its high staff or food costs, for example. But “the bank took a keen interest in our ethics from the word go, and understood our vision for care, which prioritises people over profit.”

Triodos has also been “incredibly understanding” during the pandemic, he says. “They haven’t batted an eyelid at our investments in PPE and infection prevention innovations, despite the impact on the bottom line during a time when income was uncertain.”

The bank took a keen interest in our ethics from the word go, and understood our vision for care

To help organisations weather the financial storm whipped up by Covid-19, Triodos has offered them capital repayment holidays in order to help with cashflow, as well as providing additional funds to some of their borrowers through the government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).

Thanks to the bank’s support, Hoare believes the care home has a bright future, which includes a Triodos co-funded building project: an extension of their estate for residents who have dementia. It will give residents views of fields of sheep and horses, with the South Downs in the distance.

“I can’t wait to see the impact it’s going to have on people’s emotions and moods,” Hoare says.

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The pandemic has underscored the importance of mental and physical wellbeing, as well as health inequalities, with residents of the poorest areas in the UK hit hardest by Covid-19. Newark and Sherwood, in Nottinghamshire, is among the lowest ranking districts in England for social mobility for people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The local YMCA hopes to help change this with a new community and activity centre partly funded by a Triodos crowdfunding bond and loan. “Triodos has been an incredible support, and as a lender they’re very attractive because of their ethical approach,” says Todd Cauthorn, executive director of YMCA Newark and Sherwood.

The centre will have sports facilities, a cafe, and a community building for childcare, adult education, skills training and art classes, improving the community’s health and fitness, and creating jobs.

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An rendering of the YMCA community centre in Newark and Sherwood, funded in part by Triodos

While many in the arts sector have felt neglected by government spending programmes during the pandemic, for Triodos, culture is a key investment priority.

“Arts organisations can have such a powerful social impact,” says Nicoll. “They bring communities together, providing entertainment, giving people the chance to be creative, and improving wellbeing.”

Olivia Neilson feels lucky to see this impact first hand in her work as development and community manager at Riverside Studios arts centre in Hammersmith, west London – especially when she sees people from different backgrounds and ages getting to know each other at events.

Supported financially thanks to CBILS funds distributed by Triodos during the lockdowns, Riverside Studios has helped combat loneliness, and boost spirits with popular Zoom film screenings followed by Q&A events, and digital yoga classes.

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Riverside Studios arts centre in London also benefitted from a Triodos loan. Image: Jan Urbanski

In late 2019, the Studios reopened following a £50m redevelopment, some of which was funded by a Triodos loan. The architecture of the new building “really helps create that sense of community,” Neilson says.

Its open-plan atrium can host everything from dance classes and talks with children’s authors, to drama workshops for senior citizens and a range of other community events which are free for local social housing residents. The theatre has also been able to hold Covid-secure events thanks to the large, modern space.

For Nicoll, hearing how Triodos’ investment is making people happier and healthier is one of the highlights of his job. “That’s the really exciting part. Knowing we’re helping our borrowers make a real difference and witnessing the impact they create is what motivates and inspires us.”

Main image: Dean Mitchell/Getty

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