Personal Finance: Ecology Society Thriving through Green Philosophy

Article excerpt

Surveys have become a way of life for the personal finance industry.

Many do little more than highlight an organisation's name, but some provide genuine insights.

The most intriguing to appear for a long time came this week from one of Britain's smallest building societies.

Keighley-based Ecology questioned its 6,000 savers and 600-plus borrowers about their beliefs.

The response was a staggering 33 per cent, many times the level that any organisation could hope to achieve, even if they offered gifts for completed questionnaires.

It was no surprise to discover that the overwhelming majority regarded themselves as both ethical and green, with some 40 per cent committed vegetarians.

More interestingly, however, membership was spread across the age groups, with a quarter at least 55-years-old.

Two-thirds had been attracted to the Ecology as a home for ethical savings. Another 20 per cent were drawn by their desire to support sustainable housing.

More than 40 per cent of members admitted that they regularly questioned other financial institutions about their ethics. Another 30 per cent raised such issues occasionally.

Three-quarters of those responding believed that all financial institutions should be required to offer an ethical savings' option.

However, the remainder made the valid point that such compulsion would mean organisations simply paying lip service to the concept without fully supporting it.

The number that recommended the Ecology to family and friends was staggeringly high. More than 70 per cent had done, and 90 per cent admitted they had considered doing so.

Such loyalty has made the society Britain's fastest-growing in each of the last five years.

It was founded in 1981 in the small Yorkshire town of Cross Hills, near Keighley, but did little more than survive during the Thatcherite decade.

Concepts such as sustainable housing and energy-saving techniques were not exactly in keeping with the mood of the times. …