Green BANKING: The Wave of the Present

Article excerpt

Last February, the newest branch of Rockville Bank, in Manchester, Conn., had a grand opening, and it was a special one: The Manchester branch was the first of the $1.5 billion-asset bank's 21 branches to "go green."

What is "Green Banking"? Rockville Bank represents one aspect of it: the inclusion of environmentally responsible features in both the interior and exterior design of the physical plant. Improved fresh air circulation and water-based paints with low emissions, along with ecologically sensitive construction techniques, make the community bank a healthier place for customers and employees. The new branch is also healthier for the earth, with energy-efficient heating and air conditioning equipment and lighting controls. The bank's vehicles are hybrids. Even the parking lot is eco-friendly, with bike stands for employees who are working to maintain their own health as well as that of the planet.

Says Rockville Bank President and CEO William J. McGurk: "We're very pleased to lead the way in Connecticut in taking serious measures to conserve energy, and we encourage other banks to do the same."

That's one kind of green banking-and you can read about other ways to make your bank more ecofriendly and earn Leadership in Energy and Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in "Simply Sustainable: Green Building Practices You Can Bank On," beginning on page 52

"From Green to Gold," starting on page 56, focuses on issues of cost-effectiveness related to green banking. If your bank "goes green" with foresight and intelligence, the process can pass a cost-benefit analysis with flying colors.

There are other aspects, however, of green banking, or, as it is sometimes called, "ethical banking"- which can be broadly defined as the operation of a bank in a way that works to ensure that positive social and environmental effects result from its lending, investment and other business operations. One is the use of green banking software and other techniques and technology that enhance the positive environmental impact of banking activities. A second is becoming a bank that serves (through lending and investment) environmentally responsible projects, businesses and other enterprises-in other words, gaining expertise and offering services to the expanding universe of green businesses.

It's those last two dimensions that are the focus of this article in this month's ICBA Independent Banker green banking feature focus.

Green Banking Software

In some ways, the majority of community banks are already going green. The trends toward online banking in general, as well as paperless checking and check image capture, save paper and energy. Beyond these trends, green banking software companies are expanding community bankers' awareness of how efficiency and eco-friendliness can go hand in hand. A number of companies have arisen to help banks "go from gray to green"-which means what?

According to Joseph Winn, president of GreenProfit Solutions Inc., gray companies "publicly display a cursory interest in environmental sustainability," while green ones demonstrate a genuine commitment to "adopting sustainable practices."

Florida-based GreenProfit Solutions offers packaged programs designed to help banks make the gray-to-green transition. They include its Approved Green Business program, a six-step process that offers guidance from "green consultants." The program includes filling out an application; receiving an electronic copy of Sustainability Guidelines regarding energy and water, air quality, office and cleaning products, transportation, recycling and yard care; learning how to involve all staff in participation in the program; implementing "the Primary Improvement Items" that GreenProfit has identified as crucial to going green; communicating the results of your community bank's efforts; and receiving from GreenProfit a "Fulfillment Package. …