Good practice sheets
Ethical and solidarity-based finance
Initiatives in Europe by country
Germany Austria Belgium Spain France Italy United Kingdom
Ulrike Chini, Oikocredit Westdeutscher Förderkreis, Adenauerallee 37
D 53113 Bonn
Tel: (00 49) 228 92 59 738,
E-mail : [email protected]
Oikocredit and the city of Neuss

In December 2003, the municipality of Neuss in North Rhine-Westphalia joined the support association for Oikocredit, a solidarity investment fund that finances 360 projects in 31 countries, in Latin America, Africa, Asia and eastern Europe. It mainly offers micro-credits, including a loan to a transporters’ co-operative in the Ivory Coast for the purchase of vehicles and a loan to rural women in Peru.

One cent per inhabitant. Oikocredit, based in the Netherlands, has a total of 550 members around the world: they include churches and religious organisations, loan recipients and support associations, including the one in Bonn, which prompted the Neuss municipal council to become involved. This municipality, which already supports fair trade through its procurement contracts, hopes to encourage its citizens to direct their savings towards solidarity funds. The council has invested one euro cent per inhabitant, coming to 1,500 euros. This sum has been put into a single fund, Oikocredit, which can receive money from private individuals, religious organisations, NGOs, its support associations and now local councils. In Germany, the municipality of Rheda-Wiedenbrück has followed the Neuss council’s example, and the Bonn municipal council plans to do the same.


Christian Kornherr, VKI, Linke Wienzeile 18
A-1060 Vienna
Tel. : (00 43) 1 588 77 254,
E-mail : [email protected];

Andreas Tschulik
Federal ministry of the environment, Department VI/5 
Stubenring 1
A-1010 Vienna
Tel. : (00 43) 1 515 22 1250,
E-mail : [email protected]
A financial ecological seal of approval

In 2004, the first financial ecological seal of approval was introduced in Austria. It helps consumers to identify socially responsible funds, on the basis of exclusion criteria: investments that might promote nuclear production, armaments or GMOs are excluded. It highlights good ecological and social practices, as well as transparency (based on the EUROSIF guide published by the European Social Investment Forum NGO). An independent expert verifies compliance with the criteria. Ten funds have received this official seal of approval to date.

Review of financial products
. This seal was created by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, the Environment and Water Management, in response to a request from the Austrian consumers’ association Verein für Konsumenteninformation (VKI), which in 2001 had conducted a critical review of self-proclaimed sustainable financial products in Austria. The Environment Ministry, the national agency responsible for the seal of approval, employers’ and workers’ representatives, environmental NGOs and six independent European rating agencies formed a working group. Twelve Austrian solidarity venture capital companies offering socially responsible funds took part in these discussions, which gave rise to selection criteria and monitoring procedures published in 2004. These can be revised every three years.


Bernard Bayot
53 av. Cardinal-Mercier
5000 Namur
Tel. : (00 32) 81 71 15 73
E-mail : [email protected]
Namur Alternative Financing Network

The Alternative Financing Network (RFA), founded in 1987, brings together non-profit associations seeking to promote ethical and solidarity-based finance. It has 70 member associations involved in the social economy, environmental issues, efforts to combat exclusion, human rights, education and training and so on. With a budget of 500,000 euros, the network carries out research and conducts campaigns aimed at alerting savers and investors, political authorities, financial institutions, the voluntary sector and academic circles to ethical and solidarity issues in money-related matters.

Savings and unit trusts
. The network also develops both ethical and solidarity-based financial products: savings accounts, unit trusts and life insurance policies. Solidarity products include shared-return products, with a solidarity commission paid back to the network’s member associations.
The RFA is in contact with local authorities that invest in ethical funds. It is currently conducting a survey of local authorities in order to ascertain their expectations of socially responsible investment, prior to launching a massive awareness-raising campaign targeting such authorities, inspired by the solidarity weeks organised by Finansol in France.

The move towards a universal banking service
. The RFA has very actively lobbied the Belgian government, with positive results. Under the 2003 Universal Banking Service Act, no bank can refuse a customer in Belgium on the grounds of his or her financial situation. This Act, which is still unique in Europe (similar legislation is under consideration in France), was passed unanimously by the Belgian parliament in the wake of research carried out by the network.

Other campaigns have also been conducted. In 2004, the campaign against bank investments in the armament industry led to the enactment of a law prohibiting unit trusts from investing in anti-personnel mines. A 2004 private bill seeks to ensure that environmental aspects are taken into consideration in companies’ annual accounts and management reports. Another private bill calls for the granting of official aid to be invested abroad to be subject to social and environmental responsibility criteria. Yet another private bill demands tax concessions for investments promoting sustainable development.


Fondation Un Sol Món
Enrique Vila
carrer Provença 261-265
Tel.: (00 34) 93 484 89 05
[email protected]
The Un Sol Món microcredits programme

The aim of the Un Sol Món foundation, run by the Caixa Catalunya bank and its microcredit support network XESMIC (Xarxa de Suport al Microcrèdit), is to promote microcredit as a way of combating exclusion by helping unemployed people start their own businesses. This organisation is made up primarily of municipalities within the autonomous community of Catalonia.

Role of savings banks. The microcredits programme launched in 2000 uses the network of local savings banks in Catalonia in order to direct investors’ savings towards people on employment integration schemes. Like the Caixa Catalunya, these savings banks have very close links with local and regional authorities, and often have representatives of the latter on their boards of directors.
600 microcredits were granted between 2001 and 2004, for sums ranging from 5,000 to 8,000 euros, making up a total portfolio of 5.6 million euros. Repayments must be made within a period of three years, which can be adjusted according to the recipient’s needs; the microcredits carry a commission-free annual interest rate of 6%.

Local community-based services.
The Un Sol Món foundation, which is heavily involved in employment integration (see page 31), also helps people starting their own businesses with administrative formalities and project monitoring and evaluation. Most of these business start-ups offer local community-based services, such as small grocery shops, restaurants and hairdressing salons. A loan might be used, for example, to purchase second-hand trucks in order to start a small business transporting building materials.
The foundation also runs microfinance programmes in developing countries: Ecuador, El Salvador, Mozambique and Morocco. Its director is currently vice-president of the European Microfinance Network, set up in Barcelona in June 2003. In 2004, it was designated the best initiative by a Spanish savings bank for its work in this area.


Caisse solidaire du Nord-Pas-de-Calais
3 contour Saint-Martin
59100 Roubaix
Tel.: (00 33) (0) 3 20 81 99 70
E-mail: [email protected]
Caisse solidaire du Nord-Pas-de-Calais

Founded in 1997 at the instigation of Marie-Christine Blandin, then president (Green Party) of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais regional council, the Caisse Solidaire offers its clients the opportunity to invest in funds designed to finance small business projects by people who do not have access to credit. Its purpose is thereby to create jobs in a traditionally industrial region hit hard by unemployment. The Caisse Solidaire du Nord-Pas-de-Calais is a co-operative financial company with variable capital. Its shareholders comprise three boards, each holding one third of the capital: an institutional board that includes the regional council, a financial board formed by Crédit Coopératif and the Deposit and Consignment Office, and a partnership board that includes the Fédération des Clubs d’Investisseurs pour une Gestion Alternative et Locale de l’Epargne Solidaire (CIGALES).

. The Caisse offers private individuals and businesses solidarity savings accounts for a duration of two years at a rate of 0-2%, and solidarity savings books at a rate of 0-1%. It lends businesses between 5,000 and 75,000 euros over two to five years at a rate of 6.9%. It thereby supports activities contributing to rural development, environmental conservation and efforts to combat exclusion. In 2003, the Caisse received more than 1.5 million euros from 165 savers; it grants an average of 150 loans per year, making it possible to create or maintain more than 250 jobs in the region.


Adriano Pallaro
Bureau de projets de la Banca Popolare Etica
vicolo Ponte Molino 9
35137 Padova
Tel. : (00 39) 049 877 11 86
E-mail: [email protected] 

SolidarFidi de Veneto
via Due Palazzi 16
Tel. : (00 39) 049 89 00 495
Agreement between social co-operatives and the Veneto Regional Council

Social co-operatives in Italy often face cashflow problems arising from their numerous contracts with local authorities, which have much longer terms of payment than commercial contracts. In order to address this problem, in June 2003 the Banca Etica (Ethical People’s Bank, see box) and the Veneto regional council signed an agreement designed to support social co-operatives in that region, including both type A (social and health work) and B (integration) co-operatives. It provides for loans to be made available to co-operatives wishing to expand or to improve the quality of their services, provided that the quality of those services is accredited by local authorities. These are interest-free, non-mortgage loans, whose cost to the bank is offset by regional council subsidies. A loan of up to 36,150 euros can be made to each organisation.

A guarantee co-operative. The social co-operation department within the Veneto regional council has been involved in the development of this project from the outset, as have the Confederation of Italian Co-operatives ( and the National League of Co-operatives and Friendly Societies (, which helped to define the terms of the agreement. SolidarFidi Veneto is also a key partner in the operation. This is a bank guarantee co-operative made up of social co-operatives, set up in 1995 to facilitate the granting of credit to the latter.

With support from SolidarFidi, the Banca Etica co-ordinates each phase of the operation: agreement between the partners involved, establishing the administrative procedure, overseeing relations with social co-operatives, distributing funding and drafting annual reports on the project. Through the intermediary of SolidarFidi Veneto, social co-operatives submit loan applications to the Banca Etica. SolidarFidi Veneto carries out a preliminary assessment and submits a comprehensive dossier to the Banca Etica, which undertakes the final assessment and decides whether or not to grant the loan. The bank then forwards funding applications to the relevant administrative departments within the Veneto regional council, which make payments to the co-operatives. Out of 63 applications, 56 have received a positive response. 5 million euros have thereby been granted.

Francesca Scacchetti
Cooperative sociale Riparte
via Lanfranco 34
41012 Carpi
Tel.: (00 39) 059 62 28 161
E-mail: [email protected]
Housing loans in Carpi

The Riparte co-operative works with homeless people in the city of Carpi, in Emilia-Romagna, including ten or so fairground families, comprising about a hundred people living in makeshift camps in fields. In 2002, five of these families expressed a desire to move elsewhere. Riparte then established a partnership with the municipality: the Mag 6 home ownership programme (, named after a regional solidarity credit body.
Help with moving house. A loan of up to 25,822 euros is granted to each family, to be repaid within eight years. Mag 6 has made available a total sum of 105,800 euros for this purpose. The municipality and the Riparte co-operative act as guarantors towards Mag 6, provided that the family in question produces evidence of at least one stable income or a regular pension. The municipality makes advances against the interest on the loans, coming to a total of 35,350 euros. Two Riparte employees help the families look for housing and assist them both during and after their move with a view to easing their integration into their new neighbourhoods.

United Kingdom

The Charity Bank Limited
PO Box 295
25 Kings Hill Avenue
West Mailing, Kent ME19 4WD
Tel.: (00 44) 17 32 52 00 29
E-mail: [email protected]
Charity Bank

In 1996, the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) launched the Investors in Society pilot project, in order to trial the possibility of setting up a financial institution aimed at charities. The loans granted by this body went primarily to associations in disadvantaged urban areas. After several years of operation, the foundation realised that its work would be more effective if it obtained the status of a bank. The Charity Bank was consequently set up in 2002; it is the first financial institution to be recognised by both the Financial Services Authority (FSA), which regulates British financial institutions, and the Charities Commission.

Loans at preferential rates. The Charity Bank allows private individuals and businesses to open savings accounts, then uses these funds to offer accessible loans (at 6% interest, compared with 9% from conventional banks) to associations. All operating profits are reinvested in the voluntary sector. In 2003, it granted 123 loans to associations working in the fields of education and the arts, health, housing assistance and community life.

Tax relief. In 2002, the British government introduced a measure granting tax relief for all investments in projects aimed at rehabilitating disadvantaged urban and rural areas, known as Community Investment Tax Relief (CITR). The Charity Bank, which was the first institution to be accredited by the government for savings products coming within this programme, has launched CITR accounts enabling savers – private individuals or businesses – to take advantage of annual tax relief of 5%, in return for locking in their funds for five years. The bank is thereby helping to combat the depopulation and marginalisation of certain regions. Along with a number of loans granted to community centres, it has, among other things, helped the Bexhill (Sussex) city council to finance the opening of an adult training centre, and the Mull Fishermen’s Association – thanks to a loan of 10,000 pounds (nearly 15,000 euros) – to renovate port facilities in Tobermory Bay, Scotland, with a view to ensuring the survival of the small fishing community on the Isle of Mull.