Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Invest in Good Banks

Yesterday I had an opportunity to spend time with the senior management team of One Pacific Coast Bank (OPCB) which is the result of a merger between One California Bank and our local leader in sustainable banking—ShoreBank Pacific. 

Kat Taylor co-founder of One California Bank was present and I was extremely impressed with her candor, vision, and mission.  She and the OPCB team totally understand the need for and obligation of banks to be socially responsible actors.  Bringing change to this broken banking system of ours—which is bringing us destructive projects like the Cherry Point coal terminal and the Keystone XL pipeline—is going to take all the awareness that the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement can possibly generate coupled with a massive migration of assets and viable lending requests to these triple-bottom line and community-focused banks like OPCB. 

The irony in this equation is that windows at the Oakland branch of OPCB were recently broken during OWS demonstrations.  To me this really demonstrates the need for message clarity and discipline.  OWS and others seeking to change the system must be surgical.  Corporations are not bad, but there are certainly bad and abusing corporations out there.  Capitalism is not bad per se but there are a myriad of abuses in our capitalistic system. 

I am not normally an advocate for adding nomenclature, but we need a term for corporations that are fiscally, environmentally and politically abusive and not generally operating in the public’s interest.  Corporations were—after all—originally chartered and given special tax privileges with the understanding that this construct was a public benefit. 

If people were acting in a manner that caused harm to many and our general well-being we would call them jerks or something stronger.  Criticism of a “jerk” is understood and certainly does not mean that we dislike all people.  The progressive movement simply needs a communication avenue that differentiates the Peabody Energy and Goldman Sachs of the world from these triple-bottom line actors.

All of us also need to get directly engaged in manners and at levels far removed from where we are today.  OWS and the entire progressive movement are on their way towards making a point.  We will not succeed in the long run unless we also make a difference.  I would urge our allies and others to look for ways to materially help those economic interests that fully embrace triple bottom line thinking.  If we seek them out, promote them ourselves, and make them successful, then we all succeed.

- Bob Ferris
Executive Director

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