Fiare Banca Ètica

Monday 12 June 2017, by Cristina Cuesta Simon

A. The main facts about the activities of the company.

In 2003, some finance experts from the Basque Country decided to create an organization: Fundación Inversión y Ahorro Responsable (FIARE), a nonprofit organization focused on establishing the principles of ethical banking.

Two years later, Banca Popolare Etica started working with them, by looking for interesting projects and then funding them. In 2011, FIARE became part of Banca Popolare Etica, and in 2014 BPE created an area called FIARE.

The aim of FIARE, shared with BPE, is to fund projects about social economy, solidarity and promotion of culture to achieve a social transformation. They want to do all this following the rules of transparency, participation and democracy.

How do they invest in projects? The money they have in clients’ deposits are used to fund their activities. They deeply analyze the projects that need investment in order to make sure that the money used will provide benefits for the society. Once done, they publish it on their websites. Every single loan given can be found in the internet, as they think that transparency is one of the most important aspects in banking.

They have social and environmental audits every year, in order to make sure their Ethics Code is backed up by the actions they make.

B. The Ethical challenges this company is addressing.

The banking industry is one of the less trusted industries, mainly because of all the bad practices that we have seen many times engaged by banks, either against its clients (as the “Preferentes” case, or other scams), or against society in general (when investing in companies that fund criminal organizations, when speculating with poor mortgages…).

There have been a lot of problems and troubles caused by the companies in this industry, and that has made citizens suspicious and reluctant to trust banks. This is for sure the main challenge that Fiare Banca Etica has to face: the fact that people don’t believe what they say just because they are a bank and, therefore, they are expected to lie and harm.

Moreover, there has also been some bad practices with social companies, such as NGOs that ended up being scams or foundations created by big companies whose only purpose is to “clean” the image of these companies.

But these problems are only related with their image. Fiare has to face other problems related with the projects they are supporting. As the money comes entirely from their clients, who must trust them, they have to be very careful when giving loans to be sure that money will be returned, while also having the certainty that the project is fair and provides benefits to society.

It is for sure not an easy position: dealing with attacks from the outside (lack of trust of population and actions engaged by big banks that don’t want these kind of companies to succeed), but also from the inside (meticulously choosing which projects to fund and making sure that everybody has a voice in the company), while keeping their priority: transparency.

C. What makes you believe this company is really ethical and why you trust it?

Fiare Banca Etica has been helping different ethical projects since the very beginning.
The first question they make to the “candidate” projects it not about profitability, but about how can it help the community and what are the underlying moral principles.

Moreover, they put information on their website about all the projects they have financed so far, or the ones they are currently working with. The website works as a platform where partners and customers can ask anything about the company or about the projects.

But what we believe that makes them really trustful is the fact that all the projects are based in their reputation, so they are really focused on picking the right ones, those that are aligned with their values. A single mistake could damage their company very seriously.

D.The possible challenges facing the company in the future and how you think this company may improve.

As we have previously mentioned, Fiare Banca Etica have a business model that is based mainly in reputation. They depend on it to operate, since customers give up a bit of profitability in order to follow their core values. So, although they are currently well-based and they keep a good reputation, it has to be always monitored and not taken for granted. If they dared to “break the rules” someday somehow, the punishment received from their clients would be massive.

This is an important challenge due to the fact that reputation is so important. This makes them a bit vulnerable in that sense, because reputation is fragile: it takes many years to be won, and just one single mistake to lose it all.
Therefore, audits are crucial to prove that they are doing what they said they would and in the right way.

Also, they have to take into account all the stakeholders, asking them for their opinions and suggestions, to constantly keep improving their systems. Moreover, they have to keep in mind their real motivation, the reason why they decided to be different, to lead a new way of business. This will help them align their interests with their Ethics Code and other statements.

Bibliography

http://www.fiarebancaetica.coop/

Location: Bilbao (Spain)

Sector: Financial and insurance activities

Official website: http://www.fiarebancaetica.coop/

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