e3bank: A Study in Sustainable Banking

Tue, Nov 3, 2009

3. Case Studies

A soon-to-open suburban Philadelphia bank has sustainability on the brain. e3bank in Malvern, PA is built around people, planet, and profits. The bank understands that profit and sustainability don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

e3bank’s web site says, “By leveraging the full spectrum of available technologies, reducing our real estate presence to a bare minimum, and employing a broad range of sustainable business practices, we have decreased both our environmental footprint and our operating costs.”

Financial Tools

On the podcast, The Ecoman and the Skeptic, Frank Baldessarre Jr., President and CEO talked about this new venture. He wants e3 to provide financial tools for people to incorporate sustainability. He believes banks have a key role to play in the green economy, because without financing the greenest building can’t be built. Baldessare believes that financing eco-friendly construction products are ultimately less risky than traditional projects. He explains that energy efficient buildings cost their owners less money to operate, meaning they have more capital to use to payback loans.

Environmental Tools and Customer Service

Both bank headquarters, which consist of a LEED-certified building, and a planned Philadelphia customer service center, are easily accessible by public transportation. Every loan officer will be a LEED accredited professional to assist lenders who want to secure capital for green building projects. To help people build green, interest rates for new construction projects will be lower if the building is LEED-certified.

The bank will have a program called Green Assist. To eliminate confusion around green upgrades, like solar panels, it will offer customers single process financing, fill out government rebate forms, and recommend installers.

Banking from home

Unlike traditional banks, e3bank won’t have branches. Each branch can cost more than $3 million to open and even more to operate. Instead, employees will meet with customers at pre-existing public spaces instead of traditional branches, thus saving both costs and environmental impact of more construction. Customers can use any ATM in the country for free.

Although the internet is not a completely green technology, e3bank had embraced it as a source for paperless banking. It’s also a way to reduce customers’ carbon footprints, since they won’t need to travel to the bank. e3bank will let customers deposit checks from home scanners, text and web chat with representatives, and sign documents in a secure, electronic format.

What others are saying about e3

The bank has received press from The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, and The Nation, among others, for its efforts. It was also recognized as a B Corporation, one of only 3 banks in the U.S. to get that honor.

B Corporations are companies that use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. Businesses’ environmental impact are measured by accountability, facilities, energy inputs, and design and development. e3bank received an 82% score on its pro-environment efforts.

“We are excited to participate in this type of endeavor,” Baldessare said on the podcast.

by Danielle Bullen

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