Friday, August 1, 2008

Inspiring Lunch with E3 Bank

Today I had the privilege of having lunch with Frank Baldassarre (President/CEO) and Bill DeFalco (EVP Chief Lending Officer), two of the founders of Philly's own sustainable financial institution, E3 bank.

Bill and Frank were nice enough to tell me all about the E3 project so that I could share it with the readers of Green Building Law. And a very exciting project it is--Bill and Frank and the members of the E3 team are establishing a financial institution which not only invests in sustainable projects, but is itself a "triple bottom line" entity. E3, by the way, stands for "Building Sustainable Enterprise, Protecting the Environment, and Investing in Social Equity".

Frank has been in banking--traditional banking--for 27 years, and until two years ago, he had never heard of LEED. Once he was exposed to the green building world, though, it was like "having his eyes opened." he wondered why more people weren't building green and getting involved. "The lack of financial resources and instruments was a big reason people weren't doing it. We are setting out to change that."

Frank sees the opportunity for financial institutions to be a catalyst for change. "I see E3 not only as a resource, but as a facilitator of change on a large scale. Financial institutions have the ability to make change on a large scale. It will be hard to undo the damage to the environment without getting a lot of people involved."

E3 will offer financial products for sustainable projects, like energy efficient constuction and renovation. The instruments will be designed to "continually encourage people to take the next step in sustainability." For example, by providing discounted loan rates for projects which pursue higher sustainable goals, like LEED Platinum ratings, and using carbon offsets as loan collateral. In addition, E3 will provide value added services to their clients, like expertise in leveraging E3 funds with private and public financing sources.

E3 will also offer a deep green savings account where the money invested will go towards the greenest projects. According to Frank, "When you deposit your dollar, it will match your values."

Bill also mentioned the possibility of providing energy audit services to identify the best use of E3 funds.

Bill and Frank are veterans of the banking industry, but they have a lot of green experience behind the E3 project. Sandy Wiggins, the immediate past chair of the USGBC, is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of E3, and Jim Lutz, Senior Vice President of Development for Liberty Property Trust, David Berry, Co-founder of the Sustainable Water Resources Roundtable, Jackie O’Neil, winner of a 2007 Philadelphia Sustainability Award, Joyce M. Ferris, Founder and Managing Partner of Blue Hill Partners LLC, Judy Wicks, Owner and Founder of Philadelphia’s 25-year-old White Dog Cafe, and Gavin Kerr, an experienced health care veteran are all board members.

Throughout lunch, Bill and Frank expressed their optimism for how E3 can change the financial industry and the world by aligning it to the triple bottom line. Frank noted that the single bottom line had not been working well lately for the financial industry, giving the example of the sub-prime lending debacle. If the financial instutitions had taken into consideration the social equity of what they were doing, perhaps it would not have happened.

As Frank says, "The more you learn, the more responsible you become for your actions."

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