Alexander Schwedeler

An outline of the operations of Triodos Bank

In 1980 some friends from the so called 'Threefold Movement' founded Triodos Bank in the Netherlands in their quest for a new attitude to money. 'Threefold' comes from the 'threefold social order' of Rudolf Steiner (1865-1925), the founder of anthroposophy. The name Triodos is taken from the Greek tri (three) and hodos (the way), meaning 'three ways together'. With this name, the founders of the Triodos Bank wanted to indicate three dimensions in our society:

a)  the dimension of training, schools, education, science and research, culture, art; in short, anything relating to innovation and renewal.

b)  the dimension of social relationships, such as the setting up of contracts, the state, and legislation.

c)  the economic dimension, covering production, trade and consumption.

The Triodos Bank has from the outset provided support, through loans, to: schools, nurseries, art, social welfare organisations and local hostels for the disabled, companies, and in particular, agriculture. Besides the need for projects to be economically viable, all loans given out by the Triodos Bank finance projects which are informed by a holistic view of humanity and fulfil all the latest ecological requirements.

Since the nineties Triodos has been building up a network of international branches. There are now branches in England (Bristol) and Belgium (Brussels) and Triodos is part of a European network of ecological banks. In the near future, further branches may also be possible in Germany.
The balance sheet of the bank, including its affiliated organisations and monetary funds, totals nearly two billion German marks, and increased last year (2000) by more than thirty per cent. Today Triodos employs about one hundred and fifty people. Alongside thousands of savings accounts, the work of the Triodos Bank is supported by more than 6,600 shareholders and eight investing institutions.
The diverse funds listed below, all initiated by Triodos Bank, play a significant role in the financing of several areas.

The Green Fund
As early as the eighties the Triodos Bank managed, through intense lobbying, to win tax relief for their new product noted on the stock market: the Green Fund. Investors who buy shares in this product on the Dutch stock market in Amsterdam do not have to pay any tax on the dividends they make from the shares. Fortunately the new tax legislation in the Netherlands has retained this tax relief. Now every large Dutch bank has started its own Green Fund and the money now invested in green funds amounts to nearly five billion German marks. The Triodos Green Fund's capital is managed by the loans department, which invests the money in the form of loans with attractive interest rates, mainly given to ecological farming and wind energy ventures.

Ethical Investment Funds
Triodos now has several ethical investment funds in response to the increasing demand for ethical investment. Research is carried out for these funds by an internal research department, which sells its know-how to other financial institutions.

Micro-loans and the financing of trade
Today Triodos is involved in financing over a hundred projects operating in developing coountries world-wide. Besides micro-loan banks and social projects in developing countries, it is involved in financing the international trade of 'Fair Trade' products. Countries receiving priority are those in Central and South America, Africa and Asia, and more recently, Central Asia and Russia.

Solar Photovoltaic
Along with partners in the USA and the World Bank, Triodos recently established a fund for venture capital investment in solar energy projects in developing countries. The fund amounts to around one hundred million German marks and is set to run for ten years.

Venture capital investments in Europe
In 1988 Triodos established its first shareholders' society. Today it has more than thirty different interests in the sectors of organic foods, wind energy, and ecological banks and similar institutions. Last year its capital increased to ten million Euros. It is available for the financing of ecological projects.
The launch of a new society for venture capital investors in the sectors of organic foods, renewable energy, and alternative technology, is planned for spring 2001. The capital; of this new society will be, in the first instance, fifty million German marks, and will later be extended to one hundred million marks. This fund will aim for involvement in growing companies in the Netherlands, Belgium, Great Britain, and especially Germany.

The Triodos Group has a sound financial base with increasing profits. The original objectives, to establish a bank which is socially and ecologically orientated as well as profitable, have been amply realised world-wide. The future plan is to establish Internet banking, shareholding activities in the so-called Third World (in solar energy), and Europe (in organic food and renewable energy), and become more European in scope.


Email: Alexander Schwedeler
Alexander Schwedeler (aged 37) manages shareholding at the Triodos Bank. He is married and has three children.