International Association of Investors in the Social Economy
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Organisation profile

Country: 
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Representative: 
Paul Ellis
Type of Organisation: 
Building Society
Website: 
www.ecology.co.uk
Membership: 
Full

Mission

Ecology Building Society is dedicated to improving the environment by supporting and promoting ecological building practices and sustainable communities. Ecology Building Society provides mortgages across the UK for environmentally-positive properties and projects, funded through a range of fair, transparent ethical savings accounts.

Its unique approach supports individuals and communities to adopt environmental building practices, improve the energy efficiency of our building stock, and live or work in a way that promotes a sustainable economy. As a mutual, Ecology Building Society is owned by its members and creates a partnership between its savers and borrowers, based on shared values and a commitment to sustainability.

Short History

In 1980, at a Green Party conference, a Yorkshire solicitor complained of the difficulty he had in finding a mortgage for a property needing extensive renovation. Someone suggested starting a building society and Ecology was formed. Then, as now, a group of people came together to make money work for the good of people and the planet.

Ecology Building Society began trading in 1981, from a tiny upstairs office in Cross Hills, West Yorkshire, just a few miles from our current eco-HQ. By 1985, Ecology Building Society had more than 1,000 investors and assets of £1.25 million, and by 1993 it was no longer the smallest building society in the UK. By 1997 its assets had reached £20 million, and ten years later its membership reached 10,000. In 2011, its assets passed £100 million for the first time.

Today, Ecology’s lending encompasses new builds, renovations and conversions, commercial properties and the ecological refurbishment of existing housing stock – something which is critical to reducing the UK’s carbon footprint. Ecology Building Society also lends for alternative forms of tenure such as cohousing and housing co-operatives, as part of its focus on affordable, sustainable housing.

Structure

Ecology Building Society is a mutual financial institution, owned by its members and constitutionally dedicated to promoting their interests and its environmental mission. Ecology Building Society operates from its head office in Silsden, West Yorkshire, giving members access to their accounts via post, telephone and its Interactive online service.

Every eligible member is entitled to one vote at the Society’s Annual General Meeting, regardless of the size of their account. Ecology Building Society members elect its Board of Directors and are able to influence Ecology’s strategy and policy via our Annual General Meeting and direct engagement with Society staff.

At 31 December 2014, Ecology had total assets of £138.0m, and in June 2015 the loan book exceeded £100m for the first time.

 

Management Board

  • Malcolm Lynch, Chair
  • Paul Ellis, Chief Executive
  • Pam Waring, Finance Director and Secretary

 

Market Focus, Products and Services

Ecology’s mission is realised through four inter-related principles:

  1. Sustainable mortgages

Ecology Building Society bases its lending decisions on the environmental and social impact of projects, such as building materials, energy consumption, land use, lifestyle and impact on local communities. Ecology Building Society assess each project individually and will often consider innovative or unusual properties that other lenders may reject. Ecology Building Society offers a simple variable rate mortgage and adjust its pricing according to the sustainability of the project through a range of mortgage discounts.

  1. Affordable housing

Ecology Building Society offers believes that affordable homes are an essential part of sustainable communities and lend in support of affordable, energy efficient housing and social forms of tenure, through means such as community land trusts and shared ownership.

  1. Ethical saving

Ecology Building Society's commitment to ethical savings means using its members’ money to make a positive environmental and social difference. Ecology Building Society offers a simple, transparent range of savings accounts and personal customer service from its head office. Ecology Building Society strives to be ethical in all of its operations, aiming for long term relationships, rather than short term profit, and Ecology Building Society ensures that it treats all of its saving members fairly.

  1. Mutual values

Ecology Building Society's mutuality is at the heart of its work. Ecology Building Society believes that co-operative governance models are a better way to create a sustainable economic and financial system, in which community and local involvement can flourish. Its business model is based on a partnership between savers and borrowers and Ecology Building Society extends this approach to support for the wider mutual movement, such as co-operative businesses and housing projects.

Beyond its core activities of lending and deposit-taking, Ecology Building Society achieves its aims through:

  • Engagement in public debate, including with government agencies and opinion-formers, on strategies to achieve a sustainable economy and democratic financial system
  • Research and creative activity, to ensure that its work is informed by a strong knowledge base
  • Partnerships with organisations that share our values, such as the UK Passivhaus Trust and Forum for the Future.