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GreenChoice Bank - Great Alternative to Megabanks

07/01/2011 05:29 pm ET | Updated Aug 28, 2011

My guest today is Steve Sherman, Chief Operating Officer of GreenChoice Bank in Cicero, Illinois. Welcome to OpEdNews, Steve. There's been a lot of greenwashing lately - businesses making money by jumping on the green bandwagon. But that doesn't seem to be the case with GreenChoice Bank. Can you tell our readers a little about it?

What makes us unique is that our business was founded with its core mission to be a sustainable bank. Green is not a layer we're adding on, it's our foundation. Before launching GreenChoice, we spent nearly a year re-engineering our operations from top to bottom, to be as sustainable as possible. From debit cards made of recycled plastic to branch locations rehabbed for LEED certification, we examine every aspect of our business for greener choices. But what further sets us apart is our commitment to direct capital and other resources back into the sustainable business community through lending to sustainable buildings and businesses and the local economy.

This is a constantly evolving process every member of our organization is committed to on a daily basis. We can always do more to finding new ways to further innovate in our back office or offer new products and services that serve our community and enable the green economy. The fact that we are committed to the environmental, social, AND financial well-being of our communities and our planet and that we are dedicated to continuously improving ourselves on those fronts sets us apart from other financial institutions. It's something we're proud of and we hope to be a leading example, to help and inspire other businesses and our customers do their best to achieve greater sustainability -- that's good for everyone.

Sounds good so far! GreenChoice also bills itself as a community bank. What does that mean exactly? Please explain how that makes you different from the bigger banks that dot every corner in every community.

As a community bank, GreenChoice is deeply committed to building personal relationships with our customers. We are a local source that provides business connections and education on how to bank smarter and more sustainably. We treat customers as people and not just account numbers -- offering the stability and comfort of familiar faces and a far deeper understanding of our customers' needs and how to help them achieve their goals.

GreenChoice is also dedicated to investing funds back into the communities we serve. When you deposit your money with any bank, you are giving that bank a vote of confidence to invest your deposits as they see fit. For the most part, a bank invests deposits back as loans...but to whom, and where and for what purpose depends on the particular bank. GreenChoice Bank makes loans to the local and sustainable business community, to the small businesses and entrepreneurs who are creating jobs and to sustainable business and building projects. We also invest back through local community and nonprofit sponsorships and by volunteering our time. So when making a deposit with GreenChoice Bank, you can have confidence that your funds will be reinvested into projects and organizations that will benefit your community.

Give us some concrete examples of green GreenChoice policies, please, Steve. I read something about really good rates for certain new car buyers, for instance.

Our mission is to give GreenChoice customers a sustainable option in banking. Part of honoring that commitment is partnering with our suppliers to deliver uniquely sustainable solutions that you don't often see in a bank. For example, our merchant services card processing supplier donates a portion of their revenues to non-profits, and we're installing electric car chargers in our branch parking lots. In selecting vendors, GreenChoice considers if they are local, inquires about their environmental and social policies and collaborates with them to develop and implement sustainability standards.

We offer incentives to our employees for their green choices, such as zero interest loans to support their purchase of a hybrid or electric car and paid time for employees who participate in volunteer activities during work hours. We reward our customers who make green banking choices with free recycled paper checks and better interest rates. Using paperless banking and remote deposit or initiating green home improvements are a few ways our customers can earn GreenChoice account incentives and reduce their impact on the environment. GreenChoice strives to make an impact with every customer, vendor and employee relationship and to ensure we've turned our policies into actions, we monitor and plan to deliver a written summary of our environmental performance as an annual report to our stakeholders.

So the zero interest loans are for employees only, not yet for customers, too? That would be a good incentive to work for you. What about GreenChoice being chosen to be the official bank of the Green Exchange? Tell us about that.

Offering a reduced rate car loan to customers is something to consider for the future. At the same time, we are really striving to also make our workplace a positive environment. The zero interest loans are one way to encourage our team to make greener choices, and help mitigate the impact of commuting for those who can't take public transportation to work.

This summer, GreenChoice Bank will be moving into the Green Exchange -- a building designed to be Chicago's epicenter of sustainable commerce -- and we are thrilled to be a part of this community. The building's developers asked us a lot of good questions about how we plan to operate, to ensure that we are consistent with the Green Exchange's mission. The interior of our branch there, which is currently under construction, will meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design [LEED] Platinum standards for Commercial Interiors. Unique features of our space will include re-used and re-purposed materials, non-VOC paints, high efficiency lighting and locally-sourced recycled content materials in countertops, wall systems and flooring.

The Green Exchange is going to be a happening place to be, that's for sure. Anything you'd like to add, Steve, before we wrap this up?

We agree, and we look forward to being part of the sustainable business community that will reside there day-to-day. We welcome inquiries from your readers and encourage them to contact us if they have questions about the way we do business. Our website at www.greenchoicebank.com provides even more background and information on our business philosophy, and we encourage your readers to visit us there, too. Thank you for this opportunity!

Thanks for talking with me, Steve. Good luck at your exciting new location!

This post originally appeared on OpEdNews

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GreenChoice Bank website

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