Ethical banking conference discusses role of financial institutions in driving sustainability

Febear’s annual conference, hosted by the Cooperative Bank of Chania, discussed lending initiatives, innovation and communication

Members of the European Federation of Ethical and Alternative Banks and Financiers (Febea) met in Athens, Greece, on 25-26 September for their general assembly and annual conference.

The event, hosted by one Febea’s Greek members, the Cooperative Bank of Chania, brought together over 200 participants from 17 countries to discuss the role of ethical finance in changing times.

During his keynote address Paul H Dembinski, director of the Observatoire de la Finance in Geneva, emphasised the need for businesses to set “ambitious sustainability goals”. For financial institutions working towards this, real investment in sustainability is important and decision-making processes need reform. Warning against greenwashing, he called for “genuine environmental, moral, and social considerations” in executive compensation.

There were several co-op bank presentations, with Chryssa Despotaki, general manager of the Cooperative Bank of Chania, talking about her co-op’s support for the business community, including a substantial loan portfolio of 485m, primarily dedicated to business loans.

With the support of institutions such as the European Investment Fund and the Greek Development Bank, the Bank of Chania has built a robust investment portfolio of almost €445m, which, she said, primarily benefits small and medium-sized enterprises, small businesses, farmers, and freelancers for development purposes, working capital, and green initiatives.

Similarly, Amandine Platet, representing France’s LaNef, described her bank’s efforts to support sustainable initiatives by allocating €800m to 7,000 projects, with plans to expand their network of partners.

Innovation was also on the agenda, with Panagiotis Tournavitis, CEO of the Cooperative Bank of Karditsa, explaining the concept of endurance and the importance of IT systems and innovative solutions for infrastructure security, while stressing the need for organisational resilience in the face of unforeseen events.

A non-profit association based in Brussels, Febea represents 33 financial institutions that have pledged to finance social and solidarity economy (SSE) initiatives and projects with social, environmental and cultural value in 17 European countries, serving more than 700,000 people. 

The conference featured a range of workshops and training sessions on topics such as communication strategies, impact management, and European funding instruments.

Febea also held its general assembly on 25 September, where Pedro Manuel Sasia Santos was appointed chair, Panagiotis Tournavitis vice-chair, and Anne Sophie Bougouin treasurer.