You can make a profit and help the earth, says mutual

Paul Ellis Chief Executive of the Ecology Building Society based in Silsden.  14 February 2011.
Picture Bruce Rollinson
Paul Ellis Chief Executive of the Ecology Building Society based in Silsden. 14 February 2011. Picture Bruce Rollinson
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YOU can make a profit from helping to save the planet, according to the chief executive of a Yorkshire-based mutual that has been at the forefront of promoting environmentally friendly policies for more than 30 years.

The Ecology Building Society revealed that it had secured record assets and a record savings balance during 2015.

Paul Ellis, the mutual’s chief executive, said that the growing importance of the mutual sector had been reinforced by “bad news stories” that were still coming out of sections of the banking sector.

He said the revelations from the so-called Panama papers saga had added another twist. The financial affairs of the rich and powerful have been laid bare after millions of documents ended up in the hands of journalists from offshore law company Mossack Fonesc, in Panama.

Ecology, which is based in Silsden, West Yorkshire, offers ethical savings accounts that fund mortgages for properties and projects which support individuals and communities who are adopting ‘green’ building practices.

An Ecology spokesman said: “The results mark more than 30 years of uninterrupted profitability and provide a compelling case for a long-term, purpose-driven approach to finance.”

In 2015, the society had record assets of £145.9m, compared with £137.9m the year before. It achieved a record gross lending figure of £42.1m, compared with £23.1m in 2014.

The net profit was £881,000, which was an increase on the £566,000 recorded in 2014. During the year, Ecology also received accreditation as a full Living Wage employer.

It also recently became the first building society to be awarded the Fair Tax Mark, which sets a benchmark for responsible tax behaviour. In 2015, Ecology lent more than £42m for sustainable properties and projects, with 95 per cent of mortgages advanced on residential properties, including new builds, renovations and shared ownership, and five per cent on developments for community gain.

These developments included work carried out on behalf of charities and community businesses. Ecology has also supported affordable housing schemes.

Mr Ellis said: “We’re proud to be at the forefront of the most exciting type of finance there could be – using money to make a positive difference for people and planet. Our results prove our approach to ethical values-based banking is more relevant than ever and demonstrate how we are delivering on our mission to build a greener society.

“Throughout 2015 we have retained our commitment to focus on lending for positive environmental and social impact.

“Our record levels of lending represent a significant increase in our positive impact.” Since his appointment in 1995, Mr Ellis has overseen an asset increase of more than £120m, Ecology said.

Mr Ellis said the society’s total membership was around 9,500, which is slightly up on last year.

He added: “The personal service does help a lot, and is cited in a lot of the feedback we get.”

Mr Ellis said his total pay, including pension contributions, totalled around £91,000 last year, compared with around £85,000 the previous year.

Established in 1981, the Ecology Building society was founded after a Green Party conference, where a local solicitor described how he had found it difficult to find anyone willing to give him a mortgage on a property needing extensive renovation.

Ten people clubbed together, put in £500 each, and the society was registered in December 1980. It started trading in March 1981 from a small office in Cross Hills, in West Yorkshire.

Mr Ellis joined Ecology in 1981 as an investor. Last year, Mr Ellis was presented with the Green Champion award at The Yorkshire Post’s Environment awards, which were held at the Queens Hotel in Leeds.