Industries, Nations and Time
This chapter examines the history of social banks and microfinance. Both institutions were designed to finance people and businesses in the interests of achieving social and environmental sustainability. Social banks were largely a European phenomenon, often inspired by Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophy, and heavily invested in supporting organic agriculture, renewable energy and Waldorf schools. Microfinance institutions reimagined impoverished individuals in emerging markets as creditworthy individuals who could use small loans to gain financial independence. Both social banks and microfinance have had significant positive environment and social impacts, but on a limited scale. Social banks were constrained by the limited willingness of savers to invest in them. Microfinance achieved greater scale than social banking, but the concept was sometimes abused by conventional banking institutions in exploitative ways, while it has failed to live up to early hopes that it could both transform the lives of the poor, and be profitable.
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