PEOPLE | THNK is publishing a series of profiles to draw attention to creative leaders around the world and their innovative ideas and projects. We kick off the series by profiling Peter Blom, CEO of Triodos Bank, which is one of the world’s leading financial institutions focused on ethical and sustainable banking. In 1990, Triodos made history by launching the first green fund in Europe for environmentally friendly projects on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange.
“The financial, poverty and environmental crises are converging. We have to move from an economy with a single focus on maximizing profit to new economic models that maximize sustainability. As Triodos Bank, we have demonstrated that these models work. Only by changing finance, we will be able to finance change.”
- Peter Blom
All eyes have been on Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a high profile advocate for global banking reform, for the last few weeks. But Peter Blom has been working on reinventing the banking sector for decades.
Blom has worked for Triodos Bank since its creation in 1980. The bank allows individual and institutional investors in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Spain and the United Kingdom to invest exclusively in businesses and initiatives that promote positive social, environmental and cultural change. Through its 250,000 customers, it funds projects as diverse as:
• a solar energy plant in Spain
• an organic supermarket chain in the Netherlands
• a recycling plant in Belgium which employs people excluded from the traditional workforce, and
• a bank in Laos which offers micro financing to local entrepreneurs.
Guided by Blom, Triodos has established itself as a global authority in microfinance, an industry that has proven resilient to the global financial crisis.
Blom and Triodos have been recognized internationally. The Financial Times named Triodos ‘Sustainable Bank of the Year’ in 2009. The following year, Blom was awarded the Botwinick Prize in Business Ethics by Columbia University. Under his direction, Triodos’ balance sheet grew by 17% to EUR 3.5 billion (US$5 billion) in 2010, while other banks were experiencing serious difficulties.
Blom has lobbied hard to put sustainable banking firmly on the global agenda. In 2009, he co-founded the Global Alliance on Banking for Values, a network of 13 banks around the world committed to ethical banking, which collectively raised EUR 1.4 billion (US$2 billion) in new equity capital within its first year to support sustainable lending. Blom was invited to become a member of the exclusive Club of Rome in 2010, based on his “his outstanding achievements in revitalizing and renewing the banking sector”.
THNK sees Peter Blom as a prime example of a creative leader focused on breakthrough innovation. Not only has Triodos created a new genre of banking that allows clients to invest their money based on personal values and ethics. It also provides crucial funding to businesses that have been overlooked and under-served by traditional banks.