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New Resource Bank’s Sustainability Scorecard Quantifies Customers’ Commitment and Progress

New Resource Bank has a radical (for a bank) proposition: attract values-aligned deposits and use those funds to make loans exclusively to improve sustainability. The challenge: How do we measure borrower sustainability?  And where do we draw the line between who qualifies and who doesn't? A related concern for us is maximizing our impact—we don’t want to be merely "preaching to the choir."

We’ve addressed the challenge by developing a client sustainability assessment (try out the bank’s FREE SUSTAINABILITY SCORECARD HERE) and using the score on that assessment to place our customers on a sustainability continuum.  We decided that the minimum standard we require is a genuine commitment to managing and operating more sustainably. That meant we needed to measure not just initial sustainability, but also progress over time.

The bank started testing the assessment tool in July 2010. After working with a trial group of existing customers for several months, the assessment team revised the tool based on that group’s responses and suggestions. All new commercial lending customers began taking the assessment in November 2010; existing customers participate when their loans are renewed.

Here’s how the process works: Every prospective client completes the New Resource Bank Client Sustainability Assessment, which asks a total of 42 questions about their practices related to :

  • General Sustainability,
  • Waste Management and Pollution Prevention,
  • Energy and Water Conservation,
  • Community Involvement, and
  • Employee Practices

Points are awarded based on how advanced the company’s practices are.

We then use the summary scores to sort our clients into four levels of sustainability:

  1. Learner
  2. Achiever
  3. Leader and
  4. Champion

Within those levels clients fall into Silver and Gold rankings. Clients receive a toolkit based on their assessment that provides resources, suggestions, and initiatives that can help them improve their sustainability. The bank’s goal is to have customers advance to the next level—or higher—with each successive assessment. We will re-assess existing customers annually to track the impact we are having and evaluate the trends across our market segments. The initial round of reassessments will happen at the end of 2011.

To date, 50 New Resource clients have completed the assessment. We have

  • 1 Silver Learner (2% of total)
  • 20 Gold Learners (40%)
  • 15 Silver Achievers (30%)
  • 8 Gold Achievers (16%)
  • 6 Silver Leaders (12%)
  • No Gold Leaders – yet
  • No Champions – yet

Once the bank has a large enough pool of participants, we plan to use the collected information to compare markets, sector by sector, to determine whether certain types of businesses are scoring higher than others on the sustainability scale and what their challenges are. We could then use that information to devise industry-specific solutions – possibly in clean-technology, water management or health care.

As a bank, our goal is to ensure that depositors’ money is invested in companies, projects and organizations committed to sustainability. As a trusted advisor, our mission is to help businesses unlock the economic value of sustainability. By aggregating the individual data we collect, the assessment provides a means to evaluate both of these objectives.


New Resource clients take the assessment by using an interactive online tool that quantifies the results automatically and sends the score directly to the clients’ loan officers. The assessment is available for anyone to view on our website, so that our stakeholders can see for themselves how we are evaluating our loan portfolio.


Where does your money sleep at night?  Is your bank applying a sustainability assessment?  What customer assessments does your firm use?  Share in the comment box below – and the guest editors at HIP will synthesize feedback in Friday’s edition.


This survey is very well done

This survey is very well done and would be helpful even as a self-assessment tool for businesses as well. In particular, the 3-scale scoring lends itself to fast interpretation and getting the essence of the result -- people are either doing something, not doing something, or trying to do something. That's a basis for action, or in this case, funding. Nicely done, Bill!

(Disclosure: I'm partial to the 3-level scoring framework having done similar types of survey for corporate and learning governance. 5-level scoring can get tedious and not provide any different information to drive actions).

Bill combines a long history in community banking with a deep interest in sustainability. After beginning his career at Bank of America, he spent 18 years in commercial lending and credit administration at several San Francisco Bay Area community banks.… [Read more about Bill Peterson]

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