German GLS Bank supports the Earth Charter

In late November, Michael Slaby, Inter-faith Coordinator of Earth Charter International, and Anja Becker, new Executive Director and Earth Charter Coordinator at Ecumenical One World Initiative, met with CEO Thomas Jorberg and Board Member Gerhard Waterstrad of the GLS Gemeinschaftsbank eG in Bochum, Germany.


During the two-hour meeting on November 28, the participants exchanged information about current activities. CEO Thomas Jorberg expressed his Bank’s interest in participating in ECI’s business program, and assisting in promoting ethical banking based on the values and principles of the Earth Charter.



Having actively supported Earth Charter activities in Germany through financing the printing of three editions of the German Earth Charter brochure, the Bank’s board members hold the strong conviction that the Earth Charter should become the

ethical constitution of the emerging world community.


During the meeting, the Bank’s representatives were very interested in learning more about strategies to bring the Earth Charter into the public discourse in Germany, and give it the publicity and recognition it deserves. Opportunities for organizing a conference on “Banking, Peace and the Earth Charter” and supporting a local Earth Charter education project were explored.


The GLS-Bank is the first ethical-ecological bank in Germany. The bank was founded in 1974 and currently finances over 4,000 social and ecological projects, with a focus on cultural, social and ecological initiatives, initiated by people rather than anonymous interests seeking capital or maximum profit. GLS stands for “Community Bank for Loans and Gifts.”


The bank operates with transparency: all the credit projects, together with information on the development of the bank itself, is published in the magazine Bankspiegel.


The GLS Gemeinschaftsbank eG transfers depositors’ money as loans to independent schools and kindergardens, ecological farms, curative- and social-therapeutical initiatives, projects for the unemployed, health food stores and communal living projects, as well as commercial projects. As of 31 December 2005 the total balance was more than 550 million EUR.


According to Jorberg, the Earth Charter played a crucial role in designing the banks current mission statement, which holds that the bank’s activities are based on the values of respect for life, care for the peaceful coexistence of all cultures and civilizations, as well as individual freedom and responsibility. The bank states that human needs and interests should always be at the center of economic and financial activities, and that human beings can be understood as a unity of body, soul and mind.


The GLS Bank seeks to cooperate with initiatives and individuals that follow social, ecological and cultural goals. In these endeavors, the Bank seeks to explore new, ethical-based forms of banking that put the care for the well-being of future generations into the forefront. With more than 50,000 members and clients in Germany, the Bank holds annual meetings that focus on certain social or ecological topics and invite the general public to learn more about how to make a difference through depositing and investing their money. In its international outreach, the Bank holds contacts to other ethical and ecological banks throughout Europe, for example the Eobank of Sweden.


“There is no other document that captures the philosophy of our institution like the Earth Charter does,” said Jorberg. “Indeed, our foremost aim is to use the money we are endowed with to invest in projects that help to realize its vision and values.”


Image: From GLS web site