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Bank of Palestine Investment Helps Strengthen Community

Apr. 28, 2019

Two years ago, Portico announced its positive social impact first (SIF) investment in Bank of Palestine through the three ELCA Social Purpose Balanced funds and the ELCA Social Purpose Bond fund. This $1 million, five-year certificate of deposit was designed to support economic development and affordable housing opportunities in Palestine.

At the time, Portico's president, Rev. Jeff Thiemann, invited ELCA social purpose investors to celebrate this SIF investment. "Over the next five years," he said, "we can learn about the impact of this investment and feel proud that a portion of our retirement savings is contributing to jobs and housing in the Holy Land."

Now, Bank of Palestine is reporting back the positive impacts our investment is creating – through quantitative reporting and video storytelling.

Bank of Palestine is an innovative, socially responsible institution with the widest branch network in Palestine and a presence dating back to 1960. It also provides financing to micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises in commerce, services, industry, agriculture, tourism, and construction. While the micro-entrepreneur segment is typically a growth engine in emerging economies like Palestine, entrepreneurs have had limited access to financing.

By leveraging Portico’s $1 million investment, Bank of Palestine has made about 200 micro-loans in the West Bank to businesses like schools, tailors, print shops, and therapists – with 60 going to women business owners. This lending has, in turn, created over 400 new jobs with 30% going to women.

"Bank of Palestine believes in the potential of these businesses to promote economic sustainability, create jobs, and raise living standards," says Erin Ripperger, Portico's senior socially responsible investment analyst. "The bank has financed micro entrepreneurs in a wide variety of sectors, and brings to life the positive impact of this lending through storytelling."

With the help of a Bank of Palestine loan, Firas’s Tailor was able to hire new employees.

The Tailor [video]

With the help of a Bank of Palestine loan, PAL Future School expanded, including its computer and science labs.

Future Schools [video]

With the help of a Bank of Palestine loan, Al-Ahlam Physiotherapy Center strengthened its offerings in preparation to expand.

Physiotherapy [video]


Background

In August 2016, the ELCA’s Churchwide Assembly called for continuing awareness-building, accompaniment, and advocacy toward a peaceful resolution of the conflict between Israel and Palestine. In addition, it called individuals, congregations, synods, agencies, and institutions to increase positive investment in Palestine and other under-resourced areas where human rights abuses materially impact the well-being of all people.

In April 2017, Portico announced the SIF investment in Bank of Palestine after significant research as well as discussion with the ELCA Corporate Social Responsibility Table. This investment was made in the bank’s Positive Impact Deposit program which pays a 5% interest rate, gives Portico the opportunity to choose targeted areas of social impact in Palestine, and annually provides metrics and stories demonstrating this impact.

“Our goal with social purpose investing is to make investments that help provide retirement security to our members and align with ELCA social teachings and policies. We chose this investment to target the two impact areas most aligned with the ELCA’s Community Economic Development screen — economic development and affordable housing.”

— Kurt Kreienbrink, Portico’s manager of socially responsible investing

Since the ELCA’s inception, Portico has leveraged the strength of ELCA retirement plan assets to support the ELCA corporate social responsibility mission in three powerful ways:

  • Influencing corporate decisions across all our funds
  • Screening out companies via ELCA social purpose funds
  • Making positive investments via ELCA social purpose funds