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New SIF Investment Creates Jobs and Housing in the Holy Land

April 22, 2017

Portico Benefit Services, the ELCA’s largest institutional investor, is proud to announce its first investment in the Bank of Palestine, a social impact first (SIF) investment that will support economic development and affordable housing opportunities in Palestine.

Effective April 3, 2017, this $1 million, five-year certificate of deposit investment in the bank’s Positive Impact Deposit program pays a 5% interest rate, gives Portico the opportunity to choose targeted areas of social impact in Palestine, and offers metrics annually demonstrating this impact.

Last August, 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.

Portico’s president, Rev. Jeff Thiemann, invites ELCA social purpose investors to celebrate this good news. “Retirement plan members with money invested in ELCA social purpose funds with a bond allocation — the three Social Purpose Balanced funds and the Social Purpose Bond fund — can learn about the impact of this investment over the next five years and feel proud that a portion of their retirement savings is contributing jobs and housing in the Holy Land.”

Portico made this investment after significant research as well as discussion with the ELCA Corporate Social Responsibility Table. “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,” says Kurt Kreienbrink, Portico’s manager of Socially Responsible Investing. “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.”

Portico looks for social impact investing partners who can commit to reporting regular, measurable indicators of positive change. From the Bank of Palestine, we can expect annual metrics as well as stories like the following description of a Palestinian company that has received financing through the Bank of Palestine.

Client Success Story: Fuel Production from Used Oil
Aysar Gharaba has been working in a project for fuel production from recycled oil for more than ten years. In a small village in Qalqilya Governorate, Gharaba and his brothers launched the project which converts oil used in restaurants, vehicles, and elsewhere into biodiesel. Used oil is collected, filtered and transformed into fuel for vehicle use.

Oil Tanks Gharaba says the project is environmentally friendly. He adds: “Disposing of used oil is deleterious to the environment and in order to protect the environment from any damage, we collect used oil and turn it into a useful substance. The diesel we produce is less harmful to the environment by about 90% when compared to natural diesel.” Furthermore, the recycled oil is of good quality and automobiles using it emit less fumes while able to travel greater distances.

Gharaba states that his factory has been examined to ensure the produced oil is fit for use in automobiles that run on diesel. Gharaba and his brothers aspire to expand their production capacity of biodiesel from 5,000 to 30,000 liters per day. He states that the rate of biodiesel consumption is exponentially climbing and therefore gas stations are increasingly demanding extra quantities.

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:

  1. Influencing corporate decisions across all our funds
  2. Screening out companies via ELCA social purpose funds
  3. Making positive investments via ELCA social purpose funds
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