Triodos Bank: Impact funding for European cultural and creative industries

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Financing cultural industries requires specialist knowledge and genuine commitment, recognising the sector’s potential for positive social impact that transforms and develops people’s liberties and creativity.

This article is signed not only on behalf of myself, but of all the people who work for the cultural sector team at Triodos Bank. It may seem surprising for a bank to boast a team of experts in the cultural sector, as well as risk analysts who are solely focused on operations to fund it. Understanding how we arrived at this point requires learning about our business model as a leading European ethical bank founded 40 years ago. 

We were born as a financial institution that seeks social transformation by entrusting people and businesses with money in a conscientious and responsible manner. We only finance initiatives that focus on the real economy. Triodos believes the cultural sector is in line with this  approach. It is one of the three areas in which we work, because culture drives creativity and enhances individual and social liberties. As an ethical bank, we believe cultural projects set social transformation in motion. 

When an ethical bank’s funding works together with culture, high-value impact is achieved, not only for the purpose of economic indicators, but also because the joint forces promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth. Strengthening cultural industries contributes to an undeniable positive social impact and fosters real change in society. Cultural industries are a source of wealth for our countries not only because of their contribution to GDP, but also because they generate cultural capital, promoting social cohesion, connecting and inspiring us. 

The Triodos Group has financed culture since its inception, supporting artists from different artistic backgrounds. Our work in the sector gained further momentum in 2002, when several branches began to support larger artistic projects, understand their financial needs and create custom solutions. Since then, we have been building strong and lasting partnerships with initiatives focused on the film industry, the performing arts, music productions, museums and cultural centres, with the purpose of meeting their needs and helping them accomplish their goals. 

Analysing a project in the organic farming sector or for a retirement home  – initiatives that fall within the scope of our mission – is not the same as doing so for a movie or a theatre production, which require experience and specific expertise. The cultural sector is constantly evolving and developing new formats and ideas, prompting us to innovate continuously to adapt our financial resources to its pace and needs. There is a difference between the financial plan of a movie dependent on grants or local television contracts and an international co-production project with tax benefits and digital engagement platforms, with an increasingly decisive role in the audiovisual sector. 

As a European group, we have increased our funding to cultural industries from just €34 million in 2003 to €496 million in 2020. I am proud of that leap – an increase that has come chiefly thanks to our specialisation in each of the countries in which we operate, and to our adaptations to the requirements of one of society’s key sectors, an integral part of our daily lives. Never has this been more evident than throughout the current pandemic, especially during the long weeks of confinement, when we consumed more books, movies and documentaries than ever, toured museums online or found refuge in music to cope with uncertainty, confusion and fear. Sadly, a huge number of cultural industry businesses sustained severe financial losses amounting to millions due to business closures – in particular, those parts of the sector reliant on face-to-face performances, such as the performing arts, exhibitions, concerts and movie theatres.   

That is exactly why we have made a greater effort to fund a sector that has been particularly and severely affected, even to the point of business closures. Since the beginning of lockdown in Spain in March 2020, we have not ceased to work for companies and professionals in the sector. We adhered to the Covid-19 Liquidity Lines provided by the Official Credit Institute (OCI), to help improve cash flow in businesses affected by the crisis. We worked with Audiovisual SGR, a mutual guarantee society that specialises in Spain’s cultural sector, and with the government of Spain, to create an additional plan to increase cash flow for small and medium-sized businesses and self-employed workers in the sector. 

Cultural industries are a source of wealth not only because of their contribution to GDP, but also because they generate cultural capital, promoting social cohesion, connecting and inspiring us

Triodos funding to initiatives and projects in the cultural sector, as well as other sectors, brings positive social change, which we measure and publish in our annual report. In 2020, thanks to the €500 million provided to finance European cultural industry activities, we helped 8.4 million people enjoy cultural events, including film, theatre and museums, in the months leading to the pandemic. Our funding has also helped around 4,100 artists and creative businesses to remain active in the cultural sector – an increase of almost 14% compared to the previous year. This was mainly achieved with new loans in the Spanish market during the pandemic, through the funding of creative businesses whose theatre, dance and music productions were watched live or via streaming by 3.5 million people (2019: 1.7 million). New productions in film and other media sectors financed by Triodos Bank (mainly in Spain) were seen by more than 11 million people (2019: 9 million).

When deciding whether we will finance a project, our strategy and our mission as an ethical bank lead us to focus first and foremost on impact. We also consider an adequate balance between profitability and funding, and a moderate amount of risk. The final goal is to drive social and environmental change through the transformative power of money in projects that bring change to everyone. Such is the case in artistic and cultural initiatives, which are, and will always be, at the very heart of our endeavours.

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