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ShoreBank and EcoTrust label
Ecotrust, a Portland-based conservation organization, recently joined forces with Chicago-based Shorebank Corporation, the nation’s oldest community development banking institution. Their goal: to foster conservation-based development in the coastal temperate rain forest of the Pacific Northwest, focusing initially on Washington State’s Willapa Bay watershed.

While their partnership might seem unlikely, the two organizations agree on many basic principles: the importance of a mission, creating mechanisms to capture local innovation, restoring market and natural forces, targeting specific communities and ecosystems, and using comprehensive, system-based approaches.

The short-term goal of their partnership is to help individual businesses develop sound ways to manage their land, extract resources, and capture local value for communities. The long-term goal is, to borrow from Paul Hawken’s Ecology of Commerce, “to create a remarkably different economy, one that can restore ecosystems and protect the environment, while ringing forth innovation, prosperity, meaningful work, and true sensibility”.

Financing Sustainability
The vehicle for this conservation strategy is a permanent development institution, a bank holding company called shore-trust, the First Environmental Ban-corporation. The holding company will own or control a series of entities offering financing, technical assistance, marketing, and brokering services for entrepreneurs and businesses providing environmental benefits.

Lending and marketing assistance at ShoreTrust are guided by conservation-based development principles that encourage businesses to utilize and reduce waste, save energy. Add value locally, and enhance both human and biological productivity and diversity. Client businesses are expected to show how they will modify their businesses activities to become more environmentally and socially restorative. These plans become part of ShoreTrust’s loan-monitoring guidelines.

ShoreTrust is particularly interested in businesses that rely on a healthy, productive, and intact ecosystem for successful production. Oyster growers, for example, have been active guardians of water quality in Willapa Bay, because oysters are extremely sensitive to deteriorating water quality.

Harvesters of wild edible mushrooms are another example; the mushrooms grow in intact forests, s both recreational and commercial harvests provide economic incentive for maintaining diverse, mature forests. Helping businesses in these sectors strengthens the constituency for a healthy and intact ecosystem.

A second group of important businesses make use of waste products or under-utilized resources. These businesses provide tremendous opportunities because they not only produce revenues, they also reduce financial and ecological disposal costs.

One company, for example, uses wastes from fish-processing plants to produce a variety of products, including organic fertilizers and fish meal. The fertilizer is sold to cranberry growers to replace imported chemical fertilizers, keeping money in the community as well as reducing chemical runoff into the bay.

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