IAMCR launches endowment

IAMCR Newsletter | July 2015

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Nico Carpentier, IAMCR Treasurer

Early 2015, the IAMCR Executive Board (EB) decided to strategically invest some of the organisation's reserves in the creation of an endowment. In an endowment, the endowed asset is kept intact, and only the income of the asset is used. A fully developed endowment will allow IAMCR to become less reliant on membership fees, and to increase its income.

Our start is modest, with a first investment of 135.000 Euro. IAMCR's fund-raising committee is working hard to generate additional resources, which can (and should) also be used for enlarging the endowment.

Ideally, over 10 years, the endowment should reach a much higher amount to play this supportive role within IAMCR's financial structure.

Moreover, we should also keep in mind that these are not the best times for financial investments, as the interest rates are very low. To deal with this situation, the IAMCR investment was spread over time, at varying interest rates.

The particular moment to start the endowment was chosen for several reasons. First, some of the earlier investments (a so-called Stockmarket Linked Savings Account with HSBC) had matured and simply had to be reinvested. Also an improved procedure to transfer USD from our PayPal account to our Belgian bank account allowed us to reinvest some of these resources. Second, the long search for an ecological and ethical bank, that also offered the security of capital protection and an acceptable interest rate, finally came to fruition with the choice for the Belgian VDK Savings Bank. This search was particularly complicated, as ecological and ethical investments only very rarely combine capital protection and reasonable interest rates. Also some financial institutions were not interested, for instance, because IAMCR's official seat was not in a country (France) they served (Triodos), or because they don't like to work with NGOs (Deutsche Bank).

VDK Savings Bank turned out to be a good choice in these difficult circumstances. This bank was established in 1926 as part of the (Christian) labour movement. It uses a policy of zero-tolerance towards companies known for (serious) violations of human and labour rights, for corruption, for land-grabbing, for producing arms or military equipment, tobacco and porn, for organising gambling, and for using animal testing (unless legally imposed). In addition, VDK currently restricts their investments in nuclear energy and in energy companies that use coal, extract oil from tar or gas from non-conventional sources. The same restrictions apply to companies that work with fur and GMOs. This situation is not perfect, but VDK has committed itself to reducing this percentage further (see https://www.vdk.be/over-vdk/duurzaam-bankieren/policy - in Dutch).

External watchdogs, such as Fairfin have recently surveyed the Belgian banking landscape for its ethical/ecological respect (see http://bankwijzer.be/fr/scan-des-banques/accueil/ - in French), and VDK came out second. The financial institution that was ranked first, Triodos, was contacted by the EB, but declined the offer to work with IAMCR. VDK was then the best possible choice, and still one that in many respects translates IAMCR's ethical and ecological principles in practice, even if we have to keep in mind that - particularly in the contemporary configuration - perfect investments could not be found.

Still, the EB is very pleased that - with the creation of an endowment - significant steps towards more financial stability and ethical/ecological investments have been taken.

*"The EB also thanks the Environmental Impact Committee for their encouragement and support for this initiative."