Ecotrust Canada’s coastal loan fund
In partnership with its US affiliates, Ecotrust and ShoreBank, Ecotrust Canada launched a Coastal Loan Fund (CLF) that sought to move beyond mere rhetoric about sustainable or triple-bottom-line development, and get about the business of actually doing it. The CLF aimed to direct capital and technical resources to the task of diversifying coastal economies away from their dependency on industrial-scale resource development, including supporting new Aboriginal enterprises arising from affirmation of Aboriginal title and rights. Given that there was no significant tradition of development lending in Canada at the time, which meant no legislation or capital market to support it, and – it must be said – no real appreciation at Ecotrust Canada about the complexity of the task, this was ground-breaking work.
The underlying purpose of Ecotrust Canada’s mission was and still is to build a conservation economy — to balance the interests of wealth generation, environmental health and social/cultural equity. Integral to fulfilling that mission is the hard work of providing proof of possibility that there are viable alternatives to traditional, ‘single E’ economic development — alternatives that improve rather than degrade ecologies and communities while still achieving financial success. Not all of Eco- trust Canada’s work has been centred on business lending – far from it – and we never had any illusion that a loan fund was the only thing required to make the transition to a conservation economy. But the CLF was an important, early-stage declaration of intent that Ecotrust Canada was serious about social change, and that brokering in technical expertise and new forms of capital to support triple-E economic development was a unique contribution that we could make in B.C.