Spotlight on Amalgamated Bank
Some 10,000 people thronged Manhattan’s Union Square on April 14, 1923, to celebrate the opening of a new kind of bank, founded by a national labor union and based on a bold ideal: to put quality banking within the reach of American workers while advancing the goals of the labor movement.
In the decades since, Amalgamated Bank has embraced and broadened its role as “America’s socially responsible bank.” The first union-led bank in New York State, Amalgamated was also the first bank in the US to raise its minimum wage to $20/hour and the first to endorse the United Nation’s Principles for Responsible Banking. In the earliest days of the coronavirus pandemic, the bank launched a Frontline Workers Fund to provide personal protective equipment and access to testing for frontline healthcare workers and to ensure that workers who had lost their jobs had access to health benefits and childcare.
Amalgamated’s mission, as laid out on its website, is “to provide banking that furthers economic, social and environmental justice.” Climate change “is a real threat to our planet and must be addressed with bold solutions directed by those on the frontlines.” The company is 100% carbon neutral in its operations, has committed to $700 million in impact lending and does not lend to fossil fuel companies.
But in 2020, the bank determined that its mission, however forward-looking, was incomplete and added the words “racial justice.”
The message, said President & CEO Keith Mestrich, was clear: “We are committed to doing the critical work to dismantle bias in our internal culture, and deploy our financial resources and corporate voice towards building a more just world.”
Amalgamated took several immediate action steps, including the formation of employee-led task force to review existing internal culture and policies and provide best-practice recommendations on how to address racial equity within the organization.
Those steps are a good start, Mestrich said, but he acknowledged that “they don’t fully meet the challenges that our country and company face in this moment.” Looking ahead, Amalgamated will provide anti-racism training for all employees; formally address racial inequities within the organization around recruitment, wages, executive management and board composition; and create an investment fund supporting organizations and companies led by and serving People and Communities of Color.
“We will invest in expanding our impact measurement to include racial equity issues,” Mestrich said. “This will be part of an overall effort to create new ESG investment alternatives for our clients.”
On that cloudy spring day in Union Square nearly a century ago, union president Sidney Hillman told the crowd, “For us members of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, this bank will give an opportunity to become masters of our own life.” Today, Amalgamated Bank continues to honor that commitment as part of a larger and more compelling purpose—to create a society in which all people are masters of their lives.
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About Brand Acts of Kindness®
Brand Acts of Kindness® is a series from Carpenter Group that spotlights companies across industries that are living their brand values in addressing the unprecedented challenges facing the world today.
The series initially headlined companies assisting healthcare workers and first responders, as well as communities, businesses and families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We also highlight brands taking the lead in supporting social and racial justice, LGBTQ rights, sustainability and the environment. Their stories show how innovation, resolve and action, built on a solid value proposition, can both strengthen a brand and help create a better world.
About Carpenter Group
Carpenter Group is an independent, woman-owned strategic branding, messaging and marketing communications firm that has delivered results-driven solutions to financial, professional services and technology firms for 30+ years.
Our broad cross-discipline experience enables us to craft brand messaging and carry it through to the channels that most effectively connect with our clients’ target audience, from editorial content to advertising to event marketing and more.