Looking for social justice in the most unlikely places

In a world where you can be anything, be kind.
Eastern Bank, #joinusforgood, posted with permission.

by Kathie MM

Big banks (the ones that claim to be too big to fail) are a big—very, very big cause for concern. The charges directed at them:

  • They reap profits by exploiting (not educating, not rehabilitating, not treating) men and women languishing in for-profit prisons, victims of the slow wheels of injustice that grind people up because they’re poor, powerless, and/or black/Hispanic/immigrant.
  • They rob the poor to pay the rich by swiping millions from welfare recipients and by financing predatory payday lending.                                                            
  • they contribute to environmental destruction by investing billions in fossil fuels.

But today I want to throw a little salt on the flames by talking about different type of bank—a bank that tries to put its money and talents where its mouth is—supporting progressive agendas.

I am referring to Eastern Bank, the bank that handles the Engaging Peace account.

On average, since 1999, the bank has donated 10% of its net income to local charities, for a total of over 100 million.

This includes 7 million to nonprofits in 2016.  Their 2017 Targeted Grant opportunity focuses on immigrants.

Quoting MA Congressman Joe Kennedy, they say, ““A great nation does not wall itself in.  A confident nation does not close its door to the people that need her protection most.  A tolerant nation does not target children who have only known her streets or retaliate against communities that protect their neighbors.  And a nation built on the sweat and sacrifice of generations of immigrant families does not take that patriotism for granted.”

In keeping with their social justice orientation, Eastern Bank has regularly received awards for its success as one of the “Best Places to Work for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality” and has been recognized as a “Leader in Diversity” for its workforce diversity initiative.”

Eastern Bank, it seems, is amodel for what a bank can do when its leaders actually want to make the world a better place.  What a revolutionary idea!













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5 Responses to Looking for social justice in the most unlikely places

  1. LB says:

    Unfortunately, and in spite of Eastern Bank’s contributions, their financial ‘success’ is dependent upon a neoliberal corporate capitalist model based on ‘progress’ and profit. Earlier this year, Eastern Bank joined the “Ceres Company Network”, an organization claiming to promote sustainable forms of corporate capitalism:


    “Who is Ceres? Ceres is the 21st century puppeteers of Wall Street who, most recently, are pulling the strings behind the 350.org divestment campaign. Ceres represents the very heart of the nexus: millionaire liberals, their foundations, the “activists” they manage, and most importantly, where the plutocrats invest their personal wealth and that of their foundations. [“As a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, Ceres relies on support from foundations, individuals and other funders to achieve our mission to integrate sustainability into day-to-day business practices for the health of the planet and its people.” (Source: Ceres 2010 Annual Report)”

    ” . . . it matters little whether or not the money is moved from direct investments in fossil fuel corporations to so-called “socially responsible investments.” The fact of the matter is, all corporations on the planet (thus, all investments on the planet) do and will continue to require massive amounts of energies (including fossil fuels) to continue to grow and expand ad infinitum – as required by the industrialized capitalist economic system.”


    One of the paradoxes of our system is that many of the charitable organizations providing support to those in need receive funding from corporations and organizations within “the non-profit industrial complex” ~ which both directly and indirectly contributes to the exploitation and oppression of many of the communities and causes they claim to serve. I’ve seen how this dynamic works within my own community as well.

    Another thing to consider is that Eastern Bank is globally invested, which means it almost surely profits off the labor and resources of oppressed and exploited people living and laboring under deplorable conditions. That’s how large scale capitalism (and investment) generally works.

    Since I don’t keep my money under a mattress, I’m complicit too. Aware and conflicted, but still complicit.

    • kathiemm says:

      Thanks for another very informative comment, LB. It seems to be becoming increasingly difficult in the “developed” world to avoid complicity–except perhaps for the very few who manage to live off the grid.

  2. LB says:

    The first step is awareness. Then choice, *if* we’re in a position to choose. I don’t know why I was born in this particular time and place, only that I choose not to indulge or promote the illusion.

    I don’t remember if I shared this story before or not, but a while back a homeless man in a nearby neighborhood passed away. In response, the people who’d known him began leaving small remembrances beside the strip of park where he’d slept. One of the messages read, “The fewer possessions, the closer to real.”

    Those words have haunted me ever since.

    We can live off the grid and still support our capitalist system, still feed the monster that’s devouring us ~ to some extent.

  3. Dot Walsh says:

    Unless we want to live somewhere on a mountain or in the desert and pay no taxes and live simple solitary lives. there are some choices we have to make. My husband and I have no money in the stock market although he has a CD in our community bank. I have nothing as I worked for a non profit and received nothing when I left. I have no regrets as my life has been a wonderful journey of joy and adventure. I do receive social security as does my husband and we have income from a rental property. This is enough for us. I do have a little bit of cash in a closet and we pay our bills off monthly. I feel very grateful for all that we have and I am not in the least bit envious of those that have more. We have healthy children and grandchildren and we are healthy ourselves. I have found Eastern Bank to be the lesser of the evil banks and I appreciate their help when asked for. I refuse to look only at the darkness but rather I choose the light. What I know is that we all have choices and that is the great gift of life!

  4. LB says:

    Dot ~ We all make certain practical compromises in order to survive (or thrive). It’s the way our system is set up. And like you, I don’t begrudge anyone their good fortune.

    If you’re happy with Eastern Bank, I understand that too. My point was about the danger in painting any corporate capitalist entity as being an instrument of social, economic or environment justice. It’s good to remember Eastern Bank is still a bank, with profit as its main and overriding goal.

    Something I didn’t mention in my original comment (it seemed redundant considering the nature of capitalism), was how as recently as last year, Eastern Bank ‘partnered’ with IPI, a Texas firm accused of using aggressive sales techniques to sell inappropriate financial products to Eastern Bank’s vulnerable elderly customers. The following is an excerpt from the formal complaint:

    “IPI’s business model is predicated on partnering with community banks so that the bank’s existing depository customers can be used to provide revenue to IPI and additional revenue to the bank. Networking agreements between IPI and their bank partners reveal a referral program where bank employees refer bank customers to IPI representatives for monetary incentives. In exchange for allowing IPI representatives convenient access to bank customers, IPI’ s bank partners receive “rent” which is a percentage of the sales that IPI representatives earn from selling products at bank branches. While IPI and their bank partners profit from their networking arrangements, the pervasive sales culture emphasizing and rewarding the volume of production at the expense of compliance with policies and procedures, suitability, and oversight means that certain senior citizen bank customers have been harmed.”


    More here: https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2016/11/15/texas-firm-that-worked-with-mass-banks-had-aggressive-sales-tactics/lB0jZhSpdu9oEG97PJzdGM/story.html

    Some of their branches don’t receive very positive Yelp reviews either.

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