During the lifespan of the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), Triodos Bank UK expects to have completed in excess of £40m of lending to a wide range of businesses and organisations through the initiative. Gwyn Rhodes, head of business banking, reflects on how this lending has made a difference not only to these organisations, but also to wider society. 

Gwyn Rhodes

Many of us will never forget those days and weeks in early 2020 when the true scale of the coronavirus pandemic started to hit. Enabling businesses and organisations to survive through the unprecedented lockdown measures put in place became an important focus.

In May 2020, Triodos joined the government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS). The scheme was one of the initiatives backed by government guarantee, designed to enable lenders such as Triodos to provide financial support to smaller businesses across the UK that were losing revenue, and seeing their cashflow disrupted, as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.

While Triodos had been proactively engaged with customers to support them since the onset of the pandemic – which included offering capital repayment holidays and helping customers to restructure borrowing – CBILS allowed us an opportunity to support both new and existing purpose-led customers. The Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFI) that we support, with their strong regional presence and readied government accreditations, were also able to quickly flex their offerings to make loans available through CBILS, before we became accredited ourselves.  

A key role of our relationship managers is to understand each customer’s unique situation and provide them with the support they need in times of difficulty, and we’re proud to have been able to do that both within, and independently of, the CBILS scheme. Through the scheme, we’ve supported a wide range of organisations to weather the storm, from cultural venues like Riverside Studios in London, drivers of the electric vehicle revolution such as Ember in Scotland and innovative new businesses like EcoMove in Bristol. You can read more about the individual impact below.

CBILS support has enabled many organisations to continue with their mission and impact – whether that is helping to decarbonise the economy or providing a safe space for the local community. It’s been a tough time for all, but there is a huge amount to be gained by helping those that are taking steps to tackle the issues around climate and equality, which have been made more noticeable through the pandemic. Indeed, a number of reports have suggested that a focus on green and social care sectors will help to tackle job losses caused by Covid-19, which aligns perfectly with our mission as a bank to lend for positive social and environmental change.

Whilst CBILS closed to new loan applications at the end of March, the government has recently launched the replacement Recovery Loan Scheme (RLS), which Triodos is also a part of. We hope to be able to support even more organisations that are working for positive change through the RLS.

We’ve always known that the organisations we finance create new ideas and genuine, long-lasting impact, and if we are looking to ‘build back better’ then ensuring their work can continue is more important than ever.

Find out more about some of our impactful CBILS customers

Riverside Studios is an iconic venue on the banks of the River Thames, committed to presenting high-quality arts that are accessible to all. It has been hugely impacted by closures throughout the pandemic, with additional lending from Triodos supporting its working capital. Looking to the future, Rachel Tackley, creative director , says: “We will open up the building to the community following months of virtual and distanced participation. We can't wait to welcome our neighbours inside encouraging them to connect with each other, and to learn through play and creativity.”

We also supported a number of other cultural organisations to adapt during the pandemic, and you can read more about this here.

Start-up business Ember launched the first inter-city electric coach service at the height of the pandemic. “Working with Ember really embodies why we became accredited with CBILS,” comments Philip Bazin, environment team manager at Triodos Bank UK. “We knew that we were well placed to offer finance to values-based organisations that had been affected by Covid-19 and the scheme provided us with an opportunity to work with new impactful customers, who may have never crossed our path previously.”

Further work to decarbonise transport is being fuelled by EcoMove, which is aiming to support commuters to travel on electric mopeds, bikes and scooters. While EcoMove has been well placed to benefit from an increase in commuters looking for solo travel options during lockdown, it has also been adversely affected by Covid-19. The pandemic delayed the opening of the Bristol store and it has seen a reduced footfall of customers due to lockdown restrictions.

The responsible tourism industry – which supports many jobs and local economies around the country – took an enormous hit during the various lockdowns. Triodos supports a number of green tourism businesses, which apply a sustainable outlook throughout all of their work. The Flodigarry Hotel on the Isle of Skye is just one example of the many accommodation providers supported, which are hoping to be able to welcome visitors back in the near future.

Triodos Bank has financed four accredited CDFIs: Social Investment Scotland, BCRS Business Loans, Finance for Enterprise and SWIG Finance. In total, as of March 2021, CDFIs have lent over £70 million to 745 SMEs through CBILS nationally. This investment has helped protect and create thousands of jobs while supporting the social and economic wellbeing of communities. Find out more about how they are investing in local communities and how the partnership with Triodos works.

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Interested in Triodos Bank's impact through lending?

You can find out about the extraordinary work of the sustainable companies we finance, our key financial and impact performance, as well as a summary of Triodos Bank’s activities in the UK during 2020 in our online Annual Report.

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