Communities across the country are increasingly managing issues that can stretch, and sometimes overwhelm, their available resources. The health crisis underscored this when, as millions of people lost their jobs, demands at food banks skyrocketed and community health clinics and local hospitals became frontline triage centers. These events also amplified disparities in health care access, employment and economic opportunity for communities of color — issues that have persisted for generations.
For local communities to thrive, especially those with vulnerable populations, more affordable housing is needed, greater access to health care must be provided, pathways to education must be made available, and resources to support local entrepreneurs increased. Faced with urgent needs in the communities where they operate, the private sector is increasingly moving to find ways to support community needs as part of day-to-day operations, driven by the knowledge that businesses can only be successful if the communities they serve are also successful. Businesses, which rely on healthy communities for their own prosperity, must play a big part in driving solutions.
Finding new ways to provide help local communities need
Financial services companies are innovating new approaches to mobilizing capital and providing support for challenges ranging from the lack of affordable housing to too few opportunities for career development, all while supporting business goals. It’s an approach that reflects a growing recognition that the values of any company should include looking out for everyone’s needs, not just those of shareholders.
Through sustainable financing efforts, Bank of America is working on multiple fronts to closely tie the long-term sustainability of the communities it operates in to its global business strategy. Businesses from a diverse range of sectors have recently stepped up efforts to meet local needs. For example, as rising home prices become out of reach for local residents, technology companies are investing in affordable housing. Additionally, skills training and wellness programs are increasingly included in benefits as employers become more attuned to the challenges their employees face in rapidly changing local economies. And while there is an altruistic element to these efforts, the private sector is increasingly aware that the health of the communities they serve impacts the health of the businesses that serve them.
For its part, Bank of America recently:
- Committed $1.5 trillion through 2030 to sustainable environmental and social business efforts
- Tripled its commitment to fund affordable housing projects to $15 billion through 2025
- Provided a record $6.6 billion in financing for affordable housing and economic development in 2021, resulting in more than 13,000 housing units for individuals, families, seniors, veterans, those with special needs and the formerly homeless
- Made a commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity in local communities, with capital for jobs initiatives, housing support and health care, more than $350 million focused on minority entrepreneurs, and $50 million in investments in minority deposit institutions (MDIs) and community development financial institutions (CDFIs)
- Continued to be the largest private investor in CDFIs with a portfolio of loans, deposits and investments now exceeding $2 billion, including approximately $100 million in deposits to MDIs
Since 2013, Bank of America has issued $11.85 billion across nine green, social and sustainability bonds — five green bonds, two social bonds, and two sustainability bonds — which focus on areas such as clean energy, energy efficiency, affordable housing and community development and the global coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, Bank of America co-authored the original Green Bond Principles, a voluntary set of guidelines and standards meant to bring integrity to this market where proceeds help to finance environmental projects. Bank of America has also been a member of the executive committee of the industry group that provides guidance on ESG-themed bond issuances since its inception.
Sharing success by providing opportunity
Another way companies work to support healthier, sustainable communities involves coordination with local and national nonprofits to provide opportunities for job training, career pathways and more. At Bank of America, this includes:
- $370 million in philanthropic investments to drive economic mobility in communities across the country, including more than $94 million in support of workforce development/jobs, $87 million for community development/affordable housing and more than $81 million for basic needs, including nearly $5 million for natural disasters and humanitarian efforts
- More than $265 million over the past 16 years through the Neighborhood Builders program, which aims to create more sustainable communities by providing nonprofits with flexible funding and help with leadership training and strategic planning
- Partnerships with 21 higher education institutions and major employers to enhance upskilling and reskilling for Black and Hispanic-Latino students
- Expanded opportunities for 100,000 women entrepreneurs at the Bank of America Institute for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Cornell
As communities continue to contend with a variety of challenges affecting their neighborhoods, the ability for local and national governments, nonprofits and the private sector to work in concert to provide solutions will become more critical. From scaling the capital needed, to supporting long-term career pathways, to helping provide health care or food security, Bank of America continues to deepen its commitment to ensuring that local communities across the country have the resources they need.