Beyond ‘Ethical’ Financial Services: Developing a Seal of Excellence for Poverty Outreach and Transformation in Microfinance

The goal of the proposed Seal of Excellence for Poverty Outreach and Transformation in Microfinance is a microfinance sector that is responsible, genuinely inclusive (including the poor, the bottom 30-40% of the population) and contributing to positive change. The Seal would add value to existing initiatives in social performance by supporting recognition of MFIs which combine financial sustainability and responsible practices with, in the first place, significant poverty outreach and secondly a strategic approach to poverty reduction and transformation. This Seal of Excellence would be for MFIs, investors and other funders whose mission is for financial inclusion that includes the poor, and the delivery of financial and supporting services that effectively contribute to poverty reduction and transformation. This draft concept document sets out the rationale for the Seal, reviews related experiences in developing certifications in other fields (such as NGOs, fair trade, impact investing, sustainable agriculture), profiles other initiatives around financial and social performance in microfinance, shows what this Seal adds and how it fits, and maps out a process for taking this initiative forward. The idea of this Seal in microfinance is to set a vision for the sector in terms which highlight the potential of microfinance to serve the poor and to contribute to positive transformation in the lives of clients, their families and communities; and to provide a means of recognizing MFIs that are implementing this vision.

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