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June 29, 2021

Elevating Racial Equity to Expand Economic Opportunity

CEI’s Statement on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

CEI is gaining a deeper understanding of how structural bias, racism, power and privilege impact all aspects of our work. As an organization with roots in the civil rights movement, we are committed to creating a more just, inclusive and sustainable economy. Acknowledging and actively fighting racism and injustice helps create the level ground and collective effort we need to build a more equitable future that benefits everyone.

As a community development financial institution, CEI believes that expanding economic opportunity for more people creates more opportunity for all. Our role as a business lender, investor, advisor and advocate requires us to recognize and dismantle the barriers and biases in the financial system that have caused deep racial disparities in wealth, housing, health, education, employment and representation since European colonists arrived in North America.

CEI is also examining and changing our own policies and practices to engage more fully with our Black and Indigenous community members and community members of color. That means understanding how our lending and investment processes, risk management and marketing and outreach may have prevented individuals or groups from seeking CEI financing or advice.

CEI staff members are united in our mission to create good jobs, environmentally sustainable enterprises and, more broadly, shared prosperity. Advancing our mission means deepening our relationship with people and communities that have been overlooked, underinvested, underestimated and underserved due to racism and bias.

Here are specific ways we are taking action now:

• Making improvements to our current lending and business advising practices and developing complementary new ones, including a collateral pool that extends our lending to more borrowers who have lower wealth and assets
• Launching a new Women’s Business Center in Southern Maine to grow relationships and programs for women, especially Black and Indigenous women, women of color, people who identify as LGBTQ+, and women who immigrated to the US from other countries
• Expanding business assistance and financing for diverse business owners through Wells Fargo’s Diverse Community Capital program
• Working closely with women of color, including those who immigrated to Lewiston from Somalia, Rwanda and Burundi, to open culturally supportive child care programs through our Child Care Business Lab

• Embedding equity into our strategic plan for the next five years
• Changing how we hire and retain colleagues to ensure that our practices are welcoming and supportive of diverse community members and that our organization has the diverse perspectives and talents needed to expand economic opportunity
• Implementing diversity, equity and inclusion communications practices
• Engaging in an organization-wide diversity, equity and inclusion inquiry and learning process
• Providing time for our colleagues to vote on Election Days

• Serving as a member of Maine’s Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous and Tribal Populations
• Building on our experience as a community development practitioner, advocating for policies that support the economic well- being of people who are not well served by traditional financial institutions
• Serving on the Diversity Hiring Coalition of Maine

In solidarity,


Click to read our previous statement on racial justice.

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