The GLS Bank (full name GLS Gemeinschaftsbank eG) is a German ethical bank that was founded in 1974 as an anthroposophical initiative by Wilhelm Ernst Barkhoff and Gisela Reuther. It was the first bank in Germany that operated with an ethical philosophy. According to GLS Bank, its focus is on cultural, social and ecological initiatives, initiated by people, and not anonymous interests seeking capital or maximum profit. The name stands for Gemeinschaftsbank für Leihen und Schenken which translates as Community bank for loans and gifts. With the main focus on cultural, social and environmental ventures, GLS tries to deal with challenges in the society by developing creative solutions.
The bank is based in Bochum, Germany and is a co-operative. As of November 2006, the bank's total balance was EUR 645 million. As of 31 December 2008 the balance sheet total was EUR 1,013 million, further rising to EUR 1,847 million as of 31 December 2010.
In 2010, the bank acquired over 18,000 new customers and in February 2011 GLS announced a growth of 37 per cent, the largest in the bank's history.