Did you know that the month of April was Earth Month? To celebrate, we wanted to highlight some of the Canadian credit unions who are demonstrating their commitment to promoting the wellbeing of the environment and their communities.
In recent years, environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors have become increasingly important for businesses and investors around the world. ESG is a framework for evaluating an institution’s performance and impact on society and the environment. This framework considers the policies, practices, and relationships with stakeholders, including clients, employees, suppliers, and the communities in which it operates.
As a community-based financial institution, credit unions have a unique opportunity to serve their members and communities in ways that align with ESG principles — particularly those regarding sustainability and the environment.
The environmental aspect of ESG focuses on a company’s impact on the natural world. This includes its use of natural resources, its carbon footprint and its efforts to mitigate climate change. Credit unions can play a significant role in promoting environmental sustainability through their community initiatives, investment decisions and day-to-day operations. Listed below are some Canadian credit unions who deserve celebration for their efforts to uphold ESG principles.
Assiniboine Credit Union (ACU) and their commitment to ESG and sustainability has been commemorated repeatedly. ACU has been recognized as one of Canada’s Greenest Employers numerous years in a row, is B Corp certified since 2020 and became Manitoba’s first carbon-neutral credit union in 2018.
ACU achieved these various statuses by enhancing energy efficiency in both new and pre-existing structures, utilizing alternative energy sources like geothermal and solar walls, changing from fluorescent lighting to LED, minimizing the number of printers, adopting 100% recyclable paper, as well as incorporating more paperless processes. Additionally, ACU measures their energy use and purchases carbon credits to offset their emissions.
For their employees, ACU provides motivation to commute to work sustainably. These incentives include discounted bus passes and amenities like showers and secure bike storage facilities at numerous locations.
As a leader in sustainability for Manitoba, ACU uses their grant programs to support environmental groups committed to finding solutions to climate change. An example of this includes their support for BizforClimate, an organization that is aiming to help businesses transition to a low-carbon economy.
Back in 2015, DUCA Credit Union (DUCA) became the first Canadian credit union to achieve B Corp Certification, a significant milestone in the financial industry’s social and environmental responsibility efforts. B Corp Certification is a globally recognized certification for companies that meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.
To broaden their contribution to the community and banking industry as a whole, the DUCA Impact Lab was founded in 2018. This registered charity strives for to everyone receive fair financial services. Outlined in their recent annual report, DUCA states their goal to increase community impact and ESG initiatives through the DUCA Impact Lab.
As part of this journey, DUCA intends on improving their environmental impact goals and measurements, and enhancing their Social Return on Investment (SROI) initiatives to establish a comprehensive framework that accurately assesses DUCA’s social and environmental impact.
Synergy Credit Union (Synergy) is involved in multiple sustainability and ESG initiatives, including the Credit Union Community Impact Committee. This committee is organized by the Canadian Credit Union Association (CCUA), and serves as a link between credit unions and the CCUA. As a member of the committee, Synergy is promoting national discussion about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and how it applies to credit unions.
Additionally, each of Synergy’s Wealth Advisors have received their Responsible Investment Specialist (RIS) designation, indicating their commitment to socially responsible investing. This can give Synergy members confidence that their investments are being managed with a focus on not only financial returns but also ESG impacts.
Synergy has also received the LEED Silver Certification for their Synergy Centre in Lloydminster. They have implemented various green initiatives such as installing high-efficiency systems, using LED lights, engaging in comprehensive building management and using environmentally responsible products. They also purchase office furniture made of recycled materials and redirect used furniture to local non-profits.
In hopes of improving efficiency, member experience and the environment, Conexus Credit Union also took measures to reduce paper consumption by promoting e-statements and other digital banking services. The switch has been extremely successful, as Conexus was ranked #1 at providing the best service experience among Canadian digital banking institutions for the third year in a row.
This recognition highlights the credit unions’ commitment to providing high-quality services to their members. As more people turn to digital banking, institutions like Conexus Credit Union will continue to play a crucial role in providing excellent customer experiences that are also beneficial for the environment.
Conexus has also been considerate of the environment when constructing and renovating their buildings. Their North Albert Branch had 115 solar panels installed on the roof, which are displacing over 20 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year. The headquarters building in Regina is also equipped for solar panel installation, includes a giant plant wall, and has uniquely designed windows that are bird-friendly.
Servus Credit Union (Servus)’s latest Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Report recognizes that taking care of the environmental health of their community also benefits the financial health of their institution. This mindset has Servus prioritizing energy efficiency, waste management and recycling and supporting local environmental initiatives.
Servus continued to implement energy-efficient measures such as switching to LED lighting, installing low flow faucets and toilets, replacing old appliances with high-efficiency models and enhancing building envelopes to reduce energy consumption.
By switching to electronic options wherever possible, Servus was able to reduce paper consumption. The paper and e-waste are recycled, while unwanted electronics equipment and beverage containers are donated to local charities and programs. Servus also participated in the City of Edmonton’s energy transition and climate adaptation workshops, and hosted a workshop on community-scale renewable energy generation.
Servus is a member of the Responsible Investing Association (RIA). The RIA is a Canadian organization that promotes responsible investing practices that integrate ESG factors into investment decisions. As a member of the organization, Servus offers designated Responsible Investing advisors to help their members leave a positive impact while generating financial returns.
Each of these contributions align with Servus Credit Union’s main goals which include aiming to reduce their environmental impacts.
The efforts of credit unions such as Assiniboine, DUCA, Synergy, Conexus and Servus deserve recognition as they strive to integrate ESG principles into their operations to leave a positive impact on society and the environment. As Canadians celebrate Earth Month, these credit unions set an example of what can be achieved when institutions prioritize the wellbeing of their members and the environment.