Is it time for credit unions to expand the concept of helping consumers live within their means to include green efforts?
"The ROI opportunities around sustainability include, among others, positive public relations, cost savings, talent acquisition and access to new markets. Corporate social responsibility can attract a cadre of dedicated, profitable members, while extending a positive halo around the entire credit union," said Filene Research Director Ben Rogers. "Credit unions are in danger of missing out on an important trend in consumer demand: the expectation that businesses should provide value both to the individual customer and to the broader community."
He added that sustainability is like any other initiative. It needs its own goals, its own champions, and its own resources if it is to be more than just another flavor of the month.
In a new Filene report, "Credit Union Social Responsibility: A Sustainability Road Map," author Coro Strandberg, a former chair of Vancity Credit Union, outlines how credit unions can tap into social responsibility. The report includes a 10-step plan and case studies to help credit unions determine how they can make sustainability improvements regardless of their starting point.
According to Strandberg, credit unions need to consider how best they can leverage their unique competencies as financial institutions to build their business and enhance
community and environmental welfare. They also need to look hard at the ways in which lending, deposit-taking and the other services they provide enhance or impede environmental and community progress.
"This is a critical time for credit unions to re-imagine their social contract with their employees, members and communities. Many are coming to discover the opportunity to use sustainability as a marketplace differentiator," said Strandberg.
Filene Research Institution Chief Innovation Officer Denise Gabel said the question of how credit unions can lead in sustainability helped spark two i3 team innovations: "The Leap," a Web-based tool that calculates and educates members on how to save money by making smart green choices, and the "Green Feat Rewards" program that motivates members to make socially responsible purchasing decisions.