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The election to Exxon’s board of three activist directors who are focused on environmental sustainability was an eye-opener for many corporate C-suite executives. This may not seem immediately relevant for credit unions, which are owned by members who elect their organizations’ volunteer boards. Yet, the same dynamic that is playing out on the corporate landscape applies to credit unions as well. There is a heightened level of awareness of ESG (environmental, social and governance) issues among customers, employees and investors. Members increasingly want attention drawn to these factors in the organizations they associate with. And it’s important to note that people are willing to change their financial relationships based on these factors.

A credit union’s structure, in which the members are both the customers and the owners, makes paying attention to ESG even more relevant. And the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the pace and focus of ESG – a recent report from the IBM Institute for Business Value found that 93% of respondents said the pandemic affected their views on the need for environmental sustainability. In addition, this global survey of 14,000 adults in the U.S. and other countries with some of the largest economies also found that people are willing to pay to preserve the planet for future generations. Also, a Pew Research study found environmental concerns are at a new high in America, with it almost matching the economy as a top priority. These data trends reflect new ways of thinking among consumers concerning how they define the relationships they want to have with the people they do business with.

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