Earth in green forest Source: Shutterstock

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 environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues among customers, employees and investors. People want attention drawn to these factors in the companies that they buy from, work for and invest in. They are willing to put their money where their mouths are when it comes to these critical factors.

A credit union’s structure, whereby the members are both the customers and the owners, makes paying attention to ESG even more important. Likewise, employees, who are more value-driven than ever, are also taking notice, and the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the pace of this. 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. Importantly, this global survey of 14,000 adults in the U.S. and countries having 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 a new high in America for environmental concerns, which almost match the economy as a top priority. The increasing frequency of destructive environmental events is making people prioritize the need to protect the environment over near-term expediencies like lower cost and convenience.

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