The writers and editors at CreditUnions.com are always on the lookout for ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle. In fact, it’s sort of a motto around the office to never let a good credit union idea go to waste. That’s why the site strives to offer actionable best practices every week.
This week, in honor of Earth Day, readers can look back on five popular pieces from years past that offer ways to go green today, tomorrow, and forever.
A Credit Union Pact For Global Impact
In 2015, United Nations FCU ($7.5B, Long Island City, NY) set eight goals to achieve in the next five years that would make its operations more sustainable. It achieved seven of them.
During this time, UNFCU hosted a Sustainability Summit at the UN headquarters in New York. The one-day credit union conference offered expert presentations, conversation, and success sharing.
“We didn’t think that was going to spawn anything other than an annual conference,” Kurian says. “But the credit unions who attended were engaged and wanted to know what was next.”
Continued conversation and idea sharing quickly formalized into the United in Sustainability Credit Union Network. According to Kurian, who is one of the network’s main facilitators, the group includes 60 credit union members across North America.
“Our initiative is to move the industry to adopt sustainability writ large,” Kurian says. “We want to leverage the movement’s competitive advantage, which is a community of people who are committed to helping people.”
To that end, the cooperative has set 12 new goals — half aimed internally, the other half geared to grow sustainability within the credit union movement.
Learn more in “Sustainability Spurs Industrywide Action At UNFCU.”
Save Energy … And Members’ Money
The average low temperature in Vermont in January hovers around a frosty 10 degrees. The average annual snowfall exceeds 90 inches. With a chill like that, energy efficiency isn’t just a nice idea — it’s a matter of survival.
That’s why VSECU (Vermont State Employees Credit Union, $1.1B, Montpelier, VT) began offering energy efficiency loans to members more than 15 years ago. It didn’t take long for demand to grow. The credit union’s green lending portfolio totaled $2.5 million within a decade and today has grown to $92 million. The program supports weatherization, solar arrays, home battery backups, green vehicles, and even electric bikes.
“VGreen loans are for anything that eliminates or reduces fossil fuel usage,” says Laurie Fielder, who became director of VSECU’s VGreen program in 2013. “Our products are designed to maximize these purchases, so they have discounted interest rates compared to our regular loan offerings and either extended terms or specialized terms to maximize the economic benefit.”
These energy efficiency loans plus zero-carbon goals, underwriting, and strategic partnerships are driving lending growth at VSECU. Learn more in “The Brave New World Of Green Lending.”
No Paper? No Problem.
In 2018, Generations Federal Credit Union ($691.3M, San Antonio, TX) resolved to digitize its personnel files by the end of 2019. The Texas credit union formalized an approach and fulfilled its goal four months ahead of plan.
In her role as the human resources manager at Generations FCU, Marissa Scheffler saw firsthand the volume of paper the department consumed — from active and historical personnel files to applicant packets, recommendations for new hires to requests for internal transfers.
“Everything we did was on a piece of paper,” Scheffler says. “It was everywhere.”
The credit union discussed digitizing its HR functions for nearly a decade before it converted its human resource information system (HRIS). Spurred by both the change in system and its new capabilities, the Lone Star State cooperative resolved in late 2018 that by the end of 2019 it would have fully digitized personnel files, the largest paper-consuming culprit.
Learn more in “New Year’s Resolution: Pitch The Paper In 2020.”
Let The Sun Shine
Maybe the name tells the story, but for nearly 15 years Suncoast Credit Union ($14.9B, Tampa, FL) has made a large investment in solar and sustainability.
From 2008, when the credit union launched its green initiatives, to 2017, Suncoast fitted 13 buildings with solar panels. Four of the 13 buildings are net-zero compliant, meaning they generate enough power on-site through solar panels and other renewable sources that they require no additional electricity.
Today, Suncoast saves hundreds of thousands of dollars every year on energy costs, but its green investments do more than save money, they support the credit union’s triple bottom line of business, community, and environment.
Learn more in “How This Credit Union Saves $300,000 Every Year.”
Put The Pedal … Well, To The Pedal
Verity Credit Union ($784.3M, Seattle, WA) has offered bicycle loans for quite some time but recommitted to its green initiatives after joining the Global Alliance for Banking on Values.
“We’re measuring how much of our assets are going to a triple bottom line — serving people, planet, and local prosperity,” says Tina Narron, chief lending officer for Verity Credit Union
Verity’s bicycle loan is part of a larger sustainable lending initiative that also includes solar and green auto loans. Bicycle loans, along with the credit union’s solar and green auto loan programs, support sustainability. And the trio all contribute to the credit union’s triple bottom line by helping Verity serve its members, create local prosperity, and nurture the planet.
Learn more in “5 Small Loans That Make A Big Difference.”
BONUS: 5 More Ideas
Right before the last financial crisis — remember, the one before the COVID crisis — the buzz was all about "going green." After the bottom fell out of the economy, everyone's focus shifted to "saving green."
But the two concepts are not mutually exclusive. In fact, a shift like this in the collective consciousness offers credit unions an opportunity not only to adopt more sustainable and responsible practices but also to expand their business to meet these changing consumer demands.
This piece is an older piece, but there’s still a long way to go in implementing even some of the easiest ideas spotlighted.
Learn more in “5 Ideas Your Credit Union Can Take To The Bank.”