Greening the Bottom Line

Real numbers support the move toward sustainability.


It's not enough to end each year in the black. As members become more aware of environmental concerns, sustainability, and responsible consuming, credit unions face pressures to add another color to the bottom line: green.

Many large green initiatives require a significant start up investment, which poses a difficult, if not insurmountable, obstacle in these tough economic times. On the other hand, many smaller green opportunities seem too immaterial to have any kind of impact. In environments where cultural accounting takes a backseat to fiscal accounting, it is helpful to talk to the bean counters in terms they understand.

By the numbers . . .

1 Percentage of annual operational expense dollars recommended to begin a greening program. With proper planning, a credit union can incur these costs and earn repeatable annual savings with this initial investment. What kind of annual savings…

31 Percentage of heating and air conditioning costs one credit union saved after it installed a geothermal system

42 Percentage of energy cost and consumption savings that same credit union realized after installing an efficient lighting system.

5 Number of pennies to purchase a plastic bag in many retail stores across the United States

92 Percentage decrease in plastic bag consumption at IKEA stores one year after it started charging customers five cents for plastic bags. Instead of viewing the fee as a tax or burden, customers embraced it and thanked the store for its progressive stance. Imagine if credit unions could translate that to monthly statements!

99,000 Number of members in one $800M Pennsylvania credit union.

2,376,000 Pieces of paper used annually if that Pennsylvania credit union mailed a two-page monthly statement to each member (not including envelopes, flyers, etc.)

30,000 Cost in dollars to print a year's worth of statements at the Pennsylvania credit union.

285 Number of trees required to manufacture 2,376,000 pieces of paper

663 Pounds of paper the average American comes into contact in one year. *

66.3 Actual pounds of paper the average American preserves during one year. That's 10%, which is preserved mostly in the form of filed documents, photographs, books, and magazines. * A portion of the remaining 90% might get recycled, but a majority of it winds up in landfills.

The effect is neither insignificant nor immaterial. Not only do environmentally responsible initiatives send the right message to your members, but they also make a tangible difference in operating expenses.

 *"The Business of Being Green,", Dec. 1, 2009.