Good morning everyone! Today is a very exciting day as later this afternoon I am going live on Instagram with Christine Bergeron, President and Chief Executive Officer of Vancity, Canada’s largest credit union. But more than Vancity’s CEO, she is an amazing mama to two beautiful kiddos, a wife, a seriously kick-ass businesswoman (she was a previous Top 40 under 40 winner, the 2021 most influential business leader, and 2022 Influential Women in Business Award Winner), and has a passion for education, democracy, social trends, and empowering others. Today, she is taking over the blog to share more about sustainable banking, and by simply changing where you bank can have a big impact on your local and surrounding communities.
Take it away, Christine!
We all want to make the world better — for ourselves, our families, friends, and future generations. As a mother, I want to make sure my kids have a safe, inclusive, and sustainable place to grow up. But when it comes to systemic issues, sometimes “doing your part” doesn’t feel like nearly enough.
The climate crisis is just one example: we know that drastic emissions cuts are required for a sustainable future, but quite often, making sustainable choices at the individual level doesn’t seem to make a dent in this problem. On top of that, climate change disproportionately affects those who’ve had the least responsibility in causing it, and those who are less equipped to adapt and recover from its impact.
Knowing all of this can sometimes make us lose hope in our own daily efforts toward environmental sustainability. Suddenly, remembering to bring our own reusable mugs to the coffee shop feels like a drop in the ocean of climate action. So, where protecting the planet is concerned, is it possible for individuals to make a change that’s actually measurable and meaningful?
For those of you who can and already take steps to contribute — whether it’s by biking to work, bringing reusable grocery bags to the store, buying local products, or getting involved in your community — making a significant difference toward a clean and fair world may be simpler than you’d think.
As CEO of Vancity, Canada’s largest credit union and one that does not invest in fossil fuels, I’ve seen firsthand just how impactful an individual’s contribution can be when shared with and amplified by an organization or entire community. Even just a small adjustment, like changing where you bank, can help make the world better.
What it means to bank sustainably
What does “banking sustainably” mean to you?
We often talk about sustainable spending, like donating to your favourite environmental cause, visiting your local farmer’s market, or buying a set of metal drinking straws. These are all valid and helpful choices, but the concept of “banking sustainably” goes one step further than spending: where does your money go when you take it to the bank — whether you’re making a deposit, funding your mortgage, or investing your money?
Every time you put money in a bank account, you’re giving decision-making power to that bank. That means, even if you do your best to be sustainable in your everyday life, your bank might still invest in fossil fuels. They can use your deposits to advocate for that cause, instead of the ones that matter most to you, like lifting up women entrepreneurs, supporting local communities, or funding climate action.
So, while you’re making decisions to try to make the world a better place, remember that one of the best things you can do is show up with your money. After all, your money talks: it might as well be talking about and supporting things you care about.
How we’re making change
Organizations like ours care about putting your money where your values are and using the tools of finance to make the world better. We believe the strength of our people and planet are what wealth and profit are all about.
That’s why, instead of sharing our profits with overseas investors, we give 30% of our annual net income back to our members and communities. For 2021, that payout totaled $31.9 million, with 50% going towards organizations that help strengthen social justice, financial inclusion, and environmental sustainability in our communities like MAMAS for Mamas Vancouver, Orange Shirt Society, Black Business Association of BC and City Green Solutions.
As you move through your everyday life, I hope you feel empowered by the knowledge that every act of sustainability matters, from remembering your reusable grocery bags to choosing where you bank. We’re also so fortunate to have access to inspiring online personalities like Jillian Harris who use their platforms to encourage environmental sustainability; I know I’ve taken plenty of tips from her over the years.
With that in mind, I encourage you to think about where your money goes when you’re not using it, and how a more sustainable banking strategy might be possible for you. Remember that every deposit you make, big or small, is an investment in our future. Even the smallest individual contribution can make a big difference in protecting the planet. And with every dollar, you can help us move toward a clean and fair world for all.
Together, we are a financial force for change.
– Christine Bergeron
Learn more about Vancity and our ambassadors, HERE.