Innovations

UN Sustainable Development Goal

11
Sustainable Cities and Communities

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  • Lindsey  Godwin
    Lindsey Godwin Vancity's work invites us all to 'redefine wealth'. Their approach illustrates what an "abundance economy" could look like in action, helping to create flourishing for all.
    January 18
  • Megan Buchter
    Megan Buchter This is a truly inspiring story about a financial institution that has embedded business as an agent of world benefit into their core business operations and beliefs. It is very inspiring the many ways in which they have helped their community!
    January 18
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Exemplar recognition

Values Based Banking

Date published: 18 Jan 2017
British Columbia, Canada     1 like   2

Overview

Vancity has always had Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) options for it’s members. Vancity incorporates financial analysis with environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors to positively screen for quality companies that demonstrate performance in seven key areas:

  • corporate governance and citizenship
  • environmental commitments
  • employee relations
  • diversity
  • community relations
  • human rights
  • sustainable products

In 2015, Vancity went further on their promise of investments that deliver ‘competitive financial returns’ AND ‘positive social returns’ by introducing a 100% SRI investment fund free of fossil fuels - oil, gas, and coal producing companies.

innovation photo

Innovation

Vancity's values of Integrity, Innovation, and Responsibility are more than just words - it walks the talk. Here are some of its recent innovations that demonstrate how Vancity lives these values, while making a positive difference for its employees, members, communities, and the environment.

Vancity was the first Canadian financial institution to offer socially responsible mutual funds. Its methodology incorporates financial analysis with environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors to positively screen for quality companies that demonstrate performance in seven key areas: corporate governance and citizenship, environmental commitments, employee relations, diversity, community relations, human rights, and sustainable products. In 2015, Vancity divested oil, gas or coal-producing companies from its Global Equity SRI Fund and now offers members an investment fund that is free of fossil fuels. "If companies are not aligned with our values, we don't want to do business with them", commented Jodh Dhaliwal.

In 2014, Vancity became one of the first mainstream financial institutions to launch an alternative to payday loans for its members. Its 'Fair & Fast Loan' reduces costs for borrowers and helps them break the cycle of debt. The loan helps individuals find a way to break the payday loan cycle and establish a better credit history to build a stronger financial future. To date, Vancity has issued more than 1,700 loans valued at more than $2 million. "These people are already poor, they don't have money. We have been able to coach them, develop them and bring them into regular banking channels so they can have more money in their pockets to support their families", said Jodh Dhaliwal.

In 2011, Vancity became the largest organization in Canada to adopt the Living Wage policy recognizing the social and economic benefits of paying employees and service providers a wage that meets their basic living needs. In 2013, it re-certified as Canada’s largest living wage employer and implemented the living wage through contracts with the majority of major suppliers. "Small businesses are the backbone of any economic growth. We are always thinking of ways we can support small businesses so they can pay a living wage to their employees. When a company is growing, it is growing because of its employees; their understanding, alignment, and commitment to the values and the vision of the organization", added Jodh Dhaliwal.

Overall impact

Vancity shares 30% of its net profits with members and communities. Since 1994, Vancity has distributed $287 million to members through dividends and to communities through grants and community investment initiatives. In 2013, Vancity's members’ deposits supported 10,500 financial literacy seminars; helped 5,000 access basic banking services, and build or repair their credit rating; funded 786 units of affordable housing and 887,363 sq.ft of green buildings.

"Our work has been recognized internationally. The Pope invited our CEO, Tamara Vrooman, to the a global conference two years ago to discuss inclusive economic models that put people first. She was the only one invited from Canada amongst the 30 invitees. This is a real acknowledgement of the good work we are doing. We are a local provincial company, if you think from that perspective, it really makes us feel proud."

"We want to do our business in a responsible way. We want to grow with the real economy. We want to grow with our members. This is not a regular job. We feel like we belong to the community, we are part of the community and we can make a difference."

Inspiration

Vancity is driven by it's vision to 'redefine wealth'. Vancity measures success in terms of the health and vitality of the community as a whole. Its website explains, "This requires us to think differently about wealth — to re-envision prosperity as something we can only achieve if we are surrounded by and connected to a vibrant, healthy community that is sustainable for the long term. Our vision calls on us to measure success in terms of how we contribute to the well-being of our members and their communities — not just financial well-being, but social and environmental well-being as well."

Jodh Dhaliwal adds, "We were one of the first financial institutions who allowed non-profit organizations to borrow money from us. We give them discounting pricing on rates and fees, we support them and donate money if they are worthy causes, making a difference in the world."

"Another challenge that inspired me was how we can lend money to people who do not qualify under the traditional lending guidelines, how do we make them homeowners? They are hard working, working in farms, they don't have the language skills, they don't understand the local culture, working 2 shifts or 3 shifts if they have to to make their ends meet, but they cannot own a home because they don't have regular jobs, they do not qualify. We were able to relax some lending criteria so they can be qualified. Vancity was the first one that introduced that, I felt very proud when we were able to."

Business benefit

Over the years, Vancity has received a number of awards for accomplishments as a result of their commitment to helping their employees, members, and their local communities thrive financially, socially, and environmentally.

Vancity was recently named Top Corporate Citizen on the 2016 Canada’s Best 50 Corporate Citizens in a report issued by Corporate Knights, which uses 12 sustainability metrics to identify Canadian companies who are strong advocates of clean capitalism. Vancity was ranked first in 2013 and second in both 2014 and 2015.

Vancity has also been recognized as Canada's Top 100 Employers 2016 (10th time since 2001), Canada's Top Family-Friendly Employers 2016 (6 years in a row), BC's Top Employers 2016 (11 years in a row) and Canada's Greenest Employers 2016 (9 years in a row) through the Canada's Top 100 Employers project. And Vancity ranked #2 on Forbes magazine's list of Canada's Best Employers in 2016.

Social and environmental benefit

Vancity offers many green products that support activities that reduce energy consumption and use cleaner energy. Its 'enviro Visa card' donates at least 5% of Visa profits to local environmental projects. Its 'Green Business Program' helps business and not-for-profit members make big or small changes to their operations that positively impact the environment and save them money. Its 'Home Energy Loan' rewards members for making their homes environmentally efficient. Its 'Clean Air Vehicle Loan' saves members money when they buy a vehicle with low CO2 emissions.

As part of its commitment to build members’ wealth and well-being, Vancity has developed a number of financial education initiatives for individuals, businesses, and organizations like the Aboriginal financial literacy, where a group of partners work directly with Aboriginal youth and adults on a series of financial literacy and support tools, and Each One, Teach One workshops to support community organizations working with newcomers, refugees, individuals facing barriers to financial services, and people living on low-incomes.

Vancouver has consistently ranked in the top as one of the most beautiful cities, but also one of the world’s most expensive ones. In Metro Vancouver, the average property now requires more than 48% of average household monthly income. And housing costs continue to rise, outpacing wages by a large margin. Since 2009, Vancity has funded investments of more than $350 million to support the development affordable housing stock in BC.

Vancity invests in Aboriginal community projects by working in partnership with Aboriginal not-for-profit and First Nation government organizations. Since 2011, Vancity has provided more than $4.2 million in grants and more than $60 million in financing to projects that have positive community impact and contribute to their economic strength.

Vancity has a long history of taking action against climate change, and was the first carbon neutral financial institution in North America in 2007. Since reducing energy use and emissions from their buildings, Vancity has generated more than $5.6 million in energy savings in its buildings.

Vancity invests in the food sector to help develop a sustainable local food system, which in turn contributes to a healthier environment, improved individual health and a more resilient local economy. Since 2010, Vancity has invested $32.4 million in local and organic food businesses and initiatives, comprising $28.8 million in loans and $3.6 million in grants.

Interview(s)

Jodh Dhaliwal, Director Indo-Canadian Affairs

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2 comments
  • Alec Simon likes this
  • Lindsey  Godwin
    Lindsey Godwin Vancity's work invites us all to 'redefine wealth'. Their approach illustrates what an "abundance economy" could look like in action, helping to create flourishing for all.
    January 18
  • Megan Buchter
    Megan Buchter This is a truly inspiring story about a financial institution that has embedded business as an agent of world benefit into their core business operations and beliefs. It is very inspiring the many ways in which they have helped their community!
    January 18