CUs, service providers learn sustainability best practices at UNFCU Summit

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Attendees of the “United in Sustainability Summit” inside the U.N. Security Council Chamber.

United Nations FCU held their second annual United in Sustainability Summit in New York City last week. The event included discussions and real-world examples of environmentally responsible practices that credit unions are implementing to drive value, engagement and organizational growth.

The summit drew participants from throughout the New York region, including staff from the New York Credit Union Association, as well as attendees from as far away as Montana and Puerto Rico.

The session began with a networking breakfast and an overview of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals, commonly called SDGs. The U.N. considers the goals a blueprint for achieving a better and more sustainable future. They address many global challenges, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice.

Attendees then heard from several sustainability experts — including Satya S. Tripathi, U.N. assistant secretary-general and a member of the global steering committee for the U.N.’s Environment Programme Finance Initiative — who discussed processes and steps credit union leaders could take to implement sustainability practices at their institutions.

When considering a sustainability plan, UNFCU encouraged credit unions to take the following steps:

  • quantify the return-on-investment;
  • engage c-level executives;
  • consult with an expert;
  • recruit staff; and
  • inform members.

UNFCU staff also shared their internal goals with attendees, which include:

  • incorporating sustainability into strategic planning processes and core values;
  • producing an annual sustainability report;
  • achieving and maintaining carbon neutrality;
  • reducing paper use by 25%;
  • implementing sustainable travel guidelines;
  • developing and launching green products;
  • developing a sustainable purchasing strategy; and
  • reducing energy use by 7% in operationally controlled buildings.

Additionally, UNFCU is urging more credit unions, vendors and businesses to take steps to implement and report on sustainable practices. Among other things, UNFCU is encouraging credit unions to participate in the U.N. Global Compact, an initiative designed to encourage businesses around the world to voluntarily align their operations and strategies with sustainable and socially responsible policies and practices.

“It’s inspirational to see that since last year, more credit unions have joined the United in Sustainability Network,” said Pamela Agnone, senior vice president of Retail Services at UNFCU and the executive sponsor of the UNFCU Global Sustainability Program. “Feedback from the event and interest in learning more about sustainability underlines credit unions’ social purpose.  The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals have new champions at the local level.”

Notably, during the summit, Inclusiv announced the launch of the “Inclusiv Center for Resiliency and Affordable Renewable Energy.” The center is designed to build a network of credit unions committed to jointly designing and scaling solutions to climate change, with a goal of promoting affordable and sustainable energy for all people. Participating credit unions and partners will develop and share best practices in lending to consumers on energy efficient and clean energy solutions such as solar panels and electric vehicles. Also planned is the development of commercial lending opportunities that will help businesses retrofit their facilities with clean energy solutions and stimulate the growth of renewable energy businesses.

To learn more about the center, visit Inclusiv’s website.

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