CTV, April 9, 2008

Vancity credit union is the first North American financial institution to become carbon neutral, it announced on Wednesday, after it voluntarily set its own goals in 2006 to reduce its carbon emissions before 2010.

The term carbon neutral means the amount of CO2 emissions Vancity has created are equal to the emissions it has reduced or offset elsewhere.

The credit union says it reached its goal by:

  • reducing energy use by 50 per cent
  • reducing staff car commuting by 13 per cent
  • reducing paper consumption by 30 per cent

The credit union saved $2 million in energy costs alone, and what it couldn’t reduce, it offset by investing in emission reduction projects in B.C. and other areas.

Vancity CEO Tamara Vrooman said this is only the beginning.

"We actually not only saved carbon we saved money and had a far more engaged and productive workforce," she said.

"We changed our hiring processes," she said. "First of all we tried to hire around where our branches are located."

With all of its reductions, Vrooman says, the credit union reduced its carbon emissions by 6,000 tonnes in total.

"Which is the equivalent of twelve hundred cars on the road," she said.

It will help other organizations to shrink their own carbon footprints, Vancity says, by paying for 25 small-and-medium-sized companies to launch their own carbon reduction programs with Ecotrust Canada workshops.

World-renowned activist and environmentalist Dr. David Suzuki endorsed Vancity’s efforts.

"This is no greenwash, this is the real thing," he said. "What I love about this is I can now say don’t give me that argument it can’t be done. Vancity’s done it. So it’s great having an organization setting a standard."

Suzuki says climate change is a global problem, and an emission reduction made elsewhere has the same positive effect as one made locally, and has suggestions for what you can do to fight climate change.

As Canada’s largest credit union, Vancity has been recognized for its commitment to corporate social responsibility as an environmental leader by various groups, including BC Hydro and business magazine Corporate Knights, and was chosen as the best place to work in 2005 by Maclean’s magazine.