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Filene report: Sustainability can foster CU growth
MADISON, Wis. (3/26/14)--By embracing sustainability, credit unions have an opportunity to attract and retain younger members, create innovative loan-growth opportunities and reduce the risk of losing market share to banks, a new report from the Filene Research Institute claims.
 
The report, "Improving Social and Environmental Sustainability: A Credit Union Assessment and Comparison," measured the overall impacts of nine credit unions in four key areas--governance, workers, community, and environment.
 
As consumer priorities evolve, it makes strategic sense for credit unions to double down on sustainability, because their governance and field-of- membership orientation already fulfills many of the items on the sustainability checklist, the report said.
 
Perhaps more importantly, credit unions that embrace and communicate their social or environmental sustainability initiatives can carve out a unique niche for themselves within their communities.
 
Credit unions already exhibit many sustainability traits. Those studied in the report outperformed sustainable banks in important categories--such as worker compensation and benefits, and enterprise-wide recycling. Credit unions have diverse employee bases, pay their workers at or above market rates, and ensure a certain amount of pay equity between executives and line staff, the report said.
 
However, credit unions do have room for improvement. Among the areas with the biggest opportunities to get better: giving preference to local suppliers, undertaking environmental assessments, and developing environmentally focused products.
 
Filene said its report was designed to spur a "what-gets-measured-gets-accomplished" movement toward increased social and environmental performance within the credit union system.
 
"Measuring impact can be a daunting task," the report said. "However, only through an initial measurement of impact can organizations realize opportunities for improvement."
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