Choosing a Climate-Friendly Credit Union (in Toronto)

You’ve read about how Canada’s major banks use your savings to finance fossil fuels

You’ve joined the BankSwitch campaign and told your bank that you will be closing your accounts unless they clean up their act. 

And now, since your bank hasn’t made a lot of changes, you’re wondering where you should take your business instead. 

We think local credit unions are a great option.

Why a credit union?

  • Credit unions typically have few or no fossil fuel loans
  • As a credit union member, you’re also an owner. You get a say in how the credit union operates, and you can vote for the board of directors.
  • Profits are returned to members through profit-sharing or improved services such as lower fees. Credit unions also support their local community through donations, scholarships, etc.
  • Deposits are fully insured, just like at a big bank
  • Credit unions offer all the services you expect from your bank, including online banking, registered accounts (TFSAs, RRSPs), investment options, and mortgages.
  • You might actually have more ATM options than before: credit unions (and some smaller banks) share ATMs, and any credit union member can access all of them for free. You can find your nearest Exchange ATM here.

 

Ok, but which credit union?

To help you decide, we reached out to every major credit union in the Toronto area and asked about their fossil fuel funding policies as well as their broader environmental commitments.  

Their responses (edited for length and clarity) are below, along with some additional links and information. Please note that some credit unions didn’t respond to our questions in time, so this isn’t an exhaustive list - if your local credit union isn’t listed here, reach out to them and ask! 

Credit union (Toronto area)

Fossil fuel funding and environmental stance

Alterna

  • Alterna has stated that “Alterna does not, and has not, provided any commercial loans to any borrowers for fossil fuel expansion and we do not invest directly in industries such as pipelines, fracking, oil and gas, etc.”
  • Alterna also offers its members “Responsible Investment” options through NEI, including options which are 100% fossil fuel free.

Desjardins

DUCA

  • DUCA does not generally lend to or invest in fossil fuel companies currently, but does not have a policy in place to guarantee that this will always be the case. 
  • DUCA is the only Toronto-area credit union that is certified as a B-Corp, which is an independent standard that assesses a company’s impact on its workers, customers, community, and environment
  • Bank Green reports that DUCA is not funding fossil fuel extraction. 

IC Savings

  • IC Savings recognized that “climate change is a complex and pressing issue,” and wrote “we are committed to a thorough process that will help us consider where we are today and identify climate change efforts that can be taken to strengthen the communities where we are present.” 
  • The Canadian Credit Union Association has established a working group on climate change disclosure, which will help develop tools that credit unions can use to track and disclose their portfolios’ carbon-emissions impact. IC Savings expects to follow the recommendations of their report.

Meridian

  • Investments in environmentally sensitive industries such as those related to fossil fuel extraction represent less than one per cent of Meridian’s portfolio. 
  • Meridian “recognizes the global – and local - implications of climate change and acknowledges the commitment of organizations like 350 Toronto as important change advocates. As a credit union, we are founded on co-operative principles and recognize that consumers are powerful agents of change too.”
  • Meridian’s employee giving program is a broad community investment which includes funding for environmental causes at the grassroots level.
  • Meridian takes steps to continuously minimize their ecological footprint. They have moved their Toronto corporate office to a LEED Gold Certified building that meets some of the highest standards in environmental responsibility.

Moya Financial

  • “Moya recognizes the importance of addressing our environmental impact. We’re taking a big step to reduce the carbon emissions footprint of our business by choosing green electricity with Bullfrog Power.”
  • Moya will also be supporting community green energy projects through a partnership with Bullfrog Power. These projects include renewable initiatives with Indigenous Peoples, solar projects on schools and hockey rinks, and installations with renewable energy co-ops.

Pace

  • A Pace representative told us that PACE does not invest in any fossil fuels.


How do I switch?

The Sustainable Economist has a useful guide to “firing your bank.

 

What else should I do?

Tell your bank why you are leaving! 

Talk to your new credit union about what kinds of investments and climate change commitments you want to see (remember, you’re an owner!). If you get any new information, let us know so that we can keep this guide updated. 

Tell your friends!


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