Jan O’Brien

Message from the Chair

Vancity is proud of the many things we did first. Our history is full of them: the first and only credit union to return 30 per cent of its annual net income to members and communities; the first to offer a Registered Education Savings Plan; the first to collaborate with a First Nation government to provide local banking services; and the first to contribute Visa* profits to environmental initiatives.

But our history as a member-owned co-operative credit union is much more than just a sum of milestones. We were founded to put people first and to advance the common good, to solve real problems facing ordinary people in our communities. That’s why this past year Vancity’s Board of Directors has focused its attention on the growing climate crisis. Many of the most vulnerable people in our communities – including some of our members – are at risk from the impact of a global rise in temperature that will affect our entire economy and the way we all live and work.

Addressing the very human side of climate change is the most important part of the challenge for Vancity. This is often referred to as climate justice, the recognition that those who have had little to do with creating the current crisis are also the people who will be the most affected.

Vancity has long worked to address environmental issues. We’re now looking to deepen and accelerate the shift to our business that will enable us to contribute meaningfully to the enormous challenge of the climate crisis.

“Vancity has long worked to address environmental issues. We’re now looking to deepen and accelerate the shift to our business that will enable us to contribute meaningfully to the enormous challenge of the climate crisis.”

Financial institutions have an essential role to play, both in the choices we make about where our assets go – who and what gets funded – and in supporting our members through the transition that is coming. At Vancity, we’re taking the lead in developing new data and measurements that set a more sustainable standard for understanding the true impact of our entire business. As an example, you’ll see in this report (page 49) that we’ve included more information on climate risk than ever before. In 2019, Vancity also signed on to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Banking, which commit us to measuring the impact of our investments, increasing transparency in our reporting and developing with our members a culture of responsibility towards the planet and future generations. As we find success on this journey, we will encourage others to join us.

In 2019, our wholly-owned subsidiary Vancity Community Investment Bank acquired CoPower Inc., Canada’s first sustainable investment platform and a leading provider of financing to clean energy and energy efficiency projects. The purchase gives Vancity members and other potential investors more opportunities to make a positive impact with their investment dollars. We also hosted a summit in Vancouver for the Global Alliance for Banking on Values (see page 25) and committed to a global effort among financial institutions to track and monitor the carbon impact of our portfolio of loans and investments within three years.

Embedding this work into everything we do isn’t a fundamental change to who we are and what we do already. It is in fact exactly what we were founded to do: helping members and communities thrive and prosper. Applying a climate-focused lens will only sharpen our ability to do that and it complements our existing work on issues like affordability, social inclusion, reconciliation and financial literacy.

None of the above could be done without the support of our members and the dedication of our employees. Thank you for your continued confidence in our credit union.

Signature of Jan O’Brien

Jan O’Brien
Chair, Vancity Board of Directors

* Page references refer to the full Vancity 2019 Annual Report, downloadable at the top right of this page.