This past year, we continued to face global challenges such as COVID-19 and the climate emergency. It’s fair to ask whether there is still a role for co-operatives and the co-operative model in this reality.
We think that now, more than ever, there is a clear
and compelling role for
During these difficult times, rather than turning people away, we see it as our role and responsibility to ask ‘how can we help?’ That’s been our approach throughout this challenging period.
When members needed our help to deal with the impacts of the pandemic or of extreme weather events on their personal finances or their business, we listened to their unique needs and provided solutions. For example, we proactively reached out to members who might have been affected by flooding, and helped facilitate access to cash or credit if needed. We also deployed our Humanitarian Fund to help communities impacted by flooding or forest fires, including several Indigenous communities that were particularly hard hit.
Those steps made a big difference, and it’s our employees who made it happen. Our employees also needed us – to ensure a safe environment in which to continue delivering an essential service to members, and to help them deal with the same challenges so many of us have been facing outside work. As successive waves of COVID-19 variants brought shifts in public health measures, our employees’ health and safety were (and continue to be) paramount for the Board.
The impact of COVID-19 has also intersected with both economic inequality and the effects of systemic racism, oppression and colonialism.
These systemic challenges are other areas where co-operatives can make a difference, and where Vancity has sought to be a leader. Our work supporting the community-led development of climate-ready affordable housing in multiple Lower Mainland communities is but one example.
As a co-operative, we know that we must stand together against all forms of social and economic exclusion. Everyone must have the same opportunities to succeed. It is unacceptable that people continue to face systemic racism and discrimination, and one of the Board’s goals is to become a proactively anti-racist governing body. Doing more to remove systemic barriers is an ongoing Board priority, especially important when those barriers affect people’s financial wellbeing.
2021 further reminded everyone why Reconciliation is a core Vancity value. The Board knows true Reconciliation starts with meaningful engagement, listening and respectful collaboration, and Vancity continues to work to deepen and broaden our partnerships and relationships with Indigenous communities. As part of its continuous learning, the Board learned about Indigenous principles of value, wealth and wellbeing from Dr. Dara Kelly in September 2021 and plans further director education on Indigenous topics for 2022.
Vancity’s climate commitments, announced in 2021, are another top priority for the Board in addressing a systemic challenge that intersects with existing inequalities. That is why the Board set as one of its goals to approve climate risk goals and metrics, and a net-zero emissions transition plan.