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Green: Tools and Ideas to Connect Credit Union Members to the Green Movement

The financial services industry consumes massive amounts of renewable resources such as timber, metal, and plastics, and adds to the consumption of a staggering amount of non-renewable resources such as coal, petroleum, and natural gas. As more evidence is made public of the harmful effects of this consumption, the attitudes and expectations consumers and regulators have toward corporate responsibility may experience a seismic shift.

Executive Summary

It is notable that the “green movement” and the “credit union movement” were rooted in turn-of-the-century American values. John Muir, American naturalist and immortalized “Father of American National Parks,” popularized conservation in the late 19th century, playing an instrumental role in President Teddy Roosevelt legislation establishing America’s park system. The American credit union movement, brought into being in the early 20th century by the pioneering efforts of Edward Filene, Roy Bergengren and others, was born out of concern for the plight of working people, subject to usury and the vagaries of the market. So these twin concerns—for conservation and economic fairness—have been operating on parallel tracks for over one hundred years. This paper challenges us to think how we can merge these two interests into one common cause to advance conservation in affordable and socially just ways.

What is the research about?

Discovering new approaches to tap into this mindset could manifest powerful connections with future generations of members. Consider: 

  • What role will credit unions play in helping consumers “go green”? 
  • How will your credit union become a role model to embrace sustainability? 

This brief focuses mostly on the issue of saving resources as a way to align the green movement to inspire consumers and advance the credit union mission.

Using these thought starters, Filene employed two innovation processes to generate multiple idea concepts for credit unions to consider. First, a Filene’s i3 team delivers the concept of The Leap, a Web-based tool that calculates and educates members on methods of saving money by making smart, green choices, thereby connecting thrift and sustainability. Another team proposes a reward program for credit unions that motivates members to make socially responsible purchasing decisions with Green Feat Rewards. The second innovation process tapped high-IQ individuals through Mensa Process® to generate multiple ideas using an online ideation method.

What are the credit union implications?

More and more research on humankind’s effect on the environment continues to shape public opinion. As consumer sentiments evolve, credit unions need to consider how they are positioned. Deeply embedded in the core principles of the credit union movement are clues to help us navigate this challenge. While personal and social responsibility have been paramount in defining our industry, it is time to consider how we expand this definition to explore larger global issues.

Indeed, a new generation of members has embraced a larger social conscience. Our nation’s youth are leading recycling efforts, donating money, and making purchasing decisions based on a new world view. In addition, these young consumers have grown up immune to traditional advertising and have technology at their fingertips to spread messages and causes that they believe in.