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  • Writer's pictureKelsie Papenhausen

WOCCU Launches Climate Influencers Network at 2023 World Credit Union Conference

ESG breakout session, beach cleanup also highlight Tuesday at WCUC

VANCOUVER, British Columbia—World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) on Tuesday launched its Climate Influencers Network at the 2023 World Credit Union Conference, inviting more than 20 credit union leaders from six continents to a summit to discuss the types of climate resilience issues they would like to see the global movement focus on moving forward.

“We’re seeing amazing examples of unique approaches to green lending. We’re seeing credit unions that have created compelling strategies for decarbonization and the transition to net-zero. We’re seeing credit unions focused on climate justice, environmental awareness and environmental restoration in their communities,” said Thomas Belekevich, WOCCU Director of Member Services. “And if we can show leadership in this space, I think we have a great opportunity to increase the relevance of credit unions around the world.”

Topics discussed in the summit ranged from sustainable finance regulations to access to financing for green products and services, and educating credit union board members and executives in developing nations about why it is important to embrace climate-resilient products and services.

“You might have funds, but people might still not have the awareness that climate change is an issue. So, you need to create that awareness,” said George Ombado, Executive Director of the African Confederation of Cooperative Savings and Credit Association.

World Council of Credit Unions will take suggestions from Tuesday’s summit to build out its Climate Influencers Network agenda.

The future of sustainable finance regulations

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues were also on the minds of more than 100 WCUC 2023 attendees who participated in a Tuesday afternoon breakout session on whether credit unions are doing enough to promote their climate resilience and sustainable finance efforts.

“I don’t think, in Canada, there has been even the smallest amount of effort to make this an industrywide message, that we have these principles, and we abide by them—that concern for the community equates to action. The banks, on the other hand, and everyone is going to say, ‘well, the banks have big marketing budgets’, they are all over this. They are telling the story of how green and sustainable they are. And the credit unions in Canada, as far as I’m concerned, are not,” said Brent Clode, Chief Investment Officer at Central 1 Credit Union (Canada).

Megan Long, FCAC Director at First West Credit Union (Canada), said that no matter where a credit union is based, they need to make sure they are getting out a message on sustainability their members want to hear.

“So, we really want our members to be part of the co-creation of this strategy and our approach. So, finding out—what is top of mind for their members? What are their concerns? What do they think First West is doing well right now in alignment with the (United Nations) Sustainable Development Goals? And further to that, what we could be doing better,” said Long.

Clode and Long encouraged all attendees to go back to their credit unions and ask these questions.

Beach cleanup

WOCCU ended Tuesday’s conference activities early so attendees could give back and help clean up a local shoreline. More than 50 credit union representatives descended on Lost Lagoon in Vancouver’s Stanley Park to clean up plastic and other forms of pollution.

Alison Bedard, Chair of the Supervisory Committee at Greylock Federal Credit Union (USA), said she felt an obligation to participate.

“I just think it’s important that we come out and practice what we preach. That’s really it. It was a great opportunity to give back while we’re here in Vancouver,” said Bedard.

Abubukar Sadiq Ibrahim came to WCUC 2023 from Ghana, where he serves as General Manager of Islamic Cooperative Credit Union. He also felt compelled to participate in Tuesday's cleanup effort.

“I understand it’s crucial to keep habitats natural. When I found this program that said we were going to clean up a shoreline, I felt, well, this is our fault (as humans). And I knew it was a good opportunity to participate in a shared experience with colleagues,” said Ibrahim.

WOCCU and Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions hosted the event in partnership with Ocean Wise Shoreline Cleanup, a Vancouver citizen science program dedicated to the collection of shoreline litter and litter data—which helps scientists, policy makers and businesses take meaningful action to prevent harmful plastic pollution.

Still to come

The 2023 World Credit Union Conference continues Wednesday morning with a series of breakout sessions on digitization, and the final keynote address of the conference from human connection expert Riaz Meghji.

Follow conference activities and see daily event photos on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram with #WCUC2023.

Presented in collaboration with the Canadian Credit Union Association (CCUA), the 2023 World Credit Union Conference runs through Wednesday, July 26.

World Council of Credit Unions is the global trade association and development platform for credit unions. World Council promotes the sustainable development of credit unions and other financial cooperatives around the world to empower people through access to high quality and affordable financial services. World Council advocates on behalf of the global credit union system before international organizations and works with national governments to improve legislation and regulation. Its technical assistance programs introduce new tools and technologies to strengthen credit unions' financial performance and increase their outreach.

World Council has implemented 300+ technical assistance programs in 90 countries. Worldwide, 87,914 credit unions in 118 countries serve 393 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at


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