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  • Writer's pictureKelsie Papenhausen

Young Professionals Commit to a More Sustainable Future for Credit Unions...

...at WYCUP Global Emerging Leaders’ Summit

Keynote speaker Mark Brand promotes difference between stakeholders and shareholders


VANCOUVER, British Columbia—Nearly 200 young credit union professionals explored global perspectives on shared challenges, highlighted social entrepreneurship and examined opportunities to support sustainable, resilient communities through credit unions at the inaugural WYCUP Global Emerging Leaders’ Summit, held one day before the official start of the 2023 World Credit Union Conference.


Keynote Speaker Mark Brand, a food entrepreneur and the CEO/co-founder of A Better Life Foundation, energized the young leaders early in the day with a motivational address on inspiration, leadership and recognizing the difference between stakeholders and shareholders.


“Without credit unions—full plug, unpaid for plug—none of the work you’re going to see here today exists without credit unions,” said Brand. “My first restaurant had some issues. I ended up needing a $25,000 line of credit on a $2.5 million business. The bank laughed at me: ‘We don’t do food and beverage, it’s too high risk.’ Shareholder or stakeholder? Who are you invested in? Because of the credit unions, we’ve fed 4.2 million people as of last month in that little place down there.”


Brand also encouraged attendees to admit their flaws and mistakes, and to battle fatigue, apathy and fear to become true leaders.


A commitment to action

Thomas Belekevich, World Council of Credit Unions’ (WOCCU) Director of Member Services, led an afternoon roundtable discussion on the key themes of the Summit—sustainability and resilience—by focusing on examples of credit unions that are leading the way on these issues.


“They’re creating new products and services in green lending and solar energy, and they’re advocates for climate justice to fight for those who are going to be most impacted by the challenges that climate change will represent for communities,” said Belekevich. “In all of this, we’re seeing really an incredible opportunity for credit unions to build relevance with their members by addressing this shared challenge that we all face so, why is this a topic at WYCUP today? The reason why is because it’s the leaders in this room that are going to be responsible for dealing with these challenges and for leading us into the future—to a more sustainable future.”


Representatives of Sicredi, Brazil’s largest credit union system and a World Council direct member organization, shared several examples of how they are leading the way on sustainable finance.


Attendees of the Summit committed to taking action in their credit unions in response to the following questions:

  • How can we leverage the power of cooperatives to address our shared global sustainability challenges?

  • How can we position credit unions to play a larger role in the transition to a more sustainable future?

  • How can the WYCUP network support this commitment through emerging leaders at financial cooperatives around the world?

A leadership panel on “Walking the talk” with leaders under 40 rounded out the Summit.

“We couldn’t be more excited about the level of energy and engagement we saw from our young credit union professionals today,” said Ari Farrell, WYCUP Manager. “This was an incredibly successful first installment of this event, which we will build upon for 2024.”


Still to come

Activities in Vancouver continue Sunday morning with the Global Women’s Leadership Network (GWLN) Forum. The 2023 World Credit Union Conference officially begins Sunday afternoon with the opening ceremony.


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 www.woccu.org.

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