Here in B.C., we think about how our actions affect our community. We watch how we consume and recycle, we shop locally, we compost, and we’re concerned about our effects on the planet.
I say “we” because we know from a recent poll that in B.C. 98% of us say we recycle all or some of the time; 89% of us read ingredients to make healthy food choices, and 52% of us commute in an environmentally responsible way. A third of us say that we research the ethics of companies we are considering purchasing from.
That is a good thing and speaks to the way BCers link their consumption and activities to their personal values.
I work for Vancity, a values-based financial institution. This means we seek to lend to people and organizations that are creating a healthy, just and inclusive community. Our entire decision-making model is built on a triple bottom line (or, people, planet and profit) perspective. Using our members’ deposits to help solve problems in their own communities (like creating affordable housing or a secure local food system) is possible because unlike banks we serve our members, not shareholders.
I decided to work for Vancity because a number of years ago I started thinking about what my previous institution was doing with my money after I had deposited it with them, and where they put their profits. I didn’t want to see my money invested into companies whose activities I disagreed with and whose products I chose not to use. I have since discovered how rare that is, as we see that only 17% of people in B.C. research the type of business and/or organization funded by their financial institution, and how they use their own savings. That’s a disconnect from how we research companies in other sectors and industries. Why not finance?
One of the things I love about Vancity is that I know first-hand that we take our members’ money and whatever profits we make and put that towards things I care about—and am connected to—here in B.C.
In addition to working at Vancity, I’m on the board of Modo Co-operative, the great local car-sharing organization. Modo may not even exist if it wasn’t for the initial grant they received from Vancity to start-up 20 years ago. Since then Modo has relied on Vancity daily banking services and lending to do its business. This year, Modo put a record number of new cars into our local markets, to enable more of us to find sustainable ways to get around. Vancity has also given Modo advice over the years, devoted some branch parking for their cars to be located, and are always finding new ways to work together to achieve mutually beneficial goals. Vancity is one reason that Modo has grown into one of North America’s leading car-sharing options with over 18,000 members having access to a vehicle without having to pay for owning a car or for insurance and gas across the Lower Mainland and Southern Vancouver Island.
Modo is just one example of how money at Vancity gets recirculated into amazing local companies and organizations that hire local people, buy from other local businesses and build healthier communities. I am proud of seeing this happen with my money, joining together with the money of over half a million of my friends and neighbours.
That’s the kind of positive change you are part of when you bank with Vancity. It’s also why we are empowering people with the knowledge that where they bank matters, by asking the question; do you know what your money is doing? This gets to the very heart of why we exist.
When people choose which financial institution they want to deal with, they look at a number of factors. They look at services, fees, rates, location and criteria like that. What if people added one simple criteria to that decision-making process: what that institution does with their money while they have access to it. That one additional criteria could fundamentally change the way our financial system operates and bring it closer to the ethics and values so many of us in B.C. hold dear.
So, vote with your wallets, and consider what your money is doing right now. Unless it’s under your mattress, it’s being put to use somewhere. If you knew where, how would you feel? Hopefully it’s being put into those same local businesses and organizations you research and consciously choose to support.