The largest association of credit unions in North America, Desjardins became the first Canadian financial institution to sign the Principles for Responsible Banking (PRB) in 2019.
Since 2017, the group has remained carbon neutral by purchasing carbon credits to offset greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In 2019 it supported a number of carbon capture and emission reduction initiatives to offset GHG emissions for 2018. Among these was Great Bear Forest Carbon Project in British Colombia. This is a collaborative initiative for the conservation and improved management of the largest intact temperate rainforest remaining in the world and Les serres coopératives de Guyenne, a Quebec greenhouse project that has reduced carbon emissions by converting an oil heating system to 100% renewable energy produced using forest biomass residue.
Another initiative supported by the group is Coop FA’s Bourse du carbone Scol’ERE, a school-based program that teaches young people and their families about the importance of eco-citizenship.
“Desjardins and its nearly 50,000 employees and millions of members and clients can make a real difference in how we fight and adapt to climate change,” said Guy Cormier, president and chief executive of Desjardins Group.
“We need to change our habits and encourage others to follow suit. Our commitment to fast-track the inclusion of ESG criteria can be seen in everything we do and it’s going to grow moving forward.”
Last year, Desjardins set a new goal to bring its own greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions down 20% from 2018 by the year 2024. It plans to do so by continuing to reduce GHG emissions by prioritising programs to optimise business travel, reduce paper consumption and improve energy efficiency in its buildings.
In terms of investing in renewables, Desjardins is a leader in Canada. As of 30 September 2019, Desjardins had invested CA$1.23bn (£0.72bn), or almost 46% of its total infrastructure investments, in the sector.
The group has set the target for the carbon footprint of its own assets invested in publicly traded securities to be 25% less than the average greenhouse gas emissions of the companies that make up the stock and bond market indices by 2020. By 30 September 2019, the co-operative group had already reduced that footprint by 15% compared to the benchmark indices.
“We’re going to continue to be an engaged shareholder. This approach is instrumental in encouraging the companies we invest in to integrate climate risk and improve their ESG practices,” Mr Cormier added.
Desjardins is also on track to install 200 electric charging stations across Quebec and eastern Ontario by 2021, an initiative with Hydro-Québec and AddÉnergie. To date the group has installed 184 charging stations, with the rest due to be installed in 2020.