Article

Sustainable Business Practices for Today’s Credit Unions

business man wearing a suit made of trees
CEO
Oak Tree Business Systems Inc.

4 minutes

Demonstrated social values impact consumers’ purchasing decisions.

There is a direct correlation between corporate social values and consumer purchasing decisions. Using data stretching back 24 years, a 2017 Cone Communications corporate social responsibility study revealed how significant this correlation is.

The study found that 87% of consumers would purchase a product or service because a company cared about the same issues they believed to be important. Conversely, 75% would not make a purchase if they learned a company supported opposing issues.

Choosing the issues your credit union will actively support (or avoid) requires tactful planning. However, a few social viewpoints are almost universally shared by everyone. Environmental sustainability is one such issue. Deployed correctly, sustainable business practices can move your credit union socially forward, open new member opportunities and save money in the process.

Here are some things credit unions can do.

Go Paperless

Sustainability should not be the concern of major corporations only. Even relatively small credit unions can make a variety of changes to improve their sustainability. Cutting out paper statements can be a great way to save money and promote a mobile-friendly environment.

Buying paper costs money. Your credit union must also pay to mail, store and dispose of paper. Factor in the cost of ink, toner and printers, and the true cost of not going paperless begins to emerge.

Many companies provide financial incentives (and disincentives) to their customers if they choose to go paperless. Mobile carriers, for example, will charge upwards of $1.50 if you want to continue receiving paper statements. Alternatively, credit unions could offer lower fees or higher interest for paperless members.

Install Solar Panels

Solar panels don’t come cheap. However, the bulk of solar cost is up front, with savings that will stretch for decades to come. It is estimated that solar panels have a useful life of between 25 and 40 years. Every year solar panels operate, your credit union will enjoy the nearly free energy.

Also, invite your community business owners to apply for short-term business loans for solar installations. Talk to your marketing team about a solar panel investment campaign.

Solar panels on your credit union’s physical location are a visible sign to your community that your credit union cares about the environment. The panels effectively become billboards attracting the environmentally conscious. Solar reduces your dependence upon fossil fuels, provides long-term cost savings and is marketable. A win-win-win for credit unions.

Reduce Lighting Costs

Older fluorescent and incandescent light bulbs are nowhere so efficient as newer compact flurescent and light emitting diode lights. By upgrading the lighting in your branches, you would cut down on the amount of energy your credit union is using (and help make solar more viable).

It is estimated that an LED light bulb can last 25 times as long as an incandescent one, while using a fraction of the energy. Newer technology provides for many more CFL and LED lighting options that are not only environmentally friendly, but also fashionable. Although there is an upfront cost accompanying newer LED lights, the savings over time will make the switch worth it.

Install Efficient HVAC Systems

Many branch offices likely have older HVAC systems. Systems just 10 or 15 years old are much less efficient than newer models. Several years ago, a central air unit with a seasonal energy efficiency rating of 10 or 12 was common. Today, an estimated savings of up to 40% is possible on your cooling costs by choosing a unit with a SEER rating of at least 15, although even more could be saved with units with a SEER rating of 20. The increased efficiency will help your members stay comfortable during their visits, while helping your credit union save money over the long run.

Another option for saving money on HVAC costs in your branches is installing a ductless system. While these cost a bit more, they can greatly increase the efficiency of your heating and cooling efforts. Purchasing units for different areas of your location allows building managers to adjust the energy usage in different rooms. For example, a lobby with large windows that face south might need to run more air conditioning than a smaller unit in an office that does not face the sun.

Work with Environmentally Conscious Businesses

Credit unions must work with many different contractors, vendors, and other businesses. Choosing who you do business with can begin a ripple effect of improving sustainability throughout the community you serve.

Select businesses with similar sustainability values as your credit union. Doing so will encourage other businesses to seriously consider investing in environmentally friendly changes in hopes of winning future bids. As more businesses join in, choosing sustainable business practices no longer becomes an option—it becomes the standard.

Richard Gallagher is CEO of CUES Supplier member Oak Tree Business Systems Inc., Big Bear Lake, California. With over 37 years’ experience serving credit unions, Oak Tree offers a comprehensive line of membership documents and lending forms along with marketing services that speak to your credit union demographics. Take advantage of our easy-to-use forms and top-notch customer service, plus stay compliant nationwide.

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