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iNova Credit Union, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
iNova Credit Union
Originally founded by postal employees in 1936, iNova Credit Union has provided financial services to the residents of Halifax, Nova Scotia for over 70 years. As a co-operative, iNova has a long record of commitment to social and environmental issues. The company became a partner of the Atlantic Canada Sustainability Initiative (ACSI) in 2007, and committed to take action on sustainability using The Natural Step Framework.
iNova worked with The Natural Step to educate all staff on sustainability and perform a baseline analysis of their work to date. They are currently developing a comprehensive sustainability action plan and green procurement guidelines, both of which will be implemented in the fall of 2008.
“ACSI gave us a chance to continue what we had been doing for a long time, in terms of microcredit, accounts for the under served, et cetera, and yet focus on a broader sustainability by introducing concerns like the degradation of the earth,” explains Willy Robinson, iNova’s General Manager.
As iNova’s staff of nine worked to make their own operations more sustainable, they began to consider how they might use their growing knowledge and expertise to influence member-owners of the credit union to become more sustainable as well. In October, 2007, iNova celebrated Credit Union Day by mailing each of its member-owners a paper bag with a tulip bulb, a CFL light bulb, and a bookmark explaining iNova’s partnership with ACSI and listing some sustainability tips.
One of iNova’s most exciting new projects is their development of a pilot program to embed sustainability into their lending services. A creation of Robinson’s, the Energuide Loan is a ten-year, prime rate loan to help Nova Scotians make home improvements that will improve the energy efficiency of their houses. Credit union staff will be trained to provide clients with a blueprint explaining which renovations will offer the best return on investment in energy savings, and help them access government rebates for sustainable home improvements.
Last year, Robinson brought the idea forward to the province’s Conserve Nova Scotia, a government agency dedicated to energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction, which recommended that she pilot the loan at iNova. Convinced that an effective pilot would require broader participation, Robinson lobbied other credit unions to join the project. In late 2008, every branch of the province’s 33 credit union organizations will offer the Energuide loan.
For Robinson, one of the most rewarding parts of iNova’s sustainability journey has been the high level of participation and interest from her staff members, who she says are constantly thinking about how they can make the business more sustainable.
“Staff members are engaged,” Robinson says. “They’re proud of the fact that we’re influencing way beyond our size.”