Sustainability can be defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Sustainable businesses deliver financial returns in the long term while generating positive value for society and operating within environmental constraints. In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly (UN-GA) set up the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (“UN SDGs”). 193 countries signed on to the plan, including Ireland. They represent an international consensus on conditions under which humanity can thrive. They include interconnected environmental and societal conditions as well as institutional and economic factors. Social conditions include basic rights to food, water, sanitation, education, health and freedom.
When we compare our operating principles and the UN SDG goals, we see almost the same aspirations reflected in both frameworks. We have been delivering on our operating principles for 55 years, but now we are using the UN SDGs framework as an opportunity to challenge our Credit Union to deliver more. Throughout this AGM report we will look at our core operating principles through the lens of the UN SDGs.
Sustainability is deeply embedded into every aspect of the Credit Unions operating principles and ethos. We recognise that of the 17 united nations sustainable development goals, SDG 13 is Climate action and mitigating climate change, is the most important long-term goal for the quality and functioning of our planet. However, we also recognise that Credit Union members struggling with poverty and food costs (SDG 1 and 2), education needs (SDG 4), the cost of heating (SDG 7) and transport needs, (SDG 8) may place a lower priority on climate action. The Credit Union will support all members equally.
The Credit Union recognises that climate action comes with potential costs and risk.
Equally, we recognise climate action provides an opportunity to build resilience against the negative impacts of climate change. We endeavour to incentivise and support Credit Union members in Ireland’s green transition.
For members wishing to position themselves well to take advantage in the future of opportunities arising from the green transition, we aim to make our carbon reduction loan offerings as inexpensive as possible with repayments being funded by cost savings.
Whilst also protecting vulnerable members, for example, we will still offer a home heating oil loan to a member struggling to heat their home, but equally we will offer that member a long term retrofit loan with repayments spread out so to be funded by the resultant heat cost savings.
We will still offer a competitive loan package to a member who needs transport to get to work but can’t afford an electric car, while at the same time we have a specific loan product that facilitates members who want to purchase hybrid & electric vehicles.
The UN SDGs provides the Credit Union with a framework to demonstrate how we are an inherently sustainable business and how we use this sustainable advantage as a strategic opportunity to serve our communities. We have set out where we are already making a difference under many SDGs. We have set ourselves challenges within the Credit Union and we invite you the members to tell us what more you think we can do.
The Board of Directors views our progress on sustainability initiatives and reporting as a continuous journey.