We are living in a critical time. A time where the choices we make today have the potential to shape the quality of life for future generations. The world feels tumultuous and uncertain with global climate change, economic downturn, political and civil rights issues weighing on the hearts and minds of the socially conscious. And while some have labelled the younger generations of today as apathetic, in many cases this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Now more than ever, young people are getting informed, sharing ideas, creating movements and making ethical lifestyle choices. But when it comes to our money, are we undercutting our own efforts with hypocritical banking choices that fund the very things we oppose? At a time when corporate greed is responsible for so much of the world’s problems, why are we hand in our life savings to the big banks?
Many activists, environmentalists and community advocates are transferring their money from big banks to local credit unions, realizing that one of the best forms of protest is to hit corporate greed where it hurts the most– the wallet. But what exactly makes credit unions a better choice for the community-minded individual?
Your Voice Matters
The Toronto Star answers this question in their article “10 reasons why credit unions are worth a look.” Perhaps one of the article’s simplest explanations is that because credit unions are “run by the members through a board of directors, a credit union doesn’t have to answer to corporate shareholders.” And really, this changes everything. It means that credit union members have a say in how their money is invested, and can trust that their values are being represented. In fact, the article suggests that credit unions’ high customer service advocacy rating is directly related to the fact that “each member can vote and participate in decisions
such as charitable donations.”
Perhaps one of the most compelling reasons to switch from a big bank to a credit union is actually where credit unions do not invest your money. Many Canadians were moved by and directly supported the protest against the Dakota Access pipeline at Standing Rock, North Dakota. Thousands of activists were appalled by the ecological risks the up to 570,000 barrel-a-day pipeline presented, and the lack of respect shown towards Indigenous rights. Many Canadians were also shocked to learn that three of Canada’s largest banks were financing the controversial pipeline and according to Rabble.ca, collectively accounting for over $800 million
The controversial Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline is an environmental threat even closer to home. Citing the potential risk to British Columbia’s coast, many Canadians and environmental groups have spoken out against the proposed pipeline, while Canada’s big banks remain the largest investors in the project. The National Observer writes, “in total, 26 banks from Canada, the United States, Japan, Europe, and China have committed about $7.25 billion through a combination of share purchases and loans.”
It becomes clear that while the big banks may claim to support environmental initiatives, their customers’ money is directly funding projects that threaten to increase global climate change or otherwise endanger the environment. Switching to a credit union means avoiding this blatant hypocrisy, as all profits go back to the member and the communities they call home.
As credit unions invest their money locally, small businesses and community initiatives receive greater support. The Toronto Star writes that, “credit unions across Canada donated $37.5 million to charitable causes in their own areas last year. The credit unions make the point that many of the options such as scholarships can directly benefit local families.” Credit union members can be assured that not only is their money being invested in a socially responsible way, it’s being kept close to home.
In a time when our choices seem to matter more than ever, it is important to choose a financial institution that not only aligns with your values, but also ensures you have a say in what your money supports. It’s time to make sure our money is not undermining our efforts to make our communities and the world a better place.