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. 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. All staff were trained in strategic sustainability planning, and they worked together to perform a baseline analysis of their work to date.

As a co-operative, iNova has a long record of commitment to social and environmental issues. But, as General Manager Willy Robinson explains, working with The Natural Step through the ACSI program helped the organization expand this commitment.

“Working with The Natural Step 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,” Robinson said.

The organization has integrated sustainability into their vision and mission statement and is currently working on integrating their sustainability action plan and a new set of green procurement guidelines. They have also established a sustainability committee for Nova Scotia members of the Credit Union Managers Association.

In the spring of 2009, iNova offered a special loan program providing an incentive for hybrid and fuel-efficient cars. They wanted a giveaway to promote the program, but didn’t want something their clients would just throw away. Instead, the staff used their green procurement guidelines to choose a biodegradable car wash with a reusable cloth – something they felt was directly useful to the recipients, healthy for people and the environment, and did not produce excess waste.

Some of iNova’s other in-house initiatives have included the use of cutlery and dishes instead of anything disposable, and double-sided printing on FSC paper.  Rather than always using notebooks, the staff have started making note pads out of scrap or wasted paper. In addition, iNova staff regularly hang a line around the branch in the winter to collect hats and mittens for two local schools. These are distributed by teachers to any students who arrive at school without them. In 2008, the credit union collected 57 hats, 80 sets of mittens and two scarves.

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. More recently, in their May 2009 bank statement, the credit union included a flyer from DriveWise about the consequences of letting cars idle unnecessarily.

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.”