Climate Friendly Banking shows how your money can make an impact.

Climate Friendly BankingOne of the advantages of getting Google Alerts for your company is that you find nuggets like this.

The Rainforest Action Network has investigated the contribution that Canada’s big FIs make to climate change. Their site, Climate Friendly Banking, goes beyond the actual greenhouse gas emissions from the FIs’ operations to quantifying the lending and financing they provide to the fossil fuel industry, which in Alberta is particularly polluting.

The enormous financial commitments made by Canada’s five biggest banks – RBC, TD Bank, Scotiabank, CIBC and BMO – to fossil fuel production, namely oil and coal operations, inextricably links them to the fueling of global climate change. Banks are the lifeblood of the fossil fuel industry…

“Financing Global Warming: Canadian Banks and Fossil Fuels” is the first report to analyze and quantify the greenhouse gas emissions of seven leading Canadian banks – the aforementioned banks as well as Desjardins and Vancity – based on their financing of fossil fuels…

Canada’s top banks provided more than $155 billion in total corporate financing for fossil fuel extraction in Canada and internationally in 2007.

It’s a very intriguing way to look at this issue. I’ve said repeatedly that one of the main reasons I love working at Vancity is when you get to how financing affects the community, you get to the root cause of a lot of issues and can be an instrumental force for progress. Here’s one conclusion they draw.

Moving $10,000 from Scotiabank, the highest-carbon footprint bank, to Vancity, the low-carbon bank leader, avoids an amount of financed CO2 (1,430 kg CO2) comparable to:

  • not driving a small car for five months;
  • replacing an average car with one that gets 33 percent better gas mileage;
  • eliminating seven two-hour airplane flights per year.

That’s powerful stuff. They have a calculator to figure out how your deposits at a Canadian FI affect climate change. I truly believe that more and more consumers (though by no means most) will include factors like this into their consumer decision-making.

The site has several versions of the report, from a one pager to the full 294 page report. Well worth checking out.

I was particularly proud of this sentence:

…Vancity stands out as the only Canadian bank profiled in this study that provided no corporate loans or direct investments to fossil fuel producers.

Now that’s a company I want to work for.

Thanks to Dan Dickinson for sending this my way.

From Mass To Grass is where it’s at.

CMA Word of MouthLet me start this post by stating that I am, in fact, a reasonably proud Canadian. So now I must confess something to you. I’ve never been to Toronto. Ever. Well, other than the airport a few times. Insane, I know.

So I’m very excited to take my first trip there to speak at the Canadian Marketing Association’s extraordinary From Mass To Grass Word of Mouth Marketing conference.

I’m on a not-for-profit panel called Building Buzz for Good, along with Deborah Kaplan, the Executive Director of Zerofootprint, a renewable energy company. The panel is being moderated by Kate Trgovac a very well known and well respected blogger.

It is being described as so:

Not-for-profits have been organizing and activating grassroots influencers since their first inception. Learn from some of Canada’s top and most innovative non-profit organizations and initiatives on how they build community, activate influencers and build support for their causes. If you are a non-profit or CSR-focused organization, this is a must attend segment.

Check out this funny video promoting the event (hat tip to Michael Seaton for the video):

Telus – ensuring the future is not friendly.

One of the ways I ended up at Vancity was that I left Telus, Canada’s second largest Telecom and BC’s main phone company, during the strike of their Telecommunication Workers’ Union employees during their 2005 strike. It was an ugly affair, especially for me, as I had never before crossed a picket line and was suddenly sent away from my job as a project manager to a suburb, Surrey, which is an hour away, to run wires in a big concrete building. The whole experience was difficult and ridiculous, especially because my son was only several months old at the time and we “managers” were all required to work 12 hour days, six days a week. Between those hours and my commute, I only got to see my son on my one day off.

Needless to say, I left the company for one whose business model I respect, switched to VOIP and never looked back.

At Vancity I became a big proponent of the social web and believe strongly in having a business model where openness is widely adopted, making it easier to engage in online collaboration under the auspices of your brand. I used to use Telus as an example of a company that doesn’t have the fortitude to allow itself to leverage the social web. Now, reading Wikinomics, it’s even more clear to me that companies need to harness the power of collaboration to make their business stronger. I believe that isolation will increasingly lead to poorer performance.

But lately I’ve been feeling like I may have been too harsh with Telus. Time heals all wounds, I guess.

And then I read this excellent article in The Tyee that shows a pattern of blocking access to websites on its network, removing videos from YouTube that they may not even own, and other big-brother practices. Holy moly. I guess time wounds all heels instead. How could a company, which is one of the biggest ISPs in Canada, start shutting this stuff down. Which executives think this is a good idea? I remember when they blocked a TWU-supportive website during the strike I thought it was a horrible act resulting from maintaining an extreme position during the strike. But now, when I assume they are still trying to heal rifts left over from that strike between union workers and everyone else, it reveals something much darker about the intentions and nature of the company.

Telus is a clear example of a company that doesn’t get it. Its brand tagline is The Future is Friendly. When I worked there we used to joke that the future better be friendly, because the present certainly sucks. Anyone with experience in marketing or PR knows that a company’s tagline is their consumer promise and has to reflect reality for it to be believable. I hope there are VPs at the company who kick and scream over these actions, because it reveals the image of the company as an empty promise, something they’re trying to portray, totally divorced from reality.

The thing that boggles my mind is that in their fight for high-speed internet dominance, Telus execs should know that consumers want to be able to trust their ISP? That if the public associates Telus with blocking websites to their customers, many people would simply choose another provider for this commoditized service? And if they can’t trust them for web service, can they trust them to have transparent rates on long distance (a well documented no), or fair fees and service charges, or… well, the list just goes on and on.

I would guess that over time they will either need to wake up and reform and become more open or become a fossilized old-boys boardroom clueless as the world becomes a little more egalitarian.

Net.Finance Day Two

So today started off strongly. Eskander Matta from Wells Fargo gave a very good presentation of some of the things they’ve done for business customers. People back at Vancity will be happy to know that business banking is a big focus here this year, and I don’t remember anyone addressing it last year. Some good info to take back with me, including the keynote address from Michael Donalson from HSBC. Everyone’s moving on business customers.

Also some great new research from James Van Dyke from Javelin Strategy & Research on online banking trends and stats. He was great last year and his info was strong and relevant this year too.

James McGuire from Royal Bank of Canada also had a great presentation, which I’m hoping to get my hands on. Great to meet the Canadians down here, and there are plenty of us. Everyone comments how the Canadian banks are so far ahead, which is nice to hear, though not altogether believable.

At the cocktail reception, I met Jim Bruene, which was great. I’ve followed his blog for a while and am a subscriber to his extremely useful Online Banking Report. Nice to put faces to names of the bloggers I follow.

The conference just isn’t as strong as it was last year. It’s good, and I am getting some great ideas to bring back with me, but last year by this time my head was already swimming with new ideas and I had taken a ton of notes of relevant material to bring back with me.

Looking forward to Michael Seaton tomorrow from Scotiabank talk about crowdsourcing, and of course I’m super excited about Thursday. Evidently a bunch of people are leaving tomorrow night, as Thursday’s an optional day, but 100 new people are coming in just for that day’s presentations.

A follow up on my America Saves post

I was speaking to some people at Vancity about the issue of serving the underbanked and underserved, both of which are areas where we focus strongly. Two interesting things came back.

1> Someone in our Sustainability division (who shall remain nameless) came back with this nugget:

Money is like sex, you can have a lot of it or none of it and still have an unhealthy relationship to it.

2> Catherine Ludgate in our Community Business Banking division told me this story:

I was at a conference last week with a woman from Micro Business USA, and she was talking about the different mindsets of folks along the income spectrum. In her 30+ years of doing microlending and setting up savings programs, she said she has learned that poor and low income folk generally think of what they earn only in terms of their hourly pay (and certainly not about savings). An income cut above, the lower middle class earners think about their weekly earnings. Middle class earners think in terms of their monthly income, and upper middle class earners think in terms of annual income. The truly wealthy (however that is defined) think ahead in terms of three to five to ten year investments they will make.

Her argument was that changing how folks identified their value (hourly to weekly to monthly to annually to forward looking) is the first step in changing other behaviours, like the ability to save. And that change in thinking can lead to movement out of an income group, as the woman in the case study in the NY Times article moved.

I thought those were two good and valuable insights.

My original post is here.