Madison, WI-L.R. (Bobby) McVeigh, World Council of Credit Unions, Inc. (WOCCU) chairman and second vice chair of Credit Union Central of Canada, spoke at the University College of Cork, Ireland June 8, on the topic of "Social Responsibility and Credit Unions: A Canadian Perspective."
The Canadian formula for encouraging self- sufficiency in credit union members, as McVeigh explained, includes building "livelihood assets" through community economic development, charitable giving, social initiatives and voluntarism.
Voluntarism is a uniquely high priority in Canada. Many of these credit unions, McVeigh stated, pay for their employees to do volunteer work, and a great number of these employees continue the work in their free time. "At 77 Canadian credit unions," said McVeigh, "volunteerism is taken so seriously that it has become an integral part of employee performance evaluations."
He went on to give numerous examples of credit unions across Canada that have been recognized for their outstanding contributions to local communities with the National Credit Union Award for Community Economic Development, providing summaries of the programs they've spearheaded.
One such program, appropriately named "Spare Change," rounds account balances of participating members to the nearest dollar amount and donates the extra cents to one of three causes, homelessness, child poverty or environmental preservation. Though each program participant contributes an average of only six dollars per year, their combined contribution totaled US$13,000 in 2002.
Not only are Canadian credit unions committed to their communities, as McVeigh explained, they are also responsible employers. Because of their progressive policies such as profit sharing, flexible work hours, good benefit plans and employee wellness plans, they have made the list of "Best 50 Companies to Work for in Canada."
But maintaining these standards of excellence is no simple feat. McVeigh offered a "cautionary tale" about the failed Four Corners bank to warn about the dangers of poor governance. "Social responsibility needs to be partnered with good management if it is going to be effective," he concluded.
True social responsibility extends to the world community, McVeigh explained, but in practicing this kind of global work, there is a danger of neglecting the local community. In the conclusion of his speech, McVeigh answered the concern of some that, in an era of ever- increasing globalization, credit unions are shifting away "from their member focus and their community roots," expressing his strong feelings to the contrary. "It's my assertion that credit unions are even more committed to social responsibility [on the local level] because it distinguishes credit unions from other financial institutions."
McVeigh also gave broader talks, on credit union structure and philosophy, at the Waterford Credit Union and in the town of Mullingar. Click to view photos.
World Council of Credit Unions is the global trade association and development agency for credit unions. World Council promotes the sustainable development of credit unions and other financial cooperatives around the world to empower people through access to high quality and affordable financial services. World Council advocates on behalf of the global credit union system before international organizations and works with national governments to improve legislation and regulation. Its technical assistance programs introduce new tools and technologies to strengthen credit unions' financial performance and increase their outreach.
World Council has implemented more than 290 technical assistance programs in 71 countries. Worldwide, 57,000 credit unions in 103 countries serve 208 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.