34 THE NAFCU JOURNAL March–April 2022 UNITED IN SUSTAINABILITY Credit Unions Take on Climate Change, Socio-Economic Inequalities By Liz Phillippe, UNFCU Senior Manager of Business Development and Media Relations Marketing, Global Affairs Photo of Pam Agnone by Margaret Fox Photography MANAGEMENT INSIGHT Since its inaugural credit union sustainability summit at UN headquarters in 2018, the United Nations Federal Credit Union (UNFCU) established a movement. The United in Sustainability (UIS) Credit Union Network is a platform for ongoing engagement on climate resiliency and socio-economic equality. Approaching Earth Day, we caught up with Pamela Agnone, EVP, and Prasad Surapaneni, SVP & Chief Information Officer, to learn more. As co-executive sponsors of UNFCU’s Global Sustainability Program, they discussed its journey and how mobilizing on sustainability harnesses cooperatives’ strength. Q: What is the UIS Network all about? Agnone: The UIS Network is a growing community of 60 credit unions large and small and their associations. Participants regularly connect through calls, presentations, and summits to share best practices in sustainability. Along UNFCU’s sustainability journey, initiatives taking shape were clean energy, solar panel lending, and innovative DEI programs, benefitting their members. We realized the value in bringing financial cooperatives together. Q: What are key focus areas? Surapaneni: Ours is a holistic approach. The Network weighs in on operational efficiencies and green products, as well as having greater community impact in marginalized areas through responsible investing. It serves as an incubator of ideas, helping credit unions chart their own purposeful course. Q: What are some developments? How can credit unions learn more? Surapaneni: At our last virtual summit, co-hosted with OAS FCU, more credit unions and associations gained insight from sustainability experts. The UN reported direct from COP26, its international climate conference. In addition, a new website, www.uisnetwork.org, features guides, policy documents, partner links, and other artifacts. The UN Global Compact, African-American Credit Union Coalition, and the DEI Collective among others contributed to this effort. Q: Describe how UNFCU launched its sustainability journey. Agnone: We began with five passionate Green Team volunteers in 2008 advocating for and educating employees about sustainability. In 2015, we saw a need to take more action and move our entire organization towards sustainability. UNFCU specifically aligned with our sponsor’s UN Sustainable Development Goals . When we integrated sustainability into our strategic planning process and core values, practicing sustainability became a priority. A third-party consultant guided us on a materiality and impact assessment. Chief among these goals for the UNFCU Global Sustainability Program was maintaining climate neutrality. We accomplished this five years running, even as our staff and membership have grown. Woven into our culture the UNFCU Global Sustainability Program is now one of four pillars of our corporate social responsibility. The UNFCU Foundation, DEI Program, and volunteerism represent our other pillars to build a better world. Nine of our new Impact Goals have a direct impact on the UN SDGs. Q: Final words of advice: Surapaneni: No matter how large or small your organization, every credit union can take action. One way to start is by reviewing the UN Global Compact’s free Action Manager Assessment tool. We also encourage credit unions to join the Compact, the largest UN-private sector partnership advancing the UN SDGs. Leading in sustainability is an extension of credit unions’ service mission and one more way we provide members with peace of mind. After all, there is no Planet B. Recent comments from Ligia Noronha, United Nations Assistant Secretary- General and Head of the New York Office of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), underscore the urgency of collective action. She notes, “The SDGs require all our effort. There is no other way but partnership to achieve the aspiration for the well-being of people and planet manifested through SDGs.” Credit unions and their associations can connect with the Network on LinkedIn or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.