“Green” is just one type of applied ethics that fits right in to the credit union ethos. After all, credit unions don’t consume all that much energy and goods compared to other types of businesses. But once you’re carbon neutral (or better), then what? What’s beyond green?
One of the big trends in business is transparency — how open can you be with your employees, members, and the public? The main idea is that stakeholders will make better decisions with more information available. In large public corporations, transparency is also a way to help keep the board and executives honest — regulations require many different kinds of public disclosure.
As it happens, credit unions have been very transparent for years. Detailed financial info is available on NCUA’s web site, but you need to have a background in finance to have any hope of understanding the numbers. And, of course, CU members could always run for a seat on the board if they really want to get up close and personal.
What if credit unions offered to help members understand the financials in terms of the impact on the member? What if members received feedback once in a while on the impact of their membership on the credit union? There are risks, obviously, but maybe making the cooperative nature of the CU clearer would also help members feel more of a sense of ownership and belonging.
Credit union employees and management have always reflected the diverse nature of their membership better than just about any other business. Perhaps this could be turned into a competitive advantage and a point of difference — “We’re You”.
In some places, CUs could even customize marketing and products to extend special invitations to certain groups — for example, mortgages for gay couples, marketing on the local Spanish language radio station and newspaper, or financial seminars targeted to retiring women.
CU for a Cause
CUs have always been heavily involved in their communities and helping the less fortunate. What if helping a good cause were built in to more CU products?
For example, perhaps members could divert the interest on their checking account into a fund for a worthy community purpose. Or maybe the income from a slightly higher car loan rate would help send bicycles to needy people in Africa. Cause marketing is hardly new, but CUs now have more flexibility than ever in designing products like these, and I bet we’ll start seeing more and more examples.