Corporate social responsibility (CSR) means understanding, respecting and responding to the community in which an organisation operates into its day-to-day business. Good CSR requires organisations to achieve social and environmental sustainability, as well as being economically sustainable.
As customer owned organisations, credit unions, building societies, mutual banks and friendly societies are not driven solely by profit motives, like most other corporations. Instead, they are dedicated to the benefit of their customers.
Their primary purpose is to serve their members and, through them, the wider community in which they live and work.
We believe there is a link between ethical business behaviour and corporate performance. For us, social responsibility is more than a marketing slogan – it is central to our members and their communities, which means it is also central to the way we operate.
The Customer Owned Banking Code of Practice
Credit unions, mutual banks and building societies adhere to the Customer Owned Banking Code of Practice, a voluntary code of conduct that binds subscribers to recognise the impact of their actions on their community, to promote community engagement and contribute to community actions and projects.
Through direct sponsorship of community activities, and financial products designed to assist members and benefit the local area and environment, many mutuals are putting the principles of CSR into action.
Some examples of CSR in action: Credit unions, mutual building societies, mutual banks and friendly societies give grants to people with ideas for community improvements; donate a percentage of a credit card's transactions to a hospital; give car loans which encourage environmental protection by offering lower interest rates for vehicles with lower emissions; grant home loans which offer a better interest rate for energy-efficient dwellings; present awards to honour the role of community leaders and fund research to improve community well-being.
CUFA (formerly Credit Union Foundation Australia) is a not-for-profit development agency that works alongside Australian customer owned banking institutions to promote sustainable corporate, economic, social and environmental practices here in Australia. It also develops community access to financial services for disadvantaged communities of South East Asia and Asia Pacific regions.
CUFA operates with the goal of helping people lift themselves out of poverty. Instead of giving hand outs we work to provide the skills, knowledge and resources required for people to break out of poverty whilst offering ongoing support.
CUFA’s work involves developing and supporting financial cooperatives in communities that previously had little or no access to a financial institution.CUFA works cooperatively at grass-roots through to government levels, building capacity in emerging credit union movements to create sustainability, improve lives and relieve or remove poverty.
One recent example of CUFA's work: The Village Entrepreneur Initiative Program enables credit union members and the general public to sponsor individuals in villages of Cambodia and Timor Leste so that they can improve their lives - and the lives of their families - by having their own businesses. This has a dramatic impact on the quality of their own lives in terms of living standards, education for their children and improved medical care.
To find out more information about CUFA, please visit their website at www.cufa.com.au.