We are all aware that it has become critical for individuals and organisations to play a part in the global fight against climate change. The pressure will only increase on credit unions to take profound, strategic decisions in the coming years regarding their participation in the transition to a sustainable economy. In this context, we were interested to see a bold move by the customer-owned Bank Australia

In 2022, Bank Australia declared that by 2025 they will stop providing “new-car loans to customers buying a gasoline or diesel-powered vehicle, including hybrids”, and they will prioritise loans for electric vehicles. So Bank Australia is taking a strong stance, prepared to lose lending to other providers in the short term. Concentrating on sustainable goals is only becoming more pertinent for both consumers and lenders, and this appears an excellent example of promoting responsible practices on both ends. Could credit unions take inspiration, as member-led providers, to take a similar leadership role in Ireland?

Last May, Swoboda sought to inform the movement’s thinking on sustainability through its successful conference, The Green Lending Opportunity. This event gave enabled Irish, British, and North American credit union members and stakeholders to discuss the role of lending through a green lens. Conversations included National Retrofit Programmes, sustainable energy communities, and home energy loans (a report on the proceedings is here). Recent conferences from CUDA and CUMA in Ireland have developed this theme, taking the thinking forwards.

Swoboda’s research agenda aims to further inform this vital subject. Last year, we awarded the Credit Union Research Prize 2022 to University College Cork’s Centre for Co-operative Studies, who will publish in the autumn on the opportunities for credit unions to lead and support their communities on challenging sustainability journey. And in March we will be sharing a report on the implications of the ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) agenda for credit unions.