Lévis, Que.-based Desjardins Group has announced that it will begin taking concrete measures to proactively fight climate change.

“As a financial co-operative, we can lead by example and encourage the transition to a greener economy,” says Guy Cormier, president and CEO of Desjardins Group, in a statement. “That’s why Desjardins has decided to go carbon neutral, invest in renewable energy products and reduce the carbon footprint of our publicly traded portfolio. And for all of our activities, we will add authorization criteria to encourage respect for the environment and communities in finance.”

Beginning in late 2017, the firm will purchase carbon credits to offset its greenhouse gas emissions. The firm says it will also focus on renewables for the “direct investment of its own assets in energy infrastructure.” The Desjardins Group pension plan will also be making the same commitment.

The firm will also ensure that by 2020, the carbon footprint of its own assets invested in publicly traded securities is 25% less than the average greenhouse gas emissions of the companies that make up the stock and bond market indices.

The firm will apply new criteria for making business decisions that takes environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into consideration.

Specifically, before making a business decision involving a partner, the firm will take into account whether the other company has consulted with affected communities, particularly First Nations. Desjardins will also consider if its partners have a comprehensive plan to reduce their carbon footprint and manage the risks posed by climate change, in addition to having compensation and workplace health and safety policies in place.

These practices will be integrated into team objectives and will be included in Desjardins’ annual report, starting with the 2018 fiscal yearend.

“If we want the energy transition to succeed, it has to be a group effort,” Cormier adds. “Now, more than ever, the financial [services sector] needs to come together and set an example, by making responsible use of the money under our control.”

Desjardins will also be encouraging its members and clients to invest in funds designed to help reduce greenhouse emissions, such as the Desjardins SocieTerra Cleantech Fund and the Desjardins SocieTerra Environment Fund.

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