Vancouver City Savings Credit Union is the first North American-based financial institution to be carbon neutral, the credit union announced today.

Being carbon neutral means that the CO2 emissions Vancity creates are now equal to the emissions it has reduced or offset elsewhere.

This goal, which the Vancity Group, including Citizens Bank of Canada, voluntarily set in 2006 for 2010, was achieved early through a rigorous emissions reduction program focusing on energy use, staff travel, paper consumption and waste.

Over the last 10 years, Vancity cut its energy use by 50%, incidents of staff commuting to work by driving alone by 13%, and its paper consumption by 30% saving well over $2 million in energy costs alone.

What it couldn’t reduce, it offset by investing in high-quality, verified emission reduction projects, in British Columbia and beyond.

To celebrate hitting its carbon neutral target, Vancity is “paying it forward” by helping other organizations shrink their own carbon footprints.

It will do this by paying for 25 small-to-medium-sized businesses to participate in Ecotrust Canada’s Climate Smart Workgroups, launched last year in partnership with the Pembina Institute and the David Suzuki Foundation, to help organizations calculate and reduce their CO2 emissions.

Vancity will also help other organizations fight climate change by sharing its tools and processes around how it achieved carbon neutrality on its website.

CEO Tamara Vrooman told employees that Vancity’s emissions are now 50% lower per employee than the average Canadian financial institution and assured them that this is only the beginning.

“We may have achieved our goal to be carbon neutral, but this is just one step on our journey,” Vrooman said. “Reducing our emissions is integral to how we do business. Our focus is now on staying carbon neutral and continuing to reduce our emissions, as well as setting new goals to challenge ourselves and other organizations to raise their game in fighting climate change.”