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B Corps are better for business

OMISTA Credit Union is generating higher returns while creating more value for its members

OMISTA Credit Union’s AGM, simulcast in Fredericton and Moncton in New Brunswick this past April, presented far more than just the 2015 financial results. Community business leaders also gave presentations to members and staff, focusing on one particular area: B Corporation certification. Just a few months earlier, OMISTA had achieved this vaunted ranking — its operations assessed to ensure they met the strict standards of sustainability, social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability as established by B Lab, a global movement of business leaders.

B Lab, which pushes corporate social responsibility as the key to business success, allocates recognition and certification based upon a business’s ability not only to generate returns but create value for its customers, employees, and community, thus embodying three main pillars: people, planet, and profit.

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Having business leaders discuss their own experiences with B Corp certification was a way for OMISTA to promote its own new status, says Richard Vaillancourt, the $300-million credit union’s CEO for 10 years. “It was the chance to deliver on the promise made at last year’s AGM of becoming a B Corp. It’s about investing in something bigger than you, me, or the place where we do our banking.” The response, says Vaillancourt, was “terrific. There was incredible feedback. We had several businesses come forward and say, ‘I heard that OMISTA became B Corp certified. I really believe in those values and want to move my business to you.’”

The response was exactly what OMISTA was hoping for. A year earlier, it was decided that working towards new benchmarks of community support and engagement would help “attract new business, to grow and develop,” says Vaillancourt. (Of OMISTA’s 10,300-strong membership, 9,138 are personal and 1,133 commercial business owners.) To this end, OMISTA formed a special board management sustainability committee at the beginning of 2015 to analyze how to “truly live our values as a responsible credit union.” It was a case of living up to the credit union’s name — an acronym for “Our Motto Is Service to All” — the result of a 1970 contest to rename the then closed-bond Moncton Shops Credit Union serving shop workers at Canadian National railway. When B Corp certification was officially achieved this past February, it signalled that “OMISTA exists for New Brunswickers who want the funds they deposit to do more for their community,” Vaillancourt says.

B Corp certification is a lengthy process that involves completion of an extensive due-diligence questionnaire, with supporting documentation, showing how the credit union’s values are upheld on the management and operational sides. To date, there are more than 1,700 certified B Corporations in more than 130 industries and about 50 countries — in developed as well as emerging market countries. In Canada, DUCA Financial Services Credit Union (50,000 members, $2.2 billion assets) in Toronto and CUA of Halifax (19,000 customers, $440 million in assets) are also B Corp certified.

Certified B Corps are legally required to consider the impact of corporate policy on both shareholders and stakeholders such as workers, the environment and, in the case of credit unions, members. The average score achieved by businesses is 80. OMISTA attained a 91. The credit union scored strongly in terms of worker satisfaction and engagement and is working to improve its score in the area of the environment, which includes things like energy, water and materials use and recycling. (B Corp certification reassessment occurs every two years.)

OMISTA’s engagement with the communities where its four branches are located is diverse and had significant impact on the credit union being granted B Corp status, says Vaillancourt. One in four New Brunswick families experience some level of “food insecurity” and OMISTA has been involved in school breakfast programs at places like Hubbard Avenue Elementary School in Oromocto for years. “The breakfast programs play an important part in the transformation of young lives,” Vaillancourt says.

bcorpquoteOMISTA has also been involved in the annual Amazing Turkey Race and Christmas food box initiative, which delivers a festive dinner valued at $75 to needy families. (OMISTA often partners with other regional credit unions.) OMISTA employees, including Vaillancourt, also volunteer at places like Moncton’s Harvest House Atlantic, a community centre for people who are “lost, lonely, addicted and hurting.”

Staff also pitched in to help the handful of Syrian refugees who came to New Brunswick starting last December, donating furniture as well as funds. “One employee, who is herself from Syria, has a basement apartment that she offered to a refugee family,” Vaillancourt says.

OMISTA’s community participation doesn’t end there; it has also sponsored literacy projects, the Oromocto SPCA and animal adoption as well as anti-bullying initiatives.

The credit union is always looking ahead, determining how it can not only enhance its brand but help improve the standard of living in the community it serves, says Vaillancourt. It is striving to ensure its B Corp certification is based not just upon high-profile projects but improvements in operations that occur out of the public eye. “We’re proud of our B Corp certification,” says Vaillancourt. “Using business as a force for good is better for our customers, employees, communities, environment, and OMISTA’s long-term bottom line.”  ◊


3 steps to getting certified

  1. Performance: Complete a B Impact Assessment to prove you have high standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.
  2. Legal: Ensure your board is on board and determine if you need to amend your governing documents or structure.
  3. Official: Sign the B Corp Declaration of Interdependence and Term Sheet (and pay a fee).

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