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Driving and measuring impact through banking

Every choice around the use of money has an impact on people and planet, for better or worse. Banks and credit unions across the world control trillions of dollars and make important decisions every day about where money goes, what gets funded and who benefits. By dealing with money in a conscious and values-aligned way, the financial sector can be a critical agent for change by mobilizing capital and directing funds into areas that benefit the economy, our society, and the environment.

Instead of maximizing profit at all costs, the Vancity Group uses the tools of finance to tackle systemic challenges and create lasting social and environmental impact.

A financial force for change

As part of the Vancity Group, Vancity Community Investment Bank (VCIB) is a values-based bank and the only federally chartered bank in Canada that exclusively finances organizations and projects that are driving positive impact in our communities.

All of VCIB’s business decisions are guided by the Vancity Group’s four ethical principles:

1.  Accountable and sustainable business leadership that engages in co-operative principles and practices
2.  Economic and social inclusion for all people
3.  Strong and resilient communities
4.  Environmental and sustainability leadership

“Our four principles have been translated into policies that guide every aspect of our organization, from our lending and investing to our procurement practices,” explains Jennifer Hutcheon, VCIB’s Vice President.

“Unconventional doesn’t mean higher risk to us and that’s one of VCIB’s biggest differentiators; sometimes it requires more work to bring impactful projects to life and we’re willing to put in that extra effort.”

Our guiding principles in practice

An example of how we implement principles 1 and 2 is by supporting the preservation and development of affordable housing. VCIB provides specialized financing for housing co-operatives, affordable housing providers, land trusts, and other organizations that are working to make our communities more equitable and affordable.

For instance, VCIB’s financing supported Union Co-operative’s first property purchase – two apartment buildings in Kitchener, Ontario. This acquisition allowed the community co-operative to preserve 58 units of affordable homes. More recently, VCIB’s tailored support helped Phoenix Housing Co-operative refinance its mortgage.

We embody principles 3 and 4 through the implementation of VCIB’s climate finance solutions, which support a net zero transition. For example, VCIB supported the Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation’s clean energy portfolio by refinancing the Niagara Region Wind Farm.

The project’s profits will be directed back into the Six Nations community and will be used to stimulate economic opportunity, purchase critical infrastructure, and finance support services like mental health programs.

Our impact criteria and measurement process

In the financial sector, trust can only be achieved when banks are transparent about their lending activities and investments. To meet the Vancity Group’s high standards of transparency and accountability, we track, analyze, and report the impact of our financial activities in Vancity’s Annual Report.

When it comes to lending and investing, VCIB carefully considers the degree to which our financing will positively impact communities and the environment by applying a holistic assessment process.

When evaluating a business loan application, we look at the impact a project will have with respect to people and planet as well as the financial risks and returns. If the project aligns with our values, the financing application is reviewed against the Vancity Group’s Community Impact Transaction (CIT) Guidelines. If the application is for a clean energy project, it is also tested to fit within our Energy Policy.

As we’re evaluating each application, we consider the degree to which a loan may facilitate emissions reductions, provide benefits to underserved communities, or pioneer new business models to accelerate impact. To validate all impact claims, we complete thorough due diligence and collect relevant documentation. Finally, if the project meets our impact guidelines, the application can proceed through VCIB’s typical lending approval process, which includes an assessment of various credit risk factors prior to final adjudication of the application.


Visit our website to learn more about VCIB’s products and services. If you’re a values-driven organization, or you’re looking to finance an impactful project, get in touch.

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Vancity Community Investment Bank is a member of CDIC and is a Certified B CorpTM