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Coast Capital Savings: Helping Communities Thrive

Coast Capital Savings is connecting communities with the financial opportunities they need to thrive. Discover how they’re catalyzing positive impact in this exclusive interview with Erin McKinley, Senior Manager of Public Relations.

/ 7 mins / SparxTeam

We all aspire to lead better lives, yet financial insecurity feels like a bigger threat than ever to achieving that goal. Coast Capital Savings, a BC-based financial co-operative with social purpose at the heart of everything they do, aims to deliver financial services to its members so that they can live the real life they want.

We spoke with Erin McKinley, Senior Manager, Public Relations, about how Coast Capital connects communities with the capital and partnerships they need to thrive and seeks to lead by example when it comes to aligning purpose with business practice. 

Tell us about your organization’s mission.

Coast Capital is a financial cooperative with a mission to improve the financial potential of every person, partner, and community we impact. A proud Certified B Corporation, we’re guided by our social purpose of building better futures together. We look at everything we do through the lens of how we can help our 600,000 members, our employees, and communities.

We believe every Canadian deserves a financial partner who cares how things turn out. With our 80-year legacy of unlocking financial opportunities, we provide trusted and personalized advice, along with a broad suite of banking products and financial services that enable our members to save, spend, and invest with confidence at every stage in life.

What inspired your founders to start your organization?

Coast Capital has long been committed to championing people. Our roots stretch back to the mid-20th century, with the founding of one of BC’s earliest financial cooperatives. Our legacy organizations were created in the wake of the Great Depression, at a time when banks weren’t accessible and securing a loan was difficult.

Today, we continue to see that not every person has the same opportunity to thrive. Canadians are working harder than ever to get ahead, yet they’re facing record debt levels, income instability, and struggling to access what they need to thrive. Leveraging our roots, core values, and expertise, and driven by our social purpose, we’re determined to be a catalyst for the kind of meaningful change that uplifts our members, employees, and communities.

What were some of the challenges your founders encountered?

Concerned about the uncertain financial future following the Great Depression, when money was hard to come by, groups of credit union pioneers on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, neighbouring Gulf Islands, and the Greater Vancouver cities of Richmond and Surrey formed small financial co-ops focused on helping their neighbours and colleagues obtain the financial assistance they required to better their lives.

These legacy credit unions, which would later contribute their DNA to Coast Capital, were eclectic groups of everyday citizens – farmers, fishers, meat packers, military and factory workers, telephone and civic employees, parish congregations, and white-collar professionals – all working to get ahead.

Determined to make positive change, these groups found innovative ways to pool their resources and provided their members with much-needed financial help.

What do you consider your organization’s biggest success?

At Coast Capital, the success of our members, employees, and communities is our success. As Canada’s largest federal financial cooperative, we have a legacy of unlocking financial opportunities, providing trusted and personalized advice and a broad suite of innovative banking products and financial services that enable our members to save, spend, and invest with confidence.

By embracing a social purpose business model, we’re setting the standard for making positive social contributions. We integrate our purpose of building better futures for Canadians into our day-to-day operations and across every dimension of our business.

We are also consistently working to meet broad ESG-related goals, which align with and are guided by our social purpose. Continuing to meet these goals has contributed to our status as a Certified B Corporation – a global movement advocating for a more inclusive, equitable, and regenerative economic system – since 2018.

As a part of these goals, we invest 10% of our bottom line into our communities each year – totaling almost $90 million over the past two decades.

We’re also deeply committed to the success of our employees and making our financial cooperative a great place to work. Coast Capital is a platinum member of Canada’s Best Managed Companies, one of Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures, and a BC Top Employer. 

What makes your organization unique?

As a federal financial cooperative, all Coast Capital members are owners. The success of our members is our top priority. 

We believe that creating a better life for yourself shouldn’t be a dream. A better home, your own business, a little cash left over each month – these are all things that should be within reach. At Coast Capital, we’re helping our members with their real goals and challenges so they can live the real life they want. If it matters to you, it matters to us, because we care how things turn out.

How do you feel your organization makes the world better?

Our society faces big challenges that require big solutions and we know that achieving real and lasting change cannot be done alone. Through partnering for social purpose impact, we believe that we are achieving real, lasting change together.

At Coast Capital, partnering for social purpose impact includes:

  • Partnering with other leaders in the global movement to build inclusive, equitable, and regenerative economies.
  • Annually reinvesting 10% of our budgeted bottom line back into the communities where we work, live, and serve in support of building better futures for all Canadians. These investments are focused on partnerships with community service providers to develop programs and services that address barriers to equitable access to education, employment, and financial advice.
  • Our commitment to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, as set out in our five-year strategy that outlines our sustained, proactive, and urgent steps to advance financial inclusion and social justice.
  • Our Net-Zero Banking Alliance commitment. As a member of this global, industry-led initiative, we are accelerating efforts to address climate change and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

How can capital be used as a force for positive change?

Social purpose businesses leverage all facets of their business as a force for change, including mobilizing capital across the business in ways that help advance their purpose and the impact they want to create. Everything from selecting partners and suppliers that are values-aligned to investing in technology and innovation helps to drive positive outputs for all stakeholders. 

We strongly believe that capital can, and should, be used to propel partnerships that drive real, tangible change in our communities. Social purpose is a collaborative practice that requires organizations to come together, work together, and share openly. No organization can solve society’s biggest issues independently and partnership is key to moving the needle on solutions.  

Tell us about your organization’s goals.

We are currently working to execute our five-year strategic Social Purpose Impact Plan. The plan outlines how each part of our business will work to achieve our vision and drive our shared social purpose. 

In order to advance our work, we are focused on three pillars:

  • Build and champion more equitable and inclusive employment.
  • Support Canadians with more equitable access to education and training.
  • Deliver financial tools, education, and advice for all.

You can read more about the work we are doing by visiting our website.

Are there any upcoming initiatives or projects you’d like to share?

We are particularly excited about and proud of our partnership with BC-based community resource society, DIVERSEcity, who helps newcomers and diverse communities as they settle in Canada. 

Coast Capital and DIVERSEcity have partnered to bring to life a program that supports skilled newcomer women as they navigate the credentialing and recertification process which is key to their settlement journey and to driving their earning potential. It is a powerful example of the impact that comes with partnerships.

What do you most want people to know about your organization?

Research indicates that growing income inequality in Canada negatively affects individuals, families, society, and the economy. By embracing a social purpose business model, we’re focusing on building meaningful solutions and using our products, people, partnerships, supply chains, capital, and influence to accelerate positive impacts for our members, employees, and communities

How can people help or contribute to your organization’s mission?

One way that each of us can contribute to building a better future is to give back to our communities – whether that be helping a neighbour, volunteering with a local community organization, or donating to a cause you care about.

You can also lean into your values through the businesses you support by “voting with your dollar,” –  spending your money on products and brands whose practices align with your values, which extends to where you save, invest, and grow your money. Credit Unions, like Coast Capital, are owned by their members and are, in many ways, the original social purpose businesses, founded on values and established to meet the needs of their members and communities. 

This story was featured in the Make The World Better Magazine:

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