Social and cooperative responsibility

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Responsible citizenship

Social and cooperative responsibility

We have launched numerous initiatives since 2005 to improve our performance in the area of social and cooperative responsibility, in both our management practices and our products and services.

These initiatives grew out of the implementation of Desjardins Group's Sustainable Development Policy, which provides a framework for applying sustainable development principles to our internal management operations and commercial practices. Our sound management structure ensures the application and success of these initiatives.

The 2012 Social and Cooperative Responsibility Report looks at the overall performance of Desjardins Group components for the period from January 1 to December 31, 2012. As the content of the report complements our financial results, we moved its publication date to coincide with the release of the Desjardins Group annual report. Meeting this new schedule required that we estimate some data, but these instances have been clearly identified in the report.

No fewer than 60 experts from all parts of Desjardins took part in the preparation of the Social and Cooperative Responsibility Report. Moreover, information presented therein has been verified and approved by numerous representatives of our organization.

The report was also reviewed and approved by:

  • a committee of senior vice-presidents
  • the Cooperation and Network Liaison Committee (CNLC), made up of 9 members of the Federation Board of Directors

Selected indicators for our reporting are based on Global Reporting Initiative (GRI-G3) guidelines, corresponding to a Level B application. To help interpret the parts of the report that are based on this model, see the GRI index.

In keeping with our efforts to reduce our carbon footprint, this report is available online only. A brochure containing report highlights is also available.

Read 2012: A Year in Review (PDF, 8.69 MB).

Management structure

The Board of Directors establishes sustainable development orientations, which are then implemented under the supervision of the Desjardins Group Management Committee. The Board of Directors ensures that all Desjardins Group management teams and staff meet Desjardins's sustainable development goals.

A number of Desjardins Group senior managers have performance objectives related to various aspects of the Sustainable Development Policy:

  • Our Executive Vice-President, Cooperative Development and Democratic Governance Support, has specific targets regarding accessibility of solidarity products.
  • The Desjardins Group Secretary General and Vice-President, Cooperative Support, has performance objectives tied to growing Desjardins Group's sustainable development program overall.

What's more, the employee incentive plan of the Property and Casualty Insurance sector (DGIG) is tied to sustainable development and education initiatives.

Main issues

In 2012, efforts were begun to single out the primary social responsibility issues we face as a financial institution. This effort is aligned with the steps recommended in the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and allows us to ensure:

  • that we deal effectively with the most important issues for our stakeholders and for Desjardins
  • that we take stock of our performance based on recognized indicators and quality metrics

Here is a partial list of the main issues that affect our activities and stakeholders, which will be addressed in this report:

Members and clients
  • Fighting corruption
  • Responsible marketing
  • Respecting privacy and personal data
  • Customer service
  • Access to products and services
  • Responsible products and services
  • Working conditions
  • Development and training
  • Participation and labour relations
  • Diversity and equity
  • Workplace health and safety
Cooperation and commitment
  • Social and economic community development
  • Access to education and knowledge
  • Inter-cooperation
  • Waste reduction
  • Greenhouse gas emissions
  • Energy management
  • Responsible consumption
  • Responsible procurement
  • Commitments to social responsibility
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Respect for laws, regulations, policies and civil rights
  • The organization's financial situation
  • Responsible finance

Desjardins Group is a democratic organization run by its members, who adhere to the “one member, one vote” principle. In practical terms, that means caisse members:

  • decide on the caisse's major objectives, by-laws that govern its operations and potential amalgamations (mergers)
  • review caisse annual results and vote on the distribution of any surplus earnings or profits, if applicable (individual or group dividends)
  • take part in consultations with caisses in their community
  • elect their representatives, who in turn help establish Desjardins Group orientations and policies and make decisions on behalf of members

Caisses are grouped into 17 councils of representatives that make up the Assembly of Representatives. These councils consist of elected officers (2/3) and general managers of the caisse (1/3).

Each year, caisse delegates take part in the Federation general meeting, based on the principle of proportional representation recognized by the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA).

Composition of the Board of Directors

The Desjardins Group Board of Directors is made up of:

  • 17 council of representative presidents
  • 4 caisse general managers
  • the Desjardins Group President and CEO
  • 2 managing directors representing caisses in exceptionally large regions

In 2012, 25% of the members of the Federation Board of Directors were women, up from 20.8% in 2011.

The quality of Desjardins Group's governance stems from the contribution of thousands of elected officers who are all committed to:

  • meeting member needs
  • ensuring Desjardins Group's long-term continuity
  • contributing to sustainable economic, social and environmental prosperity at the local, regional and national levels
At Desjardins, 5,581,000 members elect the 2,268 elected officers, who elect the 255 members of the 17 councils of representatives, who elect 
the board of directors, composed of 17 presidents of councils of representatives, 4 general managers and the president and chief executive officer. Two vice-presidents of councils of representatives also attend the board meetings as managing directors.
Maintaining stakeholder dialogue

Various methods are used to maintain a dialogue with our stakeholders, who are:

  • our members and clients
  • our elected officers
  • employees
  • representatives from the socio-economic, cooperative, political and environmental fronts

This constructive dialogue helps Desjardins grow and remain attuned to the needs and concerns of our stakeholders. Over the years, we have consulted them on numerous issues such as:

  • our cooperative difference
  • their satisfaction with our products and services, and service delivery

As stakeholder feedback is essential to our preparation of these reports, it is one of the elements we will take into consideration as we improve the cooperative social responsibility report process. Doing so will enable us to establish an official consultation method.

Participation in the democratic life of Desjardins
Participation in democratic life 2012 2011 2010
Participation at caisse annual general meetings 67,613 70,496 76,6131
Percentage of representatives attending assemblies of representatives2 86.1% 90.6% 88.7%
Participation at Desjardins Group annual general meetings 1,851 1,836 1,858

Despite our efforts, member participation in Desjardins caisse annual general meetings has decreased. We are currently working to furnish the caisses with new technological tools to spur greater member participation in caisse governance and activities. These tools are expected to be deployed in 2013. This initiative is part of Co-opme, our education and cooperation program.

Learn more about the Co-opme program.

  1. 2010 data was modified to use the same calculation method for the 3 years shown.
  2. The Assembly of Representatives meets 3 times per year and consists of members of the 17 councils of representatives in Quebec and Ontario, as well as the Chair of the Board, President and CEO of Desjardins Group (256 individuals).
Representation in caisse governance
Representation of elected officers by age group 2012 2011 2010
Officers age 18 to 34 12.8% 11.3% 11.1%
Officers age 35 to 49 19.0% 19.2% 19.8%
Officers age 50 to 64 41.0% 42.5% 43.4%
Officers age 65 and up 27.2% 27.0% 25.7%
Representation of women in caisse governance 2012 2011 2010
Elected officers who are women 36.3% 34.9% 34.0%
Board of directors chairs who are women 16.6% 15.2% 14.7%
Board of supervision chairs who are women 33.2% 33.6% 34.0%
Young Intern Officer program

This program enables young professionals to learn about Desjardins caisse administration and prepare to be officers by completing a practical internship with a board of directors or board of supervision (in Quebec) or audit committee (in Ontario).

As at December 31, 2012, there were 193 young officer interns in 150 caisses in Quebec and Ontario.

Learn more about the Young Intern Officer program.

Our desire to contribute to the economic growth and wealth of current and future generations, and to respect people and the environment, can be seen in our policies, charters and principles, which allow us to strive for balance between the economic, social and environmental aspects of our actions.

Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct

The Desjardins Group Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct contains specific rules regarding:

  • confidentiality
  • protection of personal information
  • conflicts of interest
  • awarding of contracts
  • protecting the reputation of the organization

Each year, all Desjardins Group officers and employees must sign an electronic statement acknowledging that they have read the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct and agree to take the organization's values and rules of professional conduct into account in their day-to-day actions and decisions.

An anonymous mechanism is in place for reporting situations that violate the Code. In addition, online training and advice on professional conduct is available.

Sustainable Development Policy

Desjardins Group's Sustainable Development Policy defines the framework for applying sustainable development principles for its internal management activities and business practices. It was adopted in 2005 following decisions at the Annual General Meeting of the Federation, which brought together delegates from local caisses.

Human rights

Desjardins Group subscribes to the fundamental principles set forth in:

  • the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • the fundamental conventions of the International Labour Organization
  • the Canadian Human Rights Act
  • the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms

This endorsement is reflected in our policies and practices regarding our employees, members, suppliers and the communities we serve. We continue to keep a close watch on these issues, especially in the particularly complex areas of procurement and investment management.

Fraud and corruption prevention

We have set up a comprehensive, effective framework to soundly manage operational risk, which includes corruption. Those who oversee this framework make sure that managers take measures to avoid potentially corrupting situations and address any corruption that might occur. Furthermore, our sound operational risk governance practices enable us to identify significant risks, including those related to internal fraud, and to evaluate, mitigate, and monitor them. These practices include:

  • risk and control self-assessment
  • collection of data on operational losses
  • operational risk indicators and measures
  • management of large-scale operational changes
  • follow-up on corrective measures, as needed

As part of our Fraud and Other Types of Losses (FAS) prevention program, each caisse, business centre and administrative centre must appoint a FAS prevention representative who is responsible for raising employee awareness about fraud and security. These representatives are supported in their efforts by a vast fraud prevention training and awareness program.

A confidential, anonymous mechanism is in place for employees who wish to report any actions that contravene regulations governing financial information, ethics or professional conduct. This reporting mechanism meets requirements of Canadian securities authorities.

Framework for representation activities

Desjardins Group, through its Corporate Affairs and Desjardins Group Management Division, establishes and maintains strong relationships with the political and administrative arms of the federal and provincial government, while preserving its autonomy and independence.

These relationships enable it to gain recognition for the advantages of the cooperative movement and to contribute to the enhancement of legislation for the greater public good.

Participation in public debate

Desjardins Group actively participates in public debates concerning its activities by:

  • presenting position papers and commentaries to legislative and government bodies
  • participating in events
  • organizing conferences

Political contributions

Desjardins Group does not contribute to political parties or politicians.

Compliance management

To manage risk related to the regulatory and legal environment, we foster a strong culture of compliance and have set up a compliance management framework that allows us to:

  • identify non-compliance risks that Desjardins may be exposed to
  • evaluate their potential consequences
  • adopt practices to effectively manage them

We actively support the authorities in their fight against money laundering and terrorist financing activities. Caisse and subsidiary employees are trained to verify identities and to fulfill the various obligations set forth in the law.

Conseil québécois de la coopération et de la mutualité

Monique F. Leroux, Chair of the Board, President and CEO of Desjardins Group, chairs the board of directors of this organization.

Ms. Leroux is also a member of the board of directors of the following organizations:

  • International Confederation of Popular Banks (ICPB)
  • European Association of Co-operative Banks (EACB)

Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction

Sylvie Paquette, Senior Vice-President and General Manager, Property and Casualty Insurance, Desjardins Group, joined the Institute's board of directors in September 2012. We also have a representative on its advisory committee.

A founding member of COOP Carbone

In 2011, Desjardins joined forces with 4 other partners to found COOP Carbone. This cooperative will provide companies that produce greenhouse gas (GHG) with:

  • assistance on projects to reduce their GHG emissions
  • aggregation, training, monitoring and networking services

The cooperative's business model will be based on the concept of member cost sharing. Desjardins Energy-Efficiency Loans will help fund projects to reduce the GHG emissions of companies meeting its eligibility. Pauline D'Amboise, Desjardins Group Secretary General and Vice-President of Cooperative Support, sits on the COOP Carbone board of directors.

Climate Reality Canada

Marie-Chantal Buteau, Senior Advisor, Communications, Business Services and Property and Casualty Insurance, joined the board of directors of Climate Reality Canada in January 2012. This non-profit organization, the Canadian component of a global movement, is dedicated to teaching people the world over about climate change issues. Ms. Buteau represents our Property and Casualty Insurance sector on the board.

Association communautaire d'emprunt de Montréal

Desjardins has partnered with ACEM in a pilot project that grants Foreign Credential Recognition loans. The FCR initiative was created to help immigrants educated abroad acquire the credentials and training they need to find employment in their chosen fields.

United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative

Desjardins is a member of the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI).