Environment

Desjardins out in front fighting climate change

October 19, 2021

Guy Cormier
President and CEO of Desjardins

During the last federal election campaign, voters identified climate change as one of their top priorities. Canadians are ready for strong, decisive action. So is Desjardins. We can't wait any longer. We all need to fully commit to a green recovery.

At Desjardins, we're setting an example. We're the first financial institution in Canada to sign on to the Business Ambition for 1.5°C , a global coalition of UN agencies and business and industry leaders, in partnership with the Race to Zero. The initiative has already brought together almost 1,000 leading companies that are committed to limiting global warming.

Concrete, science-based objectives

By signing on to the BA15, we're making new commitments and setting science-based targets that will be independently validated. By 2040, Desjardins's operations and financing and investing activities will achieve net-zero emissions in three key carbon-intensive sectors of the economy: energy, transportation and real estate. We'll be releasing a series of detailed targets to serve as milestones. Our first: by 2025, Desjardins will reduce the carbon emissions of our basic activities (business travel, paper use, energy consumption in buildings we lease or own) to 41% below 2019 levels. It's important that targets be science-based, so we're applying the target validation protocol created by the Science Based Targets initiative. We have 24 months to set our targets, present them, and have them validated.

In terms of our existing commitments, Desjardins will continue to apply environmental, social and governance criteria to our business decisions. We currently filter almost $111 billion in assets we use to invest through ESG criteria. A commitment that has led us to turn down approximately one quarter of the financing requests we've received from major companies since 2018, largely in the mining and oil and gas sectors.

The push for a green recovery

There is no Planet B. The time to act is now. The fight against climate change is front and centre and an increasing number of major financial institutions, in Canada and around the world, are stepping up and taking action. The case for climate targets is actually a case for the economy, as any further inaction to pursue net-zero carbon emissions poses a real financial risk. The financial sector, which has in the past been criticized for dragging its feet on the shift to a greener economy, is now galvanized into strong, focused and concerted action.

Financial institutions have the power to effect change. As holders of significant capital and as major investors, we can prioritize projects that will be part of the solution. We can use our relationship to the companies in our portfolios to exert pressure from the inside and encourage them to improve their environmental performance. And we can influence the relationship that shareholders have with senior management, promoting the pursuit of sustainable, long-term benefits over splashy quarterly results.  

Let's tap into the momentum we've created to fight the pandemic and channel it into the movement to fight climate change and build a sustainable future. Fellow business leaders, are you with us?