Desjardins was born out of the grand idea of helping people and communities prosper beyond money. Through its cooperative model, Desjardins has been able to listen and adapt to members’ needs, prepare for change and weather storms. Being a Desjardins member means contributing to the cooperative model and adhering to its values.
Principles and values that guide cooperatives around the world
Unlike the private, public and volunteer sectors, all cooperatives around the world are guided by the same principles and values. At Desjardins, we thereby promote and adhere to the values of equity, equality, democracy, transparency, self-help and self-responsibility.
Being a member of the Desjardins Group means not only sharing these values, but also adhering and contributing directly to them.
As a cooperative, Desjardins belongs to you, the members. As a member, you can act directly on key decisions and projects, notably through your right to vote. Cooperatives operate on the principle of “one member, one vote.” Each member therefore has the same power in making decisions.
You are invited to attend the Annual General Meeting (AGM) and can become a director of your caisse; this means directing the management of the caisse and Desjardins Group, particularly with regard to the product and service offering. There are also other ways to actively participate in the cooperative’s decision-making process, such as joining an online panel to respond to online surveys.
By promoting the idea of cooperation, when the company was first founded, Alphonse Desjardins sought to eliminate loansharking (excessive interest charged on loans), improve conditions for the working classes and support the economic betterment of French-speaking Canadians. After a lot of research, he founded the first caisse populaire in Lévis.
Today, Desjardins continues to contribute to the cooperative, economic and financial education of its members so they’re equipped to make informed decisions regarding the management of their finances.
Inclusion and diversity
Among Desjardins’s core values, inclusion is a driver for innovation and diversity has a very broad meaning and encompasses intergenerational, ethnocultural and gender diversity.
Since 2017, our ambition has been to build an organization in which everyone is welcomed as they are. We therefore continue our efforts to be inclusive on a daily basis, whether with respect to young people, newcomers to Canada or cultural communities.
Building an inclusive organization also means being open to differences and managing a change in thinking of managers and employees.
Equality and equity1
We’re aiming to achieve gender parity in senior management positions by 2024. As a result, many initiatives are aimed at helping women develop professionally or advance their careers.
Between 2016 and 2022, the percentage of women caisse directors has jumped from 38% to 47%, the percentage of women board chairs from 19% to 38.6%, and the number of women in senior management positions has increased from 25% to 40.9%. Gender parity is being met on the Desjardins Group Management Committee, which is made up of 6 women and 6 men.
Cooperative is synonymous with economic participation and redistribution of surplus earnings. Each caisse shares a portion of its earnings with its members and not with shareholders. In Quebec, members decide on how the surplus earnings are distributed, following a proposal from the board of directors at the annual general meeting. If operations are sufficiently profitable, the surplus earning can be returned to members as individual dividends or they can go back to the community.
The members of each caisse determine how they will share the surplus dividends with the community. The dividends are then distributed based on the community needs identified and the priorities of each caisse.
By contributing to the Community Development Fund, the caisses can support meaningful projects as well as key community initiatives. We’re also implementing several other initiatives to support the local economy, such as the GoodSpark Fund, which supports youth, sustainable development and entrepreneurship. And with its Together For Our Youth program, Desjardins and its network of partners are supporting young people as they pursue their goals, regardless of their socioeconomic status.
A business needs to be profitable to ensure its sustainability. However, the profitability of a cooperative is not an end in itself, but rather a means to achieve its true objective: To always better serve the interests of its members and clients.
As a cooperative, we’re required to build up financial reserves. Our assets have been built up gradually over the years, thanks to the contributions of each member. This financial strength is a result of past, present and future members.
Desjardins cannot be sold and its financial reserves are not transferable.
A model that’s more important than ever
Thanks to this unique cooperative model, we’ve been able to weather storms and meet the needs of our members for over a century now. With its collective strength, Desjardins will be just as strong 100 years from now. Because together, we can reinvent tomorrow.