Credit Union Principles

Credit unions around the world aspire to seven principles of cooperation that I describe here. They are worth looking over and deserve our support.

Credit unions pride themselves on their commitment to their communities and demonstrate that concern in many ways. This includes supporting charitable drives in the neighborhood, bankrolling local small businesses, or sponsoring financial literacy efforts aimed at their friends, neighbors, and fellow credit union members.

This commitment can be seen in the social media feeds, email newsletters, and web posts of credit unions all across Canada and the United States. I believe it is a sincere commitment and is one of the greatest strengths of the credit union movement as a whole. 

Once again, Synergy Credit Union describes the principle in their presentation on each of these seven principles

What it means to you: Knowing that your day-to-day banking translates into benefits for charities, local businesses and the entire community.

Concern for community is more than just charitable events – it’s attention to the community’s real needs

Because credit unions are intended to be a financial center for their community, the particular commitment they can offer is support for the financial and economic well-being of that community and everyone in it.

The website Canada’s Credit Unions maintains a list of blog posts. Along with the topics I referred to in principle four, this blog describes many of the ways that credit unions work to share concern for their community. Topics recently discussed include expressing support for Canada’s indigenous community, offering assistance on issues of general financial well-being, and addressing the growing cost of housing. 

Your credit union’s concern for your community is something to be proud of

Knowing how to wrap up this series of short posts on Credit Union Principles is difficult. I am so proud of the credit union’s willingness to do things just a bit differently so that we can all express our commitment to our community and a better future for all of us. 

These principles stand for all that is good about our movement.

It has been a real pleasure to write these posts. It is always a privilege to help credit unions across Canada and the United States educate their members, attract like-minded community members, and act as advocates for positive change in their communities. If you are interested in my services as a freelance member of your communications and marketing team, please contact me at or right here on my website.

Cooperatively yours, Todd.

As organizations aimed at achieving economic strength and autonomy by banding together, it is clear that credit unions have a role to play in supporting similar organizations. This is an extension of the goal I have written about already: promoting credit unions’ local role in supporting local small businesses and charities.  And as Synergy Credit Union describes it in the presentation I have pointed to every time: 

What it means to you: Your credit union strengthens the co-operative movement by partnering with organizations that share the same important values.

Credit unions are members of the larger cooperative movement

Credit unions are part of a larger international cooperative movement. In fact, that international movement is where the seven principles I am discussing originated from. 

The goal of the International Cooperative Alliance is to promote cooperatives around the world. The ICA states this point very clearly when they tell us that: 

“(i)t was established in 1895 to promote the cooperative model. Today cooperative members represent at least 12% of humanity. As businesses driven by values and not by the remuneration of capital, the 3 million cooperatives on earth act together to build a better world.”

And they play a significant role in the Canadian economy as well. According to the Canadian government:  “In 2020, Canadian co-operatives generated $48.6 billion in total revenue, held $44.3 billion in total assets, employed 100,987 people, and paid $2.6 billion in salaries and wages.”

And if you’re interested in finding a coop in your neighbourhood, you can try the search engine on the Co-operatives and Mutuals Canada (CMC) website.

The Canadian Worker Co-operative Federation is a similar organization supporting worker coops, like my favorite bike shop here in Toronto, Urbane Cyclist

But it’s not just cooperatives – B Corps do good too 

While cooperatives in sectors like agriculture, housing, and retail are an important part of the economy they aren’t the only model that sets out to make a difference in their communities – whether local, regional or international. 

Another category of business entities striving to make an impact are Certified Benefit Corporations, B Corps for short. The B Corp website tells us that:

Certified B Corporations are leaders in the global movement for an inclusive, equitable, and regenerative economy. Unlike other certifications for businesses, B Lab is unique in our ability to measure a company’s entire social and environmental impact.

Certified B Corporations are situated all over the world, with almost 850 members in Canada and over 7300 around the world. But the website notes that this is different from benefit corporations that commit themselves to goals similar to those espoused by B Corp, but are not required to meet B Lab’s standards.

I find it fascinating to browse through the catalogue for companies offering coffee, craft beer, and clothing – to name just a few. 

A few randomly chosen B Certified Corporations I am familiar with and have purchased from (these are not endorsements) include:

  • Propeller Coffee (Certified since 2017): The company name makes it clear what they sell
  • High Park Brewery (Certified since 2017) Purveyors of craft beer
  • Beaus All Natural Brewery – Canada’s first B corp brewery since 2013
  • Bombas  (Certified since 2017) Their mission is to donate one item of apparel for every time sold (!00 million to date), but they have recently stopped shipping their products outside the United States.
  • Tentree (Certified since 2016) A Canadian apparel company that has already planted over 100 million trees, based on sales 


You and I know that credit unions are here to help their members and their community. This includes helping that community to build a strong financial foundation as individuals and as a whole. One of the ways credit unions do that is by offering education, training and information on financial goals, products and services.

What it means to you: Access to financial literacy tools and resources. Credit unions believe that education contributes to personal growth.

Brought to you once again by Synergy Credit Union in Saskatchewan. (The quote, that is) Read more

Autonomy and independence might seem like fancy words, but they do describe the continuation of your journey toward personal financial control. As a credit union member, you share control with your fellow CU members. And as a group, your credit union gains autonomy and independence. Strength in numbers, don’t you think? Read more

The purpose of any credit union is to offer economic and financial benefits to its members. And that means you. Because the credit union belongs to its members, rates and fees are set to benefit everyone in the credit union. And services are put in place to help each of us.

As a member of your local credit union, you participate in deciding who will oversee the general direction of the institution, and it will act to serve its members and community. And refreshingly, your influence is based on being an individual member – not on the number of voting shares you bring to the table. In some ways, it seems like a radical concept, but it doesn’t need to be. 

Credit unions work by offering members a sense of ownership along with the feeling of inclusion I talked about in my last post. And that sense of ownership can be empowering. 

But that sense of power brings with it a feeling of responsibility. We are collectively involved in real decisions with real consequences. And those decisions should not be taken lightly.

A drawn image of a crowd of people of all colors

No matter what your financial situation looks like, the door is open, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.

Multi coloured stick people fill a piggy bank

I’m not sure that everyone who is a credit union member is familiar with just what it means. Do you know why you’re a member? You probably are, if you’re sitting down to read this. But I would hazard the guess that there are many others who don’t really know why they’re a member.

For some, it might be where their family has been banking for decades. For others, it might be because their employer supports one. And for others, it might be that the credit union is right down the street.

All of those are valid reasons for being a credit union member, but there are other things that make it something to be proud of. As a credit union member, you are in an elite group making a real difference in your community.

And that community can be whatever size you want it to be. Credit unions make a difference in their local neighbourhood, but by working with other credit unions across the province, the country, or even the world, they make a difference wherever they are needed.

And at their core, credit unions act as financial cooperatives involved in offering banking services to their members.

They aren’t the only type of cooperative enterprises out there (coops for short). There are worker coops, food coops, farming coops, etc. The list goes on.

The Seven Cooperative Principles

Did you know that there is actually a set of cooperative principles maintained and shared by the International Cooperative Alliance? These seven principles are:

  1. Voluntary and open membership

  2. Democratic member control

  3. Member economic participation

  4. Autonomy and independence

  5. Education, training and information

  6. Co-operation between co-operatives

  7. Concern for community

Let’s spend some time looking at each of these principles to understand it in the context of your local, much-beloved credit union, where you feel at home the moment you walk in the door.

But before I continue, I want to take a moment to acknowledge this handout prepared by Synergy Credit Union in Saskatchewan – the birthplace of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. But again, that’s another story…

What do these principles mean?

Voluntary and open membership

What it means to you: No matter what your financial situation looks like, the door is open, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.

Isn’t it nice to know that when you walk through the door, you’ll be accepted for who you are? I know I appreciate it.

Democratic member control

What it means to you: You help call the shots by electing a board of directors. One member equals one vote. This is local democracy in action.

And when you get your invitation to attend the general meeting and vote for your board of directors, you have just as much say as the person sitting next to you, no matter how much either of you have invested in your credit union. Not exactly the message you would hear if you were to go to one of the big bank’s annual meetings.

Member economic participation

What it means to you: Better rates, lower fees and services that benefit the entire credit union. The more that members participate, the more there is to go around.

This is something else you don’t see from the banks. When things go well, the only people cheering are the shareholders.

Autonomy and independence

What it means to you: As a financial co-operative, your credit union is controlled by real members like you, instead of outside shareholders.

Power in your hands and in those of your neighbours. That’s a comforting feeling.

Education, training and information

What it means to you: Access to financial literacy tools and resources. Credit unions believe that education contributes to personal growth.

Lessons in personal finance, for saving, borrowing, or investing, help you live more stress-free and on top of your games than you would otherwise. And besides, don’t you think the coffee and donuts are a nice touch?

Co-operation between co-operatives

What it means to you: Your credit union strengthens the co-operative movement by partnering with organizations that share the same important values.

There is comfort in the knowledge that there are credit unions like yours all across the country (and around the world) out there sharing your values working with you to promote those values.

Concern for community

What it means to you: Knowing that your day-to-day banking translates into benefits for charities, local businesses and the entire community.

By being a member of your local credit union, you are contributing to your community. Whether that is through supporting local business or contributing to local charities, you’re supporting your own community.

What does all this mean?

If you are a member of your local credit union, stand up and be proud. You deserve the credit. (Get it? Teehee)

This is a message to be shared. In the same way that we share these values.