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May 5, 201401:35 PMSmart Sustainable Biz

with Jessie Lerner

Summit Credit Union’s investment in sustainability has a multiplier effect

(page 1 of 2)

Each year, as part of Sustain Dane’s MPower Champions program, we ask area businesses to tackle five sustainability projects. This past year, Summit Credit Union took on seven, one of which multiplied to an additional 19 projects.

What’s the secret to Summit Credit Union’s sustainability success? Inclusiveness.

Summit Credit Union, one of Wisconsin’s largest member-owned financial cooperatives, has 28 locations throughout South Central Wisconsin, Madison, and Milwaukee. When its corporate green team launched in 2012, it faced the challenge of maintaining consistent communication with all locations, according to Kimberly Frederickson, Summit’s vice president of financial education and business development.

“Each location has different needs and parameters, so if we put in place a sustainability initiative, it might make sense for some locations, but not others,” said Frederickson. She pointed to one example — an organization-wide recycling initiative would have been difficult given that recycling guidelines vary by city and county. 

“We [the green team] realized that we wanted to get things out more quickly, and we also wanted to create enthusiasm for Summit’s sustainability efforts at the branch level,” said Frederickson. So the team looked to each branch location for leadership. The team invited the branches to pursue their own sustainability projects, giving each branch a small budget of $100 to get started. 

With just that simple invitation to engage, Frederickson said, “we learned quickly who was passionate about sustainability.” The green team was able to identify a “champion” at each branch — someone who understood the branch’s dynamics and showed a passion for workplace sustainability. Each branch champion acted as a liaison between the branch employees and the corporate green team, posting ideas and updates on the intranet sustainability page, submitting proposals, and sharing information from the corporate green team with their branch colleagues.

Soon after this process was in place, the branches collectively had 19 projects under their belts — everything from switching to reusable utensils, coffee mugs, and green cleaning supplies to holding employee and member contests for green ideas. In addition, some locations had major sustainability projects underway, with additional projects on the horizon. 


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