Vancity is Canada's largest credit union with about $12.3 billion in assets and over 360,000 members. Recently, it launched a Carbon Offset Program designed in consultation with the David Suzuki Foundation, Ecotrust Canada, the Pembina Institute and The Natural Step.

This climate change program is the first of its kind and is expected to aid in providing coaching and financial support to Canadian non-profit and co-operative organizations working the fields of renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The financial support totals $100,000 per year and coaching will be provided by Vancity-approved project assessors who specialise in carbon emissions, and will work with the organizations to quantify their carbon reductions. Carbon offsets are reduction credits from another organization's project that result in lowered emission rates.

Aside from funding the projects and building expertise in this emerging field, the offsets provided by the projects through Vancity's program will be used by Vancity to meet its corporate target of being carbon neutral by 2010. Currently, Vancity's carbon emissions per employee is 50 per cent lower than other Canadian financial institutions so that its plan to be carbon neutral made three years ago is already well on its way. As part of its plan, Vancity launched aggressive programs to reduce its corporate emissions and overall environmental footprint. Should it not be able to reduce its carbon footprint, it will offset by investing in projects that fight climate change.

Vancity has estimated that it will need to offset 4,500 tonnes of emissions per year to reduce its carbon impact to zero. Previously, these offsets could only be purchased through emissions reduction and trading systems such as the Chicago Climate Exchange, but Vancity's program would not only support Canadian climate change innovation, it would also provide high quality, verifiable offsets for Vancity and other businesses.