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Connexus : Issue 37
Acting natural Several Australian credit unions are demonstrating the range of ways that businesses can be active in saving and repairing the environment. At mecu, efforts to offset the climate consequences of its business activities are helping to rehabilitate degraded farmland and conserve endangered species. When members take out a loan to buy a newly constructed house, mecu offsets the cost of biodiversity loss, says Rowan Dowland, general manager development. When a member takes out a car loan, the credit union offsets the carbon emissions involved in using the vehicle over the term of the loan. Until recently, the money was passed to a not-for-profit organisation to create new areas of forest. Now mecu has gone a step further. It's buying unproductive farmland in western Victoria and working with Landcare and conservation and farming groups to create native forest areas that will belong to members and contribute to reducing carbon in the atmosphere, salinity and soil erosion, and providing habitat for wildlife. Three properties totalling more than 750 hectares in Victoria's western Wimmera region are already playing a significant role in a program to protect the south-eastern red-tailed black cockatoo. The species is critically endangered, with only 1,400 birds remaining. The socially responsible approach to banking by mecu has been winning it awards for a number of years. Last year it won Ethical Investor's Australian Small Business Sustainability Award and ENVIRONMENT 42 Connexus www.abacus.org.au Mutuals that go green encourage good environmental practice among their members and other organisations. By Carolyn Rance