Supporting Sustainable Agriculture with Valley First, A Division of First West Credit Union

Posted on Friday, 9 September 2022 under Stories Featured

Thank you to our Platinum Sponsor for the Okanagan Feast of Fields – Valley First, a division of First West Credit Union

Valley First is a premier provider of banking and investment services for residents and businesses in the Okanagan, Similkameen and Thompson valleys. Valley First brings innovative products, an extensive branch network and local decision making to the banking experience.

They are committed to making a difference in their communities and supporting sustainable agriculture in BC. We are deeply thankful for their support for the Okanagan Feast of Fields this year.

We recently interviewed, Paulo Araujo, President of Valley First and Enderby & District Financial to learn more about Valley First and their commitment to local agriculture, community, and sustainability.

Why does Valley First, a division of First West Credit Union, invest in community and sustainability?

As a cooperative credit union our goal is to help our members and communities thrive. As a division of First West Credit Union we leverage our organizational resources to help better our communities which drives our decision making when considering corporate partnerships so we can make a meaningful impact where we live and work. Supporting the business community has always been at the heart of what Valley First is about, going all the way back to the original inception of our credit union where business owners first got together to create accessible savings and loan options for local businesses. We believe in acting locally, and making decisions from across the desk, not from across the country.

What motivated you to be involved in Feast of Fields? How does this event resonate with your values?

First West Credit Union, is focused on responsible investing when working with our members, ensuring that they are making informed decisions that work for them. In addition, as an organization we are proud to be focused on our Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) Journey and have been assessed as a low risk of 16.7. Our rating, as assessed by Sustainalytics, a leading independent ESG and corporate governance research, ratings and analytics firm, indicates that we have lowered our risk on six categories of Material ESG Issues (MEIs) that measure our exposure to and management of risk. First West is now one of just six financial institutions in Canada to have become an official Signatory of the United Nations Principles for Responsible Banking (UN PRB).

The UN PRB consists of six strategies and practices that align with the vision society has set out for its future in the areas of Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement. The six Principles that can drive change to help build a sustainable banking industry for the future include: Alignment, Impact and Target-Setting, Clients & Customers, Stakeholders, Governance & Culture, Transparency & Accountability.

How does being a financial cooperative influence the way you relate to your members and community?

Supporting the communities we serve has always been at the heart of what Valley First is about, going all the way back to the original inception of our credit union where business owners first got together to create accessible savings and loan options for local businesses. We believe in acting locally, and making decisions from across the desk, not from across the country. We believe in the advisory approach with our members to ensure they make informed decisions that are right for them.

Valley First has had a close relationship with farmers and agriculture producers in BC for decades. In what ways does Valley First support farmers, agriculture, and sustainable food systems in BC?

Our roots are in agriculture. Our credit union was founded by the farming community. Over the last several decades, our cooperative has grown to $15.5 billion in total assets and assets under administration, more than 250,000 members and approximately 1,250 employees. It operates 46 branches throughout the province under the Envision Financial, Valley First, Island Savings and Enderby & District Financial brands.

We understand that operating an agricultural or farming business is a way of life. Doing what’s right for your business requires thoughtful planning, patience and hard work. We are there for our members at every step, helping to choose the right solutions for them.

Here’s our advantage:

From personal financial planning to business operations, we have a team of advisors who can support all your goals. Whether you are just buying a new piece of land or planning to retire, we want to help you realize your vision and can cater to your needs.