Desjardins Group



Banking and Financial Services



11 King Street West
Toronto, Ontario
M5H 4C7
Phone: 416-867-3600 or 1-855-387-3600





Patrice Camus


  • 3 prizes at the 2019 Structured Retail Products Americas Awards
  • Desjardins Québec Balanced Fund (Class A) won Best
  • 10-year Neutral Balanced Fund for the 4th year in a row
  • 2019 Lipper Awards




Report created by Kavita Kripalani

Desjardins Group

SECTIONS :  Sustainability    Evaluation  •  Progress  •  Watch  •  Overview


Company Activity

The Desjardins Group, “Mouvement Desjardins” in French, is a Canadian financial services cooperative and the largest federation of credit unions, “caisses populaires” in French, in North America. 

It was founded in 1900 in Lévis, Québec by Alphonse Desjardins. While its legal headquarters remains in Lévis, most of the executive management, including the CEO, are based in Montreal.

As of 2017, Desjardins Group consists of 293 local credit unions operating 1,032 points of service and serving more than seven million members and clients, mostly in the provinces of Quebec and Ontario.

In addition to retail banking, the Group has over twenty subsidiaries offering products and services related to insurance (Desjardins Financial Security, Desjardins General Insurance), real estate (Complexe Desjardins), venture capital funds (Desjardins Venture Capital), and brokerage (Desjardins Securities). 

The Desjardins Group, through subsidiary Développement international Desjardins (DID), is also active in over 30 developing countries through technical assistance programs and various investments. 

In October 2020, Desjardins launched a social impact fund, Aequitas, which could grow to $115 millions and help women and youth in developing countries.

Company Sustainability Activity

As a supporter of the principles of the International Co-operative Alliance, Desjardins Group has always been an advocate of long-term development that balances the 3 dimensions of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental.

Accordingly, Desjardins adopted a sustainable development commitment policy to provide a framework for their efforts in terms of products and services, management practices and socio-economic leadership.

Environmental protection is a key factor of their sustainable development commitment policy. To put this commitment into action, Desjardins has implemented various initiatives.


  • $313 billion in assets
  • 7 million members and clients
  • 21.6% Tier 1A capital ratio
  • $445 million redistributed to members and the community
  • $2,598 million in surplus earnings, an indicator of financial strength
  • 2,930 directors
  • $100 million fund for the sustainable development of local communities


  • In connection with the 2015 Paris Agreement, they’ve made several concrete commitments to reduce their carbon footprint. 
  • In 2020, Desjardins Group was the first financial institution in North America to join the Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA), a coalition of organizations supported by the United Nations working to phase out the use of coal as a fossil fuel in electric power generation plants. Desjardins Group commits to withdrawing from the coal energy sector and will support the remaining companies in its portfolio that have a firm, short-term plan to transition to renewable energy, in accordance with its position on coal.
  • Since 2007, they’ve been producing an inventory of their greenhouse gas emissions. After reaching their previous reduction target (2015–2017), in 2019 they committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions to 20% below 2018 levels by 2024.
  • Desjardins strives to reduce waste and they encourage their employees to recycle. In recent years, they’ve added a composting component to the existing waste sorting program at their 2 main worksites.

Paper reduction initiatives

  • Desjardins consumes several hundred million sheets of paper every year in the course of its operations. In 2019 they set a new objective to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with their overall paper consumption to 32% below 2018 levels by the end of 2024. They will reach this objective by reducing their paper consumption and increasing their use of recycled paper.
  • They also offer their members and clients the opportunity to gain flexibility while contributing to the reduction of Desjardins’s environmental footprint by consulting their statements and documents online.

Energy efficiency

  • Desjardins has implemented measures to reduce the energy consumption of its offices and buildings
  • Many of its buildings have received environmental certifications such as LEED and BOMA Best, meaning that they meet environmental criteria pre-defined by these certifications.


  • Suppliers are selected based on an objective analysis of their economic, social, environmental and ethical performance. They’ve adopted a Supplier Code of Conduct, which clearly sets out their responsible practice expectations.
  • In 2019, they set a target of reducing their greenhouse gas emissions to 20% below 2018 levels by December 31, 2024.
  • Committed to ensuring that, by the end of 2020, the carbon footprint of their investments in publicly traded securities is 25 % lower than the average of the companies that make up the stock and bond market indexes.
  • The goal is to reduce their GHG emissions to 20% below 2018 levels by December 31, 2024
  • Extending the Paper Challenge until 2024 to reduce their GHG emissions; the Paper Challenge aims to reduce their paper consumption and increase their use of recycled paper.


Members and Clients

A democratic organization

  • At Desjardins, they have a democratic, member-run governance structure. This helps them develop close connections with their members and clients and stay attentive to how their needs and expectations change. Every member, regardless of their financial situation, can have their voice heard and participate in different governing bodies. Members who are elected as directors are responsible for representing members and clients and making sure they provide the best possible solutions to meet their needs, in keeping with their purpose.

Changes to member dividends 

  • They’ve updated their member dividends to make them fairer, simpler and representative of their members’ entire business relationship with Desjardins. In 2019, their members received the first wave of dividends calculated based on these changes. Thanks to these changes, 840,000 more members—including 300,000 under the age of 31—received dividends. Dividends are a distinctive feature of cooperatives and in 2019, over 3.3 million members shared a portion of the annual surplus earnings. This new approach is the result of an extensive consultation process with member representatives.

Including youth in decision-making 

  • Their Youth Advisory Board is made up of 4 caisse members, 4 caisse directors and 4 Desjardins employees, all between the ages of 18 and 35. Its mandate is to give their board and Management Committee insight into the priorities of young adults. By giving their young members a voice, the Youth Advisory Board helps them improve the way they serve and meet the needs of young people.

Supporting a cooperative housing pilot project 

  • They’re collaborating on an initiative developed by the Confédération québécoise des coopératives d’habitation to make housing more accessible for low-income individuals. There’s a shortage of affordable housing in Quebec, and the province also has the highest proportion of renters in Canada. This pilot project will allow housing co-op members to buy a unit for 75% of the cost. When they sell the unit, the member keeps 100% of the initial value and leasehold improvements, but only 50% of any capital gains.

Local Communities

  • Funding long-term community development projects, supporting community organizations through director and employee involvement
  • Financing individual and group entrepreneurship projects, offering products and services tailored to individual and community needs 
  • Promoting financial literacy and inclusion in Canada and abroad 
  • Making crowdfunding platforms, like the Desjardins Community Zone and La Ruche, available to individual and group project developers 
  • Launching sustainable development initiatives As a socio-economic leader, they’ve developed financial support tools that can be customized to suit a community’s needs, like their $100 million fund for 2017 to 2019. With this fund, they support promising development projects for people and communities at the local and national levels. The positive impact of this fund led the president to announce the creation of a new $150 million fund for 2020 to 2024, entirely dedicated to community development projects


  • The retention rate for permanent employees is 93%, which is a testament to their engaging and dynamic work environment.
  • To diversify and enrich their human capital, they’re making more room in the organization for young people, women in decision-making roles, members of cultural communities, people with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ2S+ community.
  • Fondation Émergence programs, to promote a more inclusive environment for sexual orientation and gender diversity 
  • Action main-d’oeuvre specialized services, to hire people with autism spectrum disorder 
  • Women in Leadership program with Effet A 
  • Partnership with Catalyst: Workplaces That Work for Women
  • Quebec Immigration and Integration Fair 
  • Pride at Work Canada and Pride Montreal 
  • Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec in Aurora, Mississauga and their other workplaces outside Quebec, they have about a dozen employee networking groups that organize activities promoting cultural, gender and sexual orientation diversity. Caisses have an enhanced group profile that allows each board of directors to set diversity and representation targets based on its reality and needs. One of the dimensions covered by this profile is diversity—in age, in gender and in background.
  • Effet A helps women in professional and first-level management roles advance in their organization. In addition to the Effet A 100-day challenge, participants follow a skills development path that reflects Desjardins’s needs and realities. Since 2017, 140 women (professionals and first-level managers) have participated in this program. There are 2 cohorts each year. They’ve also partnered with the Association of Quebec Women in Finance to promote networking and professional development activities, and Women in Capital Markets (WCM), the largest network of professional women in the Canadian financial sector. WCM’s mission is to advance women in all sectors of the finance industry, and to increase the number of women in senior leadership roles in the Canadian economy

Responsible Finance

  • Environmental, social and governance factors: they pioneered the responsible investment movement in Canada. Responsible investment means integrating ESG factors into their investment selection and management decisions. In accordance with their responsible investment policies, securities are selected and managed in their funds and portfolios using one or more of the following strategies:
  • They screen out investments in companies associated with negative environmental or social impacts.
  • They incorporate extra-financial ESG criteria into their investment decisions.
  • They use shareholder engagement to incite change.
  • They form coalitions with other institutional investors to lobby for improvements in corporate policy, industry standards, and national and international regulations.
  • In 2019, they continued to build on their responsible financing strategy and assess the carbon and ESG risks associated with their business financing.


  • They help personal and business members make the move to clean energy by continually expanding their line of green financial products. 
  • They have been carbon-neutral since 2017—they purchase carbon credits to offset their GHG emissions. 
  • They are working to reduce their GHG emissions by 20% below 2018 levels by December 31, 2024.
  • In their investment portfolio and that of the Desjardins Group Pension Plan (DGPP), infrastructure investments are concentrated in the renewable energy sector. As at December 31, 2019, Desjardins and DGPP investments in this sector, totalling close to $1.25 billion, accounted for a significant percentage (46.3%) of infrastructure investments
  • They are aiming for the carbon footprint of their assets invested in publicly traded securities to be 25% lower than the average footprints of companies that make up the stock and bond market indexes by December 31, 2020. As at December 31, 2019, their carbon footprint was 14.5% lower than the benchmark
  • They’re gradually incorporating new environmental, social and governance criteria into their decision making processes as part of their shift to environmentally and community-friendly finance.
  • They’ve partnered with Hydro-Québec and AddÉnergie to install 200 electric vehicle charging stations by 2021. As at December 31, 2019, a total of 184 charging stations, including Montreal’s first fast-charge superstation, were up and running.
  • In 2019, they rolled out the Desjardins Energy Transition plan to minimize their real estate portfolio’s energy consumption and reduce their GHG emissions. They also started assessing their real estate operations based on environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria using the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark
  • They have been carbon-neutral since 2017.
  • In 2019, they offset 100% of their 2018 GHG emissions and the 2017 adjustment by buying carbon credits from these projects:
    • British Columbia: The Great Bear Forest Carbon Project, a collaborative initiative by Coastal First Nations, the Government of British Columbia, environmental groups and local forest companies for the conservation and improved management of the largest intact temperate rainforest remaining in the world 
    • Ontario: The Niagara Escarpment Forest Carbon Project, which manages, conserves and maintains the diversity of ecosystems along Ontario’s Niagara escarpment 
    • Quebec : A project by Productions Horticoles Demers to set up greenhouse heating systems that use 100% renewable energy, such as forest biomass residue or biogas from landfill sites; a project by Les serres coopératives de Guyenne to convert the greenhouse heating system from oil to a system that uses 100% renewable energy produced from forest biomass residue; aproject by Terreau Biogaz inc. to recover and treat biogas from landfill sites and feed it into Hydro-Québec’s green energy grid 
  • They’ve also made an additional commitment to budget the equivalent of 1% of their carbon footprint to support Coop FA’s Bourse du carbone Scol’ERE. This educational program teaches school-aged children and their families about the importance of protecting the environment.
  • Their GHG emissions were down 8%, mainly attributable to a drop in Scope 3 emissions. This drop is primarily related to paper consumption, which decreased for a variety of reasons, including the Paper Challenge, the systematic purchase of 100% recycled paper and a slowdown in marketing activity during the second half of the year.
  • In 2019, 5 caisses took part in an energy-efficiency pilot project. They’re now also using 5 electric, hybrid or plug-in hybrid vehicles for building maintenance in Lévis. 
  • They have beehives at Complexe Desjardins in Montreal and on the Desjardins Campthem in Lévis. Each year, employees can buy the honey produced by these beehives.
  • They were the first Canadian financial institution to sign the UN’s Principles for Responsible Banking.
  • Desjardins Insurance signed the UN’s Principles for Sustainable Insurance.
  • In 2007, they adopted the GRI methodology to ensure transparent, robust and comparable social responsibility reporting.



  • ISO 14064
  • LEED® certification
  • BOMA BEST® certification
  • Gold-level Parity certification for the 3rd year in a row – Women in Governance 
  • Platinum-level Governance and Vision (Strategy) Certification – Women in Governance

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

United Nations SDGs Compliance


  • The goal of their subsidiary Développement international Desjardins (DID) is to give underprivileged populations around the world access to diversified, secure financial services that meet their needs. A pioneer in global microfinance, DID is now an international leader in this sector. Its inclusive finance approach focuses on empowering local communities. 
  • DID’s support for the agricultural sector contributes directly to improving food security.

SDG 3 

  • Promoting good health and well-being is essential for sustainable development. They offer their members and clients solutions to protect them if their financial security is ever at risk. 
  • They support and raise awareness about educational initiatives to reduce traffic-related fatalities and injuries. 
  • They don’t do business with companies that profit from the tobacco or vaping industries. 
  • They encourage healthy lifestyles and well-being for their employees and their families through their pension plans, group insurance plans and other initiatives, like access to telemedicine


  • Education is critical to improve people’s lives. Their charitable organization, the Desjardins Foundation, is dedicated to helping young people stay in school and succeed academically. 
  • They support educational initiatives that encourage young people to become entrepreneurs and promote sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles. 
  • Their financial education programs empower their members and clients to make their own financial choices. 
  • They encourage their employees to develop their skills and pursue continuing education opportunities


  • They recognize that diversity and inclusion are major factors in the overall success of their cooperative group, and are committed to building an organization that reflects their society.
  • They plan to reach gender parity on all senior management teams and the boards of directors of caisses, subsidiaries and the Federation by 2024. 
  • They are a member of the 30% Club Canada.


  • Desjardins and the Desjardins Group Pension Plan have a sizable infrastructure portfolio. Infrastructure investments are concentrated in the renewable energy sector, which accounts for 46.3% of the portfolio.


  • They contribute to the economic and social well-being of people and communities in many different ways. They’ve committed to investing $50 million every year to support initiatives that benefit thousands of young people ages 6 to 30, and up to 35 for young entrepreneurs, across Quebec and Ontario. 
  • They help micro-enterprises and SMEs grow and provide jobs in urban and rural areas
  • Through donations, sponsorships, caisse Community Development Funds and other funds, like the new $150 million fund for the period 2020 to 2024, they support community development projects that help build a sustainable, responsible economy. 
  • They currently provide quality jobs to 47,849 people.


  • They support industry innovation, research and development to improve sustainability. For example, they support the Coop Agri-Énergie Warwick project, the first agricultural cooperative in Quebec entirely dedicated to producing renewable energy from biomass.

SDG 12

  • They work together with their suppliers and employees to encourage responsible consumption and production methods.

SDG 13

  • They help educate and train their employees, directors, young people and their families about ESG issues by supporting the Coop FA and its eco-citizenship education program. 
  • They’re taking steps to support a just energy transition, and they’re leading the way toward a low carbon economy
  • They focus on defining current and potential risks and opportunities related to climate change.

SDG 16

  • As a cooperative financial group, they encourage participation and representation in decision-making through their democratic governance. They have a robust program and effective strategy to fight financial crime, money laundering and terrorist financing.


Desjardins Group has several certificates and has some rankings & awards, all of which are admirable. 

They implicitly align themselves with many SDGs, though sometimes it seems to be only on a surface level due to vague information and lack of metrics. For example, the company claims that they have $4.6 billion held in responsible investments by their members and clients. If this is accurate, this is indeed outstanding, but because they don’t go into detail to explain the methodology, it’s difficult to say whether or not they are making true progress. 

However, overall, they seem to be doing a good job in prioritizing CSR.

Their efforts toward sustainability include CO2 emissions, waste, recycling, renewable energy, gender equality, and diversity in implicit alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Desjardins Group is making fine progress towards sustainability but could be doing more, particularly given their large size. This company has been rated a B. 

Analyst Outlook: Neutral

The company could benefit from aligning themselves more with specific SDGs, providing more metrics of their progress, and continuing to be proactive toward sustainability. 


Key Points

  • Desjardins is cooperative financial group and is not a publicly traded company
  • In their report, they make certain claims of sustainable practices but neglect to describe the details of how they have adopted the GRI methodology into their reporting practices

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