Celebrating International Cooperatives Day: Coops play a central role in revitalizing the economy as we make our way past this pandemic.
An outlook on how Desjardins and DID put their cooperative values to work during the pandemic, in Canada and elsewhere in the world
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit our communities and started disrupting our lives, Desjardins Group was the first financial institution in Canada to implement relief and guidance measures for its members and clients. In April 2020, Desjardins was one of the three financial institutions in North America to be recognized by the United Nations as a responsible institution in the context of the pandemic. With the measures implemented, Desjardins made a difference for all those who were in a precarious financial situation or experiencing financial hardship by:
offering tips on how to manage their finances better and ensure their online security (namely to young people and seniors);
offering measures such as payment deferrals, emergency loans with a special interest rate, adjustments to service fees, job loss insurance, psychological and legal assistance;
providing businesses with easier access to the federal emergency loan and the BDC Co-Lending Program, and calling upon partners to deliver special offers and rates on health, coaching, and digital / e-commerce services.
At the same time, Desjardins accelerated its digital transformation and provided digital literacy coaching to those needing it so that members and clients could do most of their operations and transactions online.
Desjardins also provided financial support to humanitarian organizations like United Way, Canadian Red Cross, and Quebec and Ontario food banks, which provided essential community support during the pandemic.
Looking ahead, Desjardins created the GoodSpark Fund to promote the post-crisis economic recovery. This CAD 150 million initiative will be in effect until 2024 and will support projects in line with community priorities. Desjardins will also continue to bring solutions to the community's more significant needs as a socio-economic partner, like helping local retailers pick up the pace on their digital shift and fostering long-term financial empowerment of individuals.
Also present in developing and emerging countries…
Acting both as an expert advisor and impact investor in developing and emerging countries, Développement international Desjardins (DID) works to increase the autonomy of the world's underprivileged populations by promoting their financial inclusion and education. In the past year, efforts were in significant part aimed at helping these populations build their resilience in the face of the pandemic.
Digital training platforms were used in Colombia, Tunisia, Vietnam and Mali, to offer training programs tailored to their audiences' needs. Online training has proven all the more relevant now as travel and gatherings required for classroom training are prohibited or limited in most countries due to the crisis. These include the "Mis Finanzas Cuentan" financial education program recently launched in Colombia. With this program, DID and its partners help rural women strengthen their economic and social power while addressing gender equality and preventing family violence.
In Sri Lanka, the project carried out by DID targets the tourism value chain, among others. Training programs for micro, small and medium-sized hotels and restaurants were made available to help better face the crisis to these businesses' employees on COVID-19 safety measures and guidelines.
Partner institutions from various countries like Sri Lanka, Mali, and Haiti were also provided with COVID-19 prevention materials.
Solidarity-based finance: a tangible expression of Desjardins' values
The many programs put forward by Desjardins to empower people and businesses are three solidarity-based programs: Créavenir, Desjardins Microcredit to Businesses, and Desjardins Mutual Assistance Fund. Since 2014, DID has assisted Desjardins caisses in coordinating, deploying, and monitoring these programs that support community organizations that help and advise financially vulnerable individuals and make it possible for entrepreneurs excluded from the financial system to obtain financing. In 2020, COVID-19 added new challenges for these two groups of people, and the Desjardins solidarity-based programs stood out as making a difference in these people's lives.