A career in environmental sustainability at ACU
The ACU Employee Spotlight series features some of the many people that work at the credit union, highlighting how their unique roles help members and the community every day. In this article, we get to know more about Dennis Cunningham, Manager of Environmental Sustainability.
Being responsible for environmental programs and reducing our carbon footprint may not be the first job you think of when imagining the people who work at a financial institution, and that’s what makes Dennis Cunningham’s role so interesting.
In part two of our spotlight on Dennis, the Manager of Environmental Sustainability, we learn how he got started in his role at ACU and his tips for others who are interested in following a similar career path. If you love the planet and helping ensure individuals, companies and communities do their part to become a little greener, this is for you.
And if you missed part one of the article, you can read it here.
Helping others kick-start their careers:
Q. How did you get started in the financial industry?
I was made aware of the Manager of Environmental Sustainability position at ACU after making a presentation at a Celero conference. At the time, I had been working at a local non-governmental research institute on climate change and business and sustainability issues.
I had zero background in the financial services sector, although fortunately, my skill set was transferable, and I was the successful applicant for the position.
Q. How has your role evolved since you started?
When I first started at ACU, we were still establishing programs and getting systems in place. Over the last few years, our reporting systems have gotten more consistent and established.
This has meant that we have been able to widen the scope of our environmental tracking and transition to carbon neutrality. We’ve also begun looking at other meaningful long-term actions like setting science-based or net-zero targets that are becoming the standard for many sectors including financial services.
Q. What advice would you give to someone interested in a job like yours?
Network, network, network. My role is pretty unique within the credit union system, but the demand for sustainability specialists is growing across many industries in response to new environmental regulations, climate change management demands and other industry trends. Talking to people working in the sector to get their perspectives on the skills and demands of the job makes lots of sense. Building a network of contacts is important in such a specialized field.
I recommend that you volunteer with local groups like the Green Action Centre, Manitoba Eco Network or the Manitoba Environmental Industries Association. Learn about the issues relevant to local businesses as well as provincial and national environmental topics.
There are always other tools you can add to your ‘toolbox.’ Being competent in community-based social marketing or behaviour change messaging definitely has its advantages in this profession, as do strong communication and data management skills.
Q. Why would you encourage people to work at ACU in particular?
ACU is a progressive employer that truly cares about all its employees. I feel respected, listened to and valued.
As a cooperative and a credit union, ACU puts its members’ needs first. We make many incredibly positive impacts in Winnipeg and beyond through our grant programs, sponsorships, unique financial tools and community partnerships.
If someone is interested in working for an organization that is genuinely committed to making a difference in the community, then they should be exploring what ACU has to offer.
Q. What brings you the most joy from being part of ACU?
I love working with a group of people who are all focused on and dedicated to the same goal: helping members build financial strength while supporting positive change in our community.
Learn more about ACU’s environmental initiatives here, including the actions we take to create, protect and sustain healthy environments.
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