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Clearwater Credit Union backs climate change with donation

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Jack Lawson

Jack Lawson, CEO of Clearwater Credit Union, said the financial institution is expanding its market while continuing its philanthropic and volunteer missions.

Following on the global climate-change initiatives coming out of COP-26, Missoula-based Clearwater Credit Union donated $50,000 to regional organizations involved in climate resilience.

“We know that problems like wildfire seasons are becoming more severe, smoke and air quality problems are becoming more severe,” said Paul Herendeen, Clearwater's director of impact market development. “But on the flip side, we see a tremendous investment opportunity, and as a financial institution, that’s what we want to be doing.”

The donations were shared among Climate Smart Missoula, Families for a Livable Climate, Montana Environmental Information Center, National Center for Appropriate Technology, Montana Conservation Voters and the Northern Plains Resource Council.

Clearwater regularly donates 5% of its net income every year to philanthropic causes, Herendeen said.

“The stakes are high,” said Amy Cilimburg, executive director of Climate Smart Missoula.  “This financial support will help us accelerate our efforts to ‘Electrify Missoula,’ partner with low-income advocates to grow our Clean Indoor Air program, collaborate with others around the state to reduce emissions and build resiliency, and so much more.”

The COP-26 gathering in Glasgow, Scotland included pledges by financial institutions among the globe's richest nations to contribute $100 billion a year toward initiatives mitigating global warming. 

UM climate expert: COP26 effects could ripple across Montana

“We know this bit of philanthropy is small relative to the scale of the problem," said Jack Lawson, Clearwater's president & CEO. "Nonetheless, we hope it signals serious intent. The threat climate change poses to our health and well-being could not be more real. At the same time, the economic opportunities presented by taking action to combat it are huge. Banks and credit unions need to get in the lead here. After all, it is our lending activity that should be supporting the energy transformation we all need.”

Herendeen said Montana’s opportunities to grow wind, solar and conservation energy projects would have important local effects.

“What we would love to see is more development of the clean-energy economy in Montana,” Herendeen said. “There’s a lot of work done locally, and those are good local jobs that can’t be offshored or moved around. We’d love to see more of that.”

Clearwater Credit Union has been carbon-neutral since 2020 through using carbon offsets such as funding energy-efficiency upgrades at area affordable housing projects. It is also one of the first six financial institutions in the nation to complete a Partnership for Carbon Accounting Financials analysis of its own balance sheet. Results of the analysis will be released later this week.

Rob Chaney's most memorable stories of 2021

Every reporter faces the daily challenge of escaping the desk. In looking back at 2021, most of my best stories came on days on the road, out in the woods, or visiting people in their special places.

The one exception is one of the most-read Missoulian stories this year: The Board of Review account of Carl Mock's fatal encounter with a grizzly bear near West Yellowstone. Recreating the scene, and the emotions of a tragic event from an after-action report does credit to the people involved, who shared their memories in hope of saving future wilderness visitors from danger.

Letting Steve Briggs catalog the jumbled pile of treasures and bits of Missoula history stashed in his Alderwood Pawn was like Christmas shopping on Memory Lane. Seeing Ben Allan Smith's photos brought the experience to everyone.

Explaining the challenge of a changing climate gets a lot easier when you have someone who's been at the heart of the research for years living in your hometown. Steve Running authored a major part of the ICPP climate report that won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, so it was natural to have him help illuminate the outcomes of global climate debates coming out of COP 26 in Scotland. 

Tom Bauer has photographed Montana's famous people and fantastic country for decades, so it was inspiring to travel with him to cover the funeral of Earl Old Person, Blackfoot political and hereditary chief and longest-serving head of state in the world after Queen Elizabeth. 

The Rattlesnake Wilderness looms outside my window at the Missoulian, but it took decades for me to finally get deep inside and see the wonders it offers. Getting there also helped frame the challenges Missoulians face as they ponder what to do with aging drinking water reservoirs whose existence mars the character of the wilderness.  

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