April 24, 2006

Desjardins enlists partners' aid to hold "zero carbon/zero waste" annual meeting

Desjardins Group recently set a precedent for the financial services sector by conducting its annual general meeting in accordance with the "zero carbon/zero waste" principle. The meeting, held March 24 and 25 at the Centre des congrès in Quebec City, brought together more than 2,000 Desjardins caisse officers from Quebec and Ontario.

The pilot project- the first of its kind to be attempted by a Quebec financial institution-was carried out in co-operation with the Centre des congrès de Québec, GSI Environnement, the Ecoadvisory Chair of the Université du Québec at Chicoutimi and Corporation Saint-Laurent (the organization responsible for Earth Day activities in Quebec).

The Centre des congrès already has in place a comprehensive residual waste management system, which allowed meeting delegates to dispose of all glass, metal, plastic paper or cardboard objects in special containers strategically placed in various locations throughout the Centre. The use of reusable dishes by the Centre also helped eliminate a significant portion of the waste typically generated by this type of event. Capital HRS, the Centre's caterer, contributed to the project by ensuring that unserved meals were offered to a local shelter for the needy, while GSI Environnement collected non-recyclable biodegradable waste, such as table scraps, kitchen residues and paper napkins, for composting.

The project also took into account transportation-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions generated by delegates who drove to the meeting. Desjardins' eco-advisors are collaborating with the Ecoadvisory Chair of the Université du Québec at Chicoutimi to calculate as accurately as possible the volume of GHG emissions from this source, after which the company has agreed to work with Corporation Saint-Laurent to plant trees to compensate for the production of these gases.

"Not only does this initiative fit in perfectly with our sustainable development policy, but it is another tangible example of the actions that Desjardins intends to take to carry out its role as a leader in this field, while helping to reach the objectives of the Kyoto Protocol," said Alban D'Amours, president and CEO of Desjardins Group. The company has signed the United Nations' UNEP Statement by Financial Institutions on the Environment and Sustainable Development and was among the first firms to sign on with the Canadian Executive Forum on Climate Change.

Desjardins has also just reported results from the first year of its Paper Challenge, an initiative launched in April 2005 in the context of its corporate sustainable development policy. The first phase of the program has succeeded in reducing the company's use of paper by 6.8%, which represents a reduction of approximately 525 tonnes of greenhouse gases. This achievement puts Desjardins well on track toward meeting the program's overall goal of reducing the use of printer and photocopying paper by 15% over three years while increasing by the same proportion the use of recycled paper. To this end, the company has issued a call for offers in order to find a product that will meet the technical requirements at a price that will make replacement of virgin paper with recycled paper economically feasible.

The first phase of the Paper Challenge covered Desjardins branch offices and subsidiaries within Quebec. Among the activities carried out were: development of a Guide for a Green Office (available on-line in English and French at www.desjardins.com/developpementdurable/defipapier); programming of photocopiers to automatic double-sided copying; contests to promote awareness among employees; and distribution of the Paper Challenge Eco-sac to reinforce paper and waste reduction efforts. This year, Desjardins is expanding the Paper Challenge to more branches and affiliates. In a related initiative, the company has committed to planting 100,000 trees over the next three years as part of its contribution to reforestation and climate change mitigation.

Desjardins Group is a leading Canadian integrated co-operative financial group, with overall assets of more than $118 billion and a network of caisses, credit unions and business centres throughout Quebec and Ontario. It also has about 20 subsidiary companies offering life and general insurance, securities brokerage, venture capital and asset management services.

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