Co-operatives on path to be builders of sustainability

30 Apr 2013


In a special series of articles, eDigest is examining the Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade to see how each theme is currently being supported by co-operatives . . .
By 2020, co-operatives need to position themselves as builders of sustainability, according to the Blueprint.

To achieve the International Co-operative Alliance’s vision that co-operatives will be the fastest growing form of enterprise by the year 2020, the authors write that co-operatives need to convincingly demonstrate that the business model makes a positive contribution to sustainability. The Blueprint outlines three areas to make this happen, which include economically, socially and environmentally.

In the economy co-operatives can show they act in the interests of of their members by seeking stakeholder value, rather than shareholder value as demonstrated in investor-owned companies where managers act in the interests of themselves and a small number of shareholders.

The growth of stakeholder value can be measured by the continued growth of co-operatives around the world, as demonstrated in last year’s World Co-operative Monitor that shows the top 300 co-operatives generate almost USD 2 trillion of turnover and even the credit union sector is providing an alternative answer for shareholder institutions with growth climbing year-on-year.

Co-operatives also address social problems in a number of ways, whether this be the delivery of social services to the needy or in helping people out of poverty through the creation and development of co-operatives.

Last year, a study conducted jointly by the International Labour Organization's Latin America office and the ICA Americas region showed how co-operatives were contributing to sustainable development in Latin America. It outlined how the sector was helping to combat poverty in countries such as Bolivia and Guatemala; and highlighted the credit union movement as one of the strongest areas of growth.

Environmentally, the Blueprint states there is a growing body of evidence demonstrating that co-operatives have a superior environmental record. This can be down to the democratic voice of members, but also multi-stakeholder co-operatives also manage environmental effects, such as waste and pollution, much better.

Recently, the UK’s Co-operative Group was named as the most sustainable co-operative in Europe, according to Corporate Knights. A ranking of the top ten sustainable co-operatives in the world highlighted the retailer for its renewable energy programme, which included the powering of more than 4,000 outlets with renewable energy and the creation of solar panel projects around the country.

• To find out more about Sustainability, and how to achieve these goals, download the Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade.

Picture: The Co-operative Group's insurance division, CIS, has built Europe's largest solar array.


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