COPAC Webinar: Cooperatives for Climate Change

22 Jul 2020

The cooperative movement continues to address the theme for this year’s International Day of Cooperatives: Cooperatives for Climate Action. The United Nations Committee for the Promotion and Advancement of Cooperatives (COPAC), of which the ICA is a member, sponsored a webinar on July 9, 2020, to highlight this important issue, and provide a forum to showcase what actions cooperatives are taking to address climate change.

The webinar was attended by almost 200 attendees from 40 countries, and they heard from representatives from cooperatives, governments, international organisations and multilateral entities on how together cooperatives can build back better and take action against climate change.

Here are some highlights from the event, the complete list of panelists are also provided below:

Alejandro Verdier, the charge d’affairs and interim ambassador from Argentina to the United Nations gave welcoming remarks to begin the program. Joining him by video, were Ariel Guarco, president of the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) and Daniela Bas, director for UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ (UN DESA) Division for Inclusive Social Development.

Bas remarked, “Let us use this International Day as a reminder of the key role of cooperatives in combating the climate emergency and in building a more sustainable future for all.”

Victor van Vuuren, director of the Enterprise Department at the International Labour Organisation opened the “Cooperatives in Action” segment of the program followed by remarks from ICA Director General Bruno Roelants.

“Because of our cooperative identity – something that all cooperatives identify with, cooperatives can have a deeper impact on climate change,” said Roelants. “The world is interconnected today more than ever before, and considering the urgency to address climate change, the cooperative movement is ready to create effective partnerships with international organisations, government and civil society organizations.”

Attendees were treated to a screening of “Creando Conciencia,” a short documentary about a cooperative in Argentina. It tells the story of how a marginalized and impoverished community formed a waste management cooperative to reshape their lives and society by fostering economic and environmental sustainability. The creators of the documentary Sara Vicari and Andrea Mancori were in attendance. They are the founders of Around the World.coop, a project formed in partnership with the ICA within the ICA-EU partnership, Coops4Dev. They travel the world and tell the stories of success and innovation about the cooperative movement.

“This cooperative experience conveys an important message,” said Vicari. “That it is possible to combine climate action with the development of a sustainable enterprise, decent work & the inclusion of marginalised people.”

Case studies from two cooperatives were presented next:

From Tanzania, Keremba Warrioba, the managing director of the Communal Shamba Coffee shared how his cooperative has reverted back to traditional methods of processing coffee beans to help with the environment and also help the farmers. He explains that this method cuts back on operational cost and reduces the use of water to wash coffee beans. He also explains that this method also produces compost from the skin of the dried coffee “cherries” that farmers use for fertilizing their land. He is hoping to encourage other farmers to adopt this method to both help them reap more profit, and also help the environment.

Mike Pickering, corporate social responsibility officer, and Pete Westall, chief values officer from Midcounties, a large consumer cooperative in the UK, told a compelling story of how member engagement is critical to the operations of any cooperative, but also key to developing successful programs to fight climate change. MidCounties launched 1change, a program that helped members do their part to fight climate change. In turn, the cooperative compiled all these actions and played it back to the members so they can then see the collective difference they’re making. This campaign managed to engage more than 1000 members to take action against climate change, and also gave the cooperative insight on steps they needed to take to improve their own practices to improve the environment.

At the conclusion, Wenyan Yang, Chief of Global Dialogue for UN DESA’s Social Development Branch summed it up well: “Cooperatives care for the environment and communities, they foster solidarity and mutual support and the current remote work and collaboration happening across platforms are opening new opportunities!”

Panelist Name Title and Affiliation
Alejandro Verdier Charge d'Affairs and Interim Ambassador from Argentina to the United Nations
Daniela Bas Director, UN DESA Division for Inclusive Social Development
Ariel Guarco President, International Cooperative Alliance
Victor Van Vuuren Director of the Enterprise Department, International Labor Organisation
Bruno Roelants Director General, International Cooperative Alliance
Sara Vicari Co-founder, AroundTheWorld.Coop
Andrea Mancori Co-founder, AroundTheWorld.Coop
Keremba Warrioba Managing Director, Communal Shamba Coffee, Tanzania
Mike Pickering Corporate Social Responsibility Officer, MidCounties Cooperative, 
Pete Westall Chief Values Officer, MidCounties Cooperative
Meena Pokhrel Deputy General Manager, Nepal Agricultural Cooperative Central Federation
Guilherme Brady Head of the Unit for Family Farming and parnerships wtih Civil Society Organisations, United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation
Wenyan Yang Chief of Global Dialogue, UN DESA's Social Development Branch
Zuraidah Hoffman Moderator, and Interim Communications Director, International Cooperative Alliance