International Day of Cooperatives: Sustainable societies through cooperation

On 7 July 2018, cooperators around the world will celebrate the International Day of Cooperatives. Through the slogan “Sustainable societies through cooperation” we will show how, thanks to our values, principles and governance structures, cooperatives have sustainability and resilience at their core, with concern for community as the seventh of their guiding principles.

We represent 1.2 billion cooperative members. There is no other economic, social and political movement in the world that in less than 200 years has probably grown as much as we have. But growth is not the most important thing. We consume, produce and use the resources that the planet gives us but in solidarity with the environment and with our communities. That is why we are a key partner for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,” says the President of the International Cooperative Alliance, Ariel Guarco.

Sustainable societies are ones that reflect the environmental, social and economic limits to growth.

By their very nature, cooperatives play a triple role:

  • As economic actors they create opportunities for jobs, livelihoods and income generation
  • As people-centered enterprises with social goals they contribute to social equity and justice
  • As democratic institutions, they are controlled by their members, playing a leading role in society and local communities.

While a recent report by PwC showed that two in five firms are still either ignoring or having no meaningful engagement with SDGs, cooperatives are leading the way. Cooperatives have a unique contribution to make to delivering all the Sustainable Development Goals and their associated targets.

In 2016, the International Cooperative Alliance launched the campaign to show cooperatives’ commitment to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and celebrate the cooperative contribution to making the world a better place.

Cooperatives have experience in building sustainable and resilient societies.

For example, many agricultural cooperatives work to maintain the longevity of the land where they grow crops through sustainable farming practices. Consumer cooperatives increasingly support sustainable sourcing for their products and educate consumers about responsible consumption. Housing cooperatives help ensure safe and affordable dwellings.

Cooperative banks contribute to stability thanks to their proximity to their clients and provide access to finance at local level and are widespread even in remote areas. Utility cooperatives are engaged in rural access to energy and water, and many of them are engaged in leading the energy transition to energy democracy.

Worker and social cooperatives across diverse sectors (health, communications, tourism, etc) aim to provide goods and services in an efficient way, while creating long-term, sustainable jobs – and they increasingly do it in a planet-friendly way.

On the International Day of Cooperatives, we are going to show the world that it is possible to grow with democracy, equity and social justice. That our societies cannot continue wasting resources and excluding people. That we must improve the present and preserve the future for the next generations. And that we are proud to be part of this movement. A movement with values and principles. A movement committed to social justice and environmental sustainability,” says Mr Guarco.

About the International Day of Cooperatives

The United Nations International Day of Cooperatives is celebrated annually on the first Saturday of July.

The aim of this celebration is to:

  • increase awareness of cooperatives,
  • highlight the complementary goals and objectives of the United Nations and the international cooperative movement,
  • underscore the contributions of the movement to the resolution of the major problems addressed by the United Nations,
  • and to strengthen and extend partnerships between the international cooperative movement and other actors.

In 1992, following a concerted lobbying effort by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) and the Committee for the Promotion and Advancement of Cooperatives (COPAC), the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the first Saturday of July 1995 to be International Day of Co-operatives, marking the centenary of the establishment of the Alliance.

Indeed, since 1995, the Alliance and the United Nations have been setting the theme for the the International Day through COPAC, a multi-stakeholder partnership of global public and private institutions. The Alliance isg a founding member of this body which champions and supports people-centred and self-sustaining cooperative enterprises as leaders in sustainable development.