Work Together (Archive)

Canada: worker cooperatives taking action to address climate change

Cooperatives are showing leadership by joining together to develop a cooperative solution to climate change. The Canadian Worker Cooperative Federation (CWCF) member Sustainability Solutions Group (SSG) has put out a call to action to engage cooperatives in climate change activities, including in their publication “A Cooperative Solution to Climate Change”.

31 October 2015

In the Sustainability Solutions Group (SSG) document it is underlined that “cooperatives represent something special for the climate change challenge. It is a combination of experience and a proven track record, resilience, an unrelenting dedication to universal values, the ability to achieve multiple outcomes at once, and flexibility and versatility.” The concept of sustainability is embedded within the seven cooperative principles. By their nature, cooperatives put societal and member concerns ahead of short-term profit. In this sense, CWCF recently adopted a Statement on Climate Change which begins as follows:

“From November 30 to December 11, 2015, the nations of the world will come together in Paris, France to negotiate a global treaty on climate change. The Canadian Worker Co-operative Federation (CWCF) is an organisation representing worker co-operatives across Canada, and Principle 7 of the Cooperative Principles states that “Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members”. Climate change unequivocally threatens not only sustainable development, but the survival of millions of people around the world through undermining food security, extreme weather events, sea level rise, ocean acidification and other impacts. CWCF is therefore mandated on behalf of our members to advocate for meaningful action on climate change according to the co-operative values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In so doing, CWCF joins a diverse and growing movement within society.

To this end, CWCF calls for an agreement in Paris that includes the following elements:

Commitment to 100% renewable future by 2050: In order to stabilise the climate at safe levels as called for by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the world needs to transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy by 2050 . This also means that more than 2/3 of all present commercially viable fossil fuel reserves will need to stay in the ground . …”

The Pathway to Paris, co-organized by SSG, is a collection of artists, activists, academics, musicians, politicians, and innovators coming together to make their voices heard in the context of the UN climate talks in Paris in December 2015. SSG has been participating in the UN climate negotiations for several years, and the meeting in Paris this December is a unique opportunity to agree upon a coordinated international response to climate change. The meeting is unique because of a coalescing of acknowledgement by heads of state, particularly China and the US, that substantive action is urgent.

Many Worker Cooperatives in Canada in addition to SSG are working towards sustainability and climate justice, including the following:

• Forêt d’Arden is a worker cooperative in Quebec, which provides education about the environment.
• EnerGreen Builders Co-operative located in New Brunswick, is committed to building and maintaining high quality sustainable buildings and they endeavour to use environmentally friendly building materials and practices.
• Aster Group Environmental Services, also in New Brunswick, is a worker co-operative that delivers environmental consulting services.
• The Fourth Pig, a worker cooperative in Ontario, is a construction company that does home and commercial renovations and building. Their work is based on natural and green building techniques and materials.
• Vancouver Renewable Energy Co-op (VREC) sells, installs and provides consulting services for renewable energy systems in British Columbia.
• Natural Cycle Worker Co-op Limitedis a group of enterprises, located in Manitoba, Canada focused on human-powered transportation. They have four worker co-operative members including a courier business, a bike shop, a fabrication company and a distribution company.
• Urbane Cyclist Workers Co-op is a bike shop located in downtown Toronto that includes retail and service. Urbane Cyclist supports all pedal-powered cycling and their shop services all kinds of bicycles.
• Old Town Glassworks in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories is a community of workers and artists who create hand-crafted glassware from recycled bottles.
• Urban Eatin’ Landscapes, located in Manitoba, transforms underutilized space into beautiful edible landscapes.
• Tourne-Sol Co-operative Farm, in rural Quebec, is a farming cooperative that is committed to producing the highest quality organic products in the most sustainable ways possible to nourish our local community and enrich the landscape.

Yuill Hebert of SSG noted that, “Cooperatives are very active around the world in addressing climate change; from renewable energy cooperatives to car sharing, from low-carbon housing to providing critical financing but certainly they can do more, much more.
The unique value proposition is that cooperatives, unlike many other models of enterprise, can enable the transition to a fossil fuel-free society while combating inequality, enhancing democracy and ensuring local involvement and control, thus simultaneously achieving different aspects of the sustainable development goals- a win-win-win solution.If we attempt to solve climate change with unrestrained capitalism, the result may be reduced emissions, but there are also other social and economic problems that must then be addressed.”

Cooperatives in Canada and elsewhere are already implementing sustainable business practices and services. CWCF urges all cooperatives to get involved in working together to address climate change. This can be done by adopting a Climate Change Statement, advocating with governments, creating climate-related policies, participating in Pathways to Paris or similar activities, implementing more sustainable business practices and services and collaborating to encourage other cooperatives, community organizations, and businesses to address climate change issues.

By Kaye Grant, CWCF
Image from Sustainability Solutions Group

- “A Cooperative Solution to Climate Change”: