21 December 2015
In September 2015, at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit, world leaders have adopted the 2030 Agenda aiming at achieving targeted Sustainable Development Goals over the next 15 years. To end poverty, promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth together with inclusive and sustainable industrialization and ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns are some of the goals. Employing 16 million people worldwide, worker, social and producers’ cooperatives express their commitment to keep contributing to the goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda. As enterprises based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity, they have been working to achieve those goals for years now.
The 2030 Agenda recognizes the diversity of the private sector and mentions cooperatives as part of it, acknowledging its role in the implementation of the goals, which means that States are aware that achieving the goals without cooperatives is impossible. The States call upon all businesses, including cooperatives, to apply their creativity and innovation to solve sustainable development challenges.
How are worker, social and producers cooperatives already contributing to accomplish the goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda? First of all, cooperatives are acknowledged as builders of economic, social and environmental sustainability, being one of the pillars of the movement endorsed by the Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade as well as in the CICOPA document Cooperatives as builders of sustainable development applied to Worker, social and producers’ cooperatives. Equal wealth redistribution resulting from stable jobs and an equitable access to goods and services could be considered as the specific contribution of worker, social and producers’ cooperatives active in industry and services to sustainable development.
As democratically controlled enterprises owned and managed by their members (workers, users, self-employed producers and/or other stakeholders) guided by the ethical values of equity, democracy and community concern, worker, social and producers’ cooperatives ensure that all men and women, young and less young, “in particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services, ownership and control over land and other forms of property…” as the first sustainable development goal stands.
The document Cooperatives are key to the transition from the informal to the formal economy produced by CICOPA argues that the cooperative entrepreneurial model is particularly adapted to lifting people out of poverty and carrying out the transition to the formal economy. In fact, cooperatives are already providing a way out of precarious and informal working arrangements. They offer access to key services including training and education, housing, and financial services as well as care services for their own families. An example is Si Se Puede! (We Can Do It!) Women’s Cooperative founded in Brooklyn (USA) in 2006, with the mission to bring together immigrant women to create a women-run, women-owned, eco-friendly housecleaning business. These women previously worked in the informal economy; now the cooperative has 65 members, who are all immigrants having an equal voice in decisions regarding policies and operations.
Worker, social and producers’ cooperatives promote sustainable employment, economic growth and industrialization. As enterprises locally rooted and owned by their members, they guarantee the long-term enterprises’ dimension, with the permanent concern for the surrounding territory and community. Even though some of them are going through difficult times, the general trend reported by studies shows that these cooperatives are displaying resilience to crisis situations.
Furthermore, cooperatives are addressing environmental challenges, for example increasing the share of renewable energy ensuring sustainable and modern resources. There are several valuable examples in this sector, such as, the worker cooperatives Coenergía, Kunlabora, Hunab Ku and Kutral in Chile are dedicated to the consultation, elaboration and creation of projects in the sectors of renewable energy engineering and energetic efficiency. These cooperatives have, among others, jointly created a design of a solar power photovoltaic plant, installed thermic solar panels in living spaces and buildings, written reports on energetic efficiency in industry, and developed projects of biogas production form organic matter. Another UN sustainable development goal seeks to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. Worker, social and producers’ cooperatives are working to reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse. As an example, the organization of cardboard manufacturer was created in the 90’s, in the province of Buenos Aires (Argentina). It was linked to different grassroots organizations, cooperatives and civil organizations and emerging enterprises.
On the top of that, cooperatives ensure women’s participation and equal opportunities in leadership at all levels of decision-making. In Italy, cooperatives are among the types of enterprises having the highest number of women in senior positions: 23% versus 16% in other types of enterprises. Indeed, women are mainly at the helm of social cooperatives, which are strongly developed in this country: 4 out of 10. The case of cooperatives running cultural and tourism activities is also remarkable: cooperatives led by women are 1 out of 5.
From the Millennium Development Goals to 2030 Agenda
United Nations General Assembly approved the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets on September 25, the so-called “2030 Agenda”. States have committed to implement them at national and regional level, according to their different national realities. It is built on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and completes what MDG did not achieve based on a balanced dimensions approach to achieve sustainable development: economic, social and environmental. The 2030 Agenda will come into effort on 1st January 2016 and will guide states decisions over the next 15 years.