New Zealand government praises co-ops for work on sustainable development

'The economy needs to move from volume to value – and co-ops understand that. We need to move away from the speculative towards the sustainable'

Co-operatives are helping the world meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, says New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern.

In her speech at the annual forum of the country’s co-op sector, Ms Ardern said New Zealand was due to report on its progress towards the 17 SDGs at a High Level Political Forum of the UN. The delegation will acknowledge the work of NZ’s co-ops at the meeting, which takes place in New York this July.

Themed Forward Thinking – Taking New Zealand co-operatives into the future, the national forum brought together around 100 co-operative leaders, and also heard from David Parker, cabinet minister for economic development.

“Co-ops are interesting to me,” he said. “They are big contributors to GDP and employ a large part of our workforce.

“But we need co-ops to increase their investment in research and development. Our government is offering up to a billion dollars to incentivise innovation and co-ops could get a good share of that.

“The economy needs to move from volume to value – and co-ops understand that. We need to move away from the speculative towards the sustainable.”

Craig Presland, chief executive of national apex body Cooperative Business NZ, said sustainability was central to the co-operative ethos, and co-operatives were key to meeting the SDGs.

“It is widely recognised that the co-operative business model, with its underlying strengths of endurance along with economic, environmental and social sustainability, is the most closely aligned towards supporting the UN in achieving these goals,” he said.

Co-ops generate nearly a fifth of NZ’s GDP. The sector includes dairy giant Fonterra, insurer Southern Cross Health Society and retailer Foodstuffs.

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