Monique F. Leroux is Chair of the Board, President and CEO, Desjardins Group, one of the 3 cohosts of the 2012 International Summit of Cooperatives. In addition to heading the largest financial cooperative group in Canada, Ms. Leroux is Vice-Chair of the Executive Committee of the International Confederation of Popular Banks and a member of the Board of Directors of the European Association of Co-operative Banks. She also sits on the Board of Directors of the Conference Board of Canada and of other Canadian and Quebec organizations. Q: How would you describe Desjardins Group? A: Desjardins Group has a rich history: founded more than 110 years ago, it is now the largest cooperative financial group in Canada and the 6th largest in the world! Our financial group has 5.8 million members and clients who use the services of more than 450 caisses in Quebec and Ontario, the 2 most populous provinces in Canada. With 68,000 direct and indirect employees, Desjardins Group is also the largest private employer in Quebec. And, thanks to our subsidiary Développement international Desjardins, we are active in some 30 developing countries and provide more than 7 million families with access to secure financial services. Q: Where does Desjardins Group rank internationally? A: Our institution enjoys high credibility. According to the American magazine Global Finance, we are the 25th most secure financial institution in the world and the 4th most secure in North America. Desjardins Group’s various achievements were recognized by many organizations in 2010. For example, the British magazine The Banker named us Bank of the Year 2010─Canada for our overall financial and cooperative performance. This is the first time that a Canadian cooperative financial institution has won this award. Waterstone Human Capital ranked Desjardins as one of Canada’s 10 Most Admired Corporate Cultures for its cooperative business culture. These results demonstrate the great work that our employees do. And they motivate us to do even better. Q: What are the main challenges of the cooperative and mutualist model? A: It’s clear that a new economic world order is emerging. Economic growth and power are shifting from industrialized nations to emerging countries. These countries play an increasingly important role in influencing the global agenda and have become extremely fierce competitors in all our markets. And then there’s the race for supplies of raw materials, energy, food, and increasingly, drinking water, that’s also creating social and environmental pressure. Europe’s sovereign debt problem is another area of concern, as is America’s debt and high deficit. All of this is creating tension and instability between developing countries and those growing at a more moderate pace. And because we live in a very volatile world, one event can quickly spread like a shockwave throughout the world and, as we recently saw, trigger a global crisis. Q: What is the role of the cooperative and mutualist movement in this context? A: In this changing world, we must take action to ensure the continued growth of our economic model. We need to expand its presence, broaden its action and enhance its relevance for our current and future generations. This means that we must place special emphasis on developing partnerships between cooperative groups in Canada and abroad. We must act in this spirit of cooperation and intercooperation, in keeping with our mission and values that encourage cooperation and mutualism. Q: What do you expect from the 2012 International Summit of Cooperatives? A: We see 2012 as an exceptional opportunity for the cooperative model to gain greater visibility and get the recognition it deserves for its contribution to the well-being of individuals and communities. As Summit co-hosts, we can already count on the support of the International Co-operative Alliance, which unites and represents cooperatives worldwide, as well as that of Saint Mary’s University, a Canadian teaching institution that offers a world-renowned masters degree in cooperative management. We also have the support of Quebec, Canadian and European organizations. We believe that the cooperative model creates sustainable prosperity. Together, we want to extend the action of a cooperative movement that inspires confidence–it’s about being responsible and making a lasting difference.