Co-operatives contribute $US1.6 trillion in revenues to the global economy, yet challenges are being faced in terms of banking regulation, commodities price hikes and speculation, as well as climate change, says a new report released as part of the official launch of the International Year of Co-operatives at the United Nations' headquarters in New York.
Global 300 – a statistical report which paints a picture of the largest co-operatives around the world – will have a new framework and a rigorous research process, under a new partnership initiated by the ICA. For 2012, the Global 300 is being compiled by the European research institute Euricse.
"Many concerned people recognize that corporations vigorously pursue market share and profits for shareholders and worry that this has a net negative effect on our world, often leaving only a handful of people wealthier at the expense of the many," ICA Director-General Charles Gould says in the report, which compiles data from 2008. "Co-operatives are a responsible alternative to this."
ICA sectoral organisations like the Jean-Louis Bancel-led International Co-operative Banking Association are tackling potential changes to banking regulation including the definition of Tier One capital by the Basel Committee, which may threaten the status of co-operatives' member shares.
There is the possibility that member shares will not in the future be included in calculating a bank's Tier One capital. Consider current plans to lift the requirement in Europe for Tier One capital to nine per cent and the consequences are potentially aggravated.
"Consumer co-operatives are enterprises owned by consumers, managed democratically and that aim to fulfil the needs and aspirations of the members," says Rodrigo Gouveia, Secretary General of EURO COOP, in the report. "It is essential that we stress this co-operative difference in terms of values, principles and ethical practices with both suppliers and consumers."
Gouveia highlights the price volatility of raw materials which affects the food market. "This issue has to be tackled to provide affordable prices for consumers," he says.
At the same time, these high prices for food are seeing a flow on effect with consumers spending less on basic foodstuffs as food prices rise. Also affecting supply is the higher price of feed which has hit the animal husbandry industry.
However, the burgeorning bio-fuel industry is providing growth.
One the biggest challenges facing co-operatives in the health sector is the design and implementation of formulas for collaboration with national public health care systems.
"Within the current economic context," José Carlos Guisado, President of the International Health Co-operative Organisation, says in the report, "public health costs are a significant financial burden for governments and, in some cases, the system's sustainability is far from guaranteed. This situation opens the doors for health co-operatives to act as a complement or alternative, depending on the case, to public health; however, this requires legislation to galvanize citizens into taking part in co-operatives and to promote the co-operative business model."
Bruno Roelants, Director-General of CICOPA, says in the report that worker, artisanal, service producer and industrial co-operatives responded nimbly to a brewing financial crisis and were able to convene their members quickly to make decisions to protect themselves and their members.
The latest version of the Global 300 report was sponsored by IFFCO, Credit Cooperatif and Desjardins.
Source: ICA news