Co-operative solutions for a planet in crisis

For World Environment Day (5 June), Co-op News looks at efforts made in sectors ranging from energy to agriculture

Concern for the environment has come to a head over the past 12 months, most visibly in the form of the Extinction Rebellion, a global youth-led movement against climate change.

Alarm bells are also ringing over marine plastic waste, the loss of species, the decline of bees and other pollinators, and UN warnings that soil depletion could affect future food production.

But weighing up against this movement in the opposite corner is the growth of populist right wing politics around the world, which promote a sceptical line on environmental issues as part of its rhetoric.

Businesses, too, have been slow to act, with concern over increased costs and disruption of operations.

Hopefully, co-operative organisations – with sustainable development built into Principle 7, Concern for Community, and the movement’s commitment to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – can lead the way forward.

There’s been a lot of activity from the co-op movement recently – our news section in recent weeks has included proposals by the Labour Party to shake up the UK energy sector with a role for community energy; work by co-ops to protect bees; the promotion of green transport in the US; the promotion of energy efficiency in Ireland and the USA; and dairy co-op Arla’s carbon-neutral pledge. Plus, there’s action by retail co-ops in the UK and Europe to reduce plastic waste – including Midcounties Co-op, whose new head of values, Pete Westall speaks to the News this month.

This month, we have also taken an in-depth look at the movement’s response across a range of sectors: check out our features on energy – with US electric co-ops and the UK community renewables sector –  retail, insurance, agriculture and tech. A common thread runs through these pieces – the sense that innovations from within the movement itself can drive change.

And we ask if a more sustainable use of our resources requires a more fundamental and radical shift: a move to co-operative, commons ownership
of the land in our stewardship.