Co-ops commit to Sustainable Development Goals

Co-operators around the world have made a commitment to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs are a set of 17 global goals with 169 targets between them. The sustainable development agenda aims to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all.

At the end of the final day of the International Summit of Cooperatives in Quebec, a preliminary declaration recognised the goals are a significant lever for introducing sustainable development strategies and for resolving the key global issues.

On the same day, five UN ambassadors called on the co-operative movement to step up in the business world.

Harald Braun, German Ambassador to the UN, told delegates: “To me it is so obvious that the co-operative movement and Sustainable Development Goals belong together.”

Marc-André Blanchard, the UN’s Canada ambassador, commented: “This is an agenda made in heaven for co-operatives. This is made for you. The world needs you. We need you to make this a success. I could not think of a better organisational structure than the co-operative movement to make this happen under this agenda.”

In response, co-operators took part in numerous sessions during the morning looking at food security, employment, access to health care and social services, poverty and financial inclusion, climate change and sustainable development.

The declaration said: “With more than 1.6 million enterprises, 1.3 billion members and close to 15% of the global economy, co-operative enterprises were the first group of enterprises worldwide to endorse the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Co-operatives maintain that, due to their co-operative nature and values, they are in a position to fulfil the organisation’s commitments to sustainable development to everyone’s benefit.

“More than ever, the co-operative business model meets the new expectations of consumers, who demand that businesses be more socially and economically responsible, and support sustainable development. The Summit helps strengthen these co-operative enterprises by forging alliances, providing managers with numerous tools, developing new markets, and promoting the growth and development of the cooperative model in an increasingly competitive and constantly changing economic and financial world.”

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals

The declaration also highlighted a number of objectives the movement has set itself. It hopes that by 2030 it would have promoted the growth and reputation of the movement by doubling the number of members to two billion, quadrupling the number of co-ops to four million and taking 20% of the global economy.

During the debate on the goals, Mr Braun added: “I have heard people say that these are UN goals, but I take issue with that. Yes it has been a UN process … but these are not the UN’s goals; these are global goals. These are our goals and your goals to which governments have committed to. These goals will be a guiding beacon for all our societies throughout the 21st century.”

He also told co-operatives that they need not adopt all of the goals, but choose the ones most relevant to them: “It would be an illusion for a co-ops to want to implement numbers 1, 2 or 13 of the goals. Instead, co-ops need to set corporate goals that align with the Sustainable Development Goals. But, the implementation of the SDGs is not a matter of corporate social responsibility, it’s about being successful within business and, at the same time, working with your corporate goals.”

The UN’s US ambassador Sarah Mendelson told delegates: “There is an enormous opportunity here with a very deep vision of what the world can look like. They’re our goals. But, this will only happen if we all know about them. There is very little understanding that the SDGs exist. We need to help ensure everyone understands them. We need our governments to do more about them. The opportunities to resolve development challenges relies on our resolve to work together. We need to make sure nobody is left behind.”

Ecuador’s UN ambassador Horacio Sevilla Borja added: “Governments alone cannot solve the problems in the world. That’s why we also rely on the co-operative movement with the principles of solidarity and co-operation. The principles of the co-operative movement are different and can bring other solutions to the goals. We are grateful and admire the work the co-operative movement is doing. We count on your for these main objectives for mankind.”