Co-ops celebrate the International Day of Co-operatives

This year’s theme is Cooperatives 4 decent work, in line with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8 – Inclusive development and decent work.

Co-operatives around the world are marking the International Day of Co-operatives today [6 July] by championing their commitment to decent work.

Celebrated since 1923 on the first Saturday of July, the day aims to increase awareness of co-operatives. This year’s theme – Cooperatives 4 decent work–  is in line with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8 – Inclusive development and decent work. Co-operatives will be using the #CoopsDay hashtag on social media aiming to inform policymakers, civil society organisations and the general public on how co-ops are promoting decent work.

The theme was chosen by the Committee for the Promotion and Advancement of Cooperatives (COPAC), a multi-stakeholder partnership of organisations, which includes the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA).

This year’s celebration will be both the 25th United Nations International Day of Co-operatives and the 96th International Co-operative Day. And it falls in the centenary year of the International Labor Organization (ILO)

Read more: Co-operatives and the World of Work – Celebrating 100 years of the International Labour Organization

In a statement issued ahead of the day, ICA president Ariel Guarco said: “On 6 July, we’ll be shouting out loud how we are a tool that strengthens human development and social justice through work. This is why we’re joining the centenary celebrations of the ILO – an organisation we’ve worked with hand in hand since its beginnings. This is also why we approved a declaration last year against all types of workplace harassment. We’ve also committed to working towards the elimination of all types of compulsory and forced labour to put an end to child exploitation and eradicate the discrimination and inequalities that still exist in today’s working environments.”

Mr Guarco highlighted that co-operatives are responsible for providing jobs or work opportunities to 10% of the world’s working population, generating decent work and creating collective wealth in both urban and rural areas.

“In co-operatives, we have principles and values. This is how we’re building the future of work, today. Decent, inclusive, and sustainable work for all. International Day of Co-operatives is a day to give recognition to the international community for the role we’re all playing in creating a better world. A movement of men and women who are showing the way to build a fairer economy that puts people, and their needs and aspirations, first. Happy International Day of Co-operatives!”

As part of the celebrations, the ICA has lunched an interactive map to show how co-operatives worldwide are joining in with the celebrations.

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Ahead of the day USA apex body, the National Co-operative Business Association (NCBA) is highlighting how its members are create quality jobs, preserve workers’ rights and build the next economy.

A Certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), NCBA member Capital Impact Partners has deployed more than US $2.5bn (£1.99bn) to serve five million people and create more than 37,000 jobs in sectors critical to building equitable communities. Likewise, New York based Cooperative Home Care Associates employs 2,300 caregivers who benefit from competitive wages, regular hours, family health insurance, and a strong training and career path program.

“The International Day of Co-operatives is a great time to remind people that co-ops are a proven solution to empower people in their businesses and their communities,” said NCBA-CLUSA president and CEO Doug O’Brien. “Not only do co-ops tend to be more resilient than other types of businesses, but they can also provide workers a pathway to owning their own businesses.”

He added: “While we in the co-operative community understand the power of co-operatives, we should always look for ways to share the co-op story with others.”

Related: Decent work and a decent income. It’s not much to ask, is it?

Australia is also joining other countries in celebrating the decent work that co-ops provide. This International Day of Co-operatives, the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM) is launching the country’s first online toolkit for forming co-operatives – Get Mutual – a one-stop shop for resources on starting up and running a co-operatives.

“Because co-ops put people first, they are excellent business structures for people to come together to tackle issues such as work casualisation, under-employment and the gig economy. Co-ops are a way for the providers of labour – the workers – to own the platform that rents out their labour so that they are in control of their work conditions and fair pay,” said BCCM chief executive, Melina Morrison.

To mark the day, the International Health Co-operative Organisation (IHCO) has also issued a statement in which it points out that health co-operatives have an essential role in generating fair employment for healthcare professionals.

IHCO president Carlos Zarco said: “Health co-operatives allow doctors to practise their profession freely and ensure dignified working conditions for health professionals.”

In the run-up to the celebration, Jean-Louis Bancel, president of Cooperatives Europe, highlighted the importance co-ops play in the world of work. He said: “Co-operatives go beyond being a regular business model. Where inequalities thrive, co-operatives continue to prove to be part of the solution. By embedding ethical values and principles within their economic activity, they respond to the needs of the citizens and are the perfect tools for implementing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), driving decent work and sustainable development.

“Let’s celebrate the power of co-operation this co-ops day together. I invite you to promote co-operatives, and share great examples and achievements through This #CoopsDay we wish you all an excellent day of celebrations, reflections and inspiration for a more co-operative future.”

Mathias Fiedler president of Euro Coop, which represents consumer co-operatives in Europe also said in a statement: “Consumer co-operatives in Europe are aware of their responsibility towards their employees. Our member organisations employ 700,000 people. Only by working together with members, management, and employees can we fulfil our co-operative mission – to offer members the best possible service. Stemming from our unique model of governance, co-operatives put people at the forefront of their work, which translates into an inherent responsibility towards creating decent work as part of our identity.”

To help co-ops promote the day, the ICA has released a logo and related graphic materials in different languages and formats, ready-to-post messages for the social media, and an interactive map to show how co-operatives worldwide are joining in with the celebrations.

  • Follow the celebrations online on 6 July and beyond with the hashtag #CoopsDay