Co-ops important to sustainable development, says the UN

The United Nations (UN) has recognised the important contribution co-operatives could make to the implementation of its sustainable development agenda for 2030.

Speaking on International Day of Co-operatives on 2 July, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon urged governments to create an enabling environment for co-operatives to thrive. He said: “Let us harness the power of co-operatives to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and create a world of dignity and opportunity for all.”

Co-operatives were also represented by the International Co-operative Alliance at the UN’s high-level political forum on sustainable development in New York on 11 July.

Co-ops can help shape the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda

The event is the UN’s central platform for the follow-up and review of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development and the sustainable development goals.

Ban Ki-moon
Ban Ki-moon

At a side event, the Alliance presented the first results of its global campaign to unite and engage co-ops in the SDG implementation process. The campaign includes the launch of the online platform Coops for 2030 (, which includes information about the SDGs and collects pledges by co-ops to achieve them. Around 100 pledges have already been received through the website.

Alliance president Monique Leroux told the event: “We are grateful for Ban Ki-moon’s support.

“Today is the day to commit to being a part of a different future from the one where we are otherwise headed. Ensuring that no one is left behind and contributing to eradicating poverty, co-operatives are unique in that they combine economic success with democratic governance and concern for community.

“This makes co-ops inherently sustainable businesses – significant social and economic actors.

“Co-ops generate more than USD $2.6 trillion in annual revenues and create over 250 million jobs. By actively engaging co-operatives around the world to make a specific measurable pledge toward the United Nations’ sustainable development goals, the Alliance demonstrates that co-ops actually put their business where their values are.

“We walk the talk.”

Joining forces in defence of the sustainability of our planet is as natural for co-operatives as joining forces in each of our localities, out of solidarity, to solve our common problems

The side event was organised by COPAC, the Committee for the Promotion and Advancement of Cooperatives, run in partnership by the Alliance, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN, the International Labour Organisation and the World Farmers Organisation.

Ariel Guarco, president of the Co-operative Confederation of Argentina (Cooperar) and board member of the Alliance, chaired the event.

He said: “Joining forces in defence of the sustainability of our planet is as natural for co-operatives as joining forces in each of our localities, out of solidarity, to solve our common problems. A co-operative doesn’t need to be induced to be socially responsible. It is social responsibility in an enterprise form.”

He added: “If we take the sales of the 300 largest co-operatives in the world, its amount is comparable to the GDP of some of the largest national economies. However the most important thing is not our size. The difference is how we work, how we decide and what is our relationship with the community.”