UN report outlines key actions for co-ops to drive sustainable development

‘The peoples of the world and the environment urgently need to strengthen a system of economic relations that ensure prosperity, equity, democracy, and peace’

A new UN report has highlighted the entrepreneurial ecosystem approach as a key way to support co-ops in increasing economic and social wellbeing for all. 

The UN Secretary General report on co-operatives in social development, which is being presented to the 78th UN General Assembly from 18 to 26 September, outlines key policies and actions that can help co-ops support member states with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This includes providing decent jobs, advancing poverty eradication and promoting environmental sustainability.

The report identifies five key areas within its entrepreneurial ecosystem approach: legislation, policies and institutions which support co-ops; education and capacity-building; co-operative culture; funding and finance; and networks and partnerships. It also provides updates from around the world on developments in these areas. 

Two case studies are included to demonstrate the role of co-ops in sustainable development: the Kibbutz movement in Israel, and Spain’s Mondragon Corporation, which it states “embodies all key elements of a co-operative ecosystem”.

In addition to recognising the role co-ops have to play in promoting economic and social development, the report concludes that “supporting and strengthening co-operatives as successful business enterprises” is the way to increase the movement’s impact. 

To pursue this, the report makes four recommendations to member states: 

  • use the entrepreneurial ecosystem approach, as well as support for further research in order to build a firm foundation for evidence-based policies;
  • collect comprehensive and internationally comparable data on the role of cooperative enterprises in economic and social development and the implementation of the SDGs;
  • integrate cooperatives in national development plans and Sustainable Development Goal reporting processes, in national consultations on social and economic policies and in voluntary national reviews submitted for the High-Level Political Forum on sustainable development;
  • provide policy analysis, technical support and capacity-building assistance to promote the continued growth of cooperatives for the achievement of sustainable development.

Ariel Guarco, president of the ICA, said: “Increasingly, the UN is recognising our business model as a key player in advancing towards the SDGs. This is no coincidence; it is the result of the integration and power that we are demonstrating in each community to respond to the main challenges of the global agenda.”

The ICA said it hopes this report will allow it to “continue consolidating a co-operative paradigm in each country, in each region and at the global level”, adding: “The peoples of the world and the environment urgently need to strengthen a system of economic relations that ensure prosperity, equity, democracy, and peace.”