News 2015/3/19

Seikatsu Club Participates in the ICA Sustainability Advisory Group Meeting in the United States

A meeting of the "Sustainability Advisory Group" (SAG) organized by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA)(*1) was held in Wisconsin, United States. Mr. Koichi Kato, President of the Seikatsu Club Consumer's Co-operative Union (SCCCU), Ms. Yuriko Ito, Board member of SCCCU and Mr. Kazuhiro Shirai, Executive Director of the Policy Research Institute for the Civil Sector, participated in the meeting.

Co-operatives as leaders of sustainability

ICA invited leaders of sustainability from different countries to participate in SAG and held two virtual meetings last May and September. The third meeting, as the first physical meeting, was held at the headquarters of Organic Valley in La Farge, Wisconsin. Organic Valley is a dairy co-operative which produces organic meat and dairy products. Other co-operative organizations represented at members participating in the meeting were VanCity Credit Union (Canada), Banca Etica (Italy), Unimed (Brazil), and iCoop Korea (Korea). Unfortunately CIC Group (Kenya) and Lega Coop (Italy) were unable to attend.

Ms. Hanan El Youssef, ICA Strategy Manager (right)“The Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade(*2) outlines an ambitious vision in which co-operatives are the acknowledged leader in economic, social and environmental sustainability, the model preferred by people and the fastest growing form of enterprise,” said Ms. Hanan El Youssef, Strategy Manager of ICA, explaining the background to the establishment of the group. “Sustainability is one of the pillars of the Blueprint.”

Yuil of Sustainability Solutions, who works with ICA on management of the Group, explained the objectives of the group and said, “An analysis of the extent of sustainability reporting in the largest 300 cooperatives found that the total increased from one report in 2001 to 22 reports in 2010, but this has dropped drastically in the last two years.” He indicated that cooperatives are falling short of demonstrating their ability to be leaders of sustainability.

Mr. Koichi Kato (left) and Ms. Yuriko Ito (center)The group discussed both in small groups and at the plenary about frameworks and indicators of sustainability which are fully applicable to co-operatives, and decided to recommend that ICA develop a framework that enables individual cooperatives to advance their efforts toward sustainability.

SCCCU actively participated in the discussion. “Alexander Laidlaw already wrote in 1980 in his report ‘Co-operatives in the year 2000’ that multinational companies are inclined to destroy the environment,” said Mr. Koichi Kato, President of SCCCU, and expressed his opinion on the roles of co-operatives. “I feel rather uncomfortable if co-operatives use the same indicators as multinational companies. I agree with the idea of developing a framework which fully reflects co-operative values and principles.” He agreed to keep working with ICA on this matter.

Cooperatives are a tool for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

Sustainable Advisory Group MeetingOne of the important agenda items of the meeting was the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)(*3) which are scheduled for adoption at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015. Rodrigo Gouveia, Director of Policy of ICA, participated in the meeting over the telephone from Washington D. C., and said, “We are working to make sure that the UN institutions and UN parties will recognize that co-operatives are effective tools for achieving the SDGs.” He also encouraged members of SAG to lobby their own governments in a similar way.

SAG’s term was due to expire in April 2015, but at the end of the meeting, the group agreed to extend the term and carry out further work to support ICA in its work on sustainability.

(*1) ICA is a non-governmental organization with member organizations in 100 countries around the world. These member organizations represent almost one billon individuals.

(*2) “Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade” was adopted by ICA representatives at its Extraordinary General Assembly in Manchester in October 2012. The Blueprint is a plan for the global co-operative movement spanning the current decade. The “2020 Vision” aims for the co-operative form of business to become: a) the acknowledged leader in economic, social and environmental sustainability, b) the model preferred by people, and c) the fastest growing form of enterprise. The strategies to attain these goals have the five pillars of participation, sustainability, identity, legal frameworks and capital.

(*3) Sustainable Development Goals
At the United Nation's Rio+20 Conference, member States agreed to launch a process to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will build upon the Millennium Development Goals and converge with the post 2015 development agenda. It was decided to establish an “inclusive and transparent intergovernmental process open to all stakeholders, with a view to developing global sustainable development goals to be agreed by the General Assembly.”