The 2013 sustainability scan - one of the five priorities for the Co-operative Decade.

Sustainability, a key part of the Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade

A key part of the Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade is to demonstrate convincingly that sustainability is inherent to the nature of co-operatives, and that co-operative enterprises make a positive contribution to sustainability.
The United Nations sees a unique potential for the co-operative model. It is noted that in the face of multiple crises and natural disasters, co-operatives have maintained high credit ratings, increased assets and turnover, and expanded their memberships base. In his statement for the International Day of Co-operatives, Guy Ryder, the Director General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), linked co-operatives with sustainable development. “As global attention focuses on the challenge of sustainable development, co-operatives can and must play a key role as creative enterprises expanding into new and innovative areas,” Mr. Ryder said, citing such spheres as recycling and renewable energy, providing people with know-how, inputs, finance and markets at fair prices with low environmental impact. 

The International Co-operative Alliance commissions a sustainability scan 

The International Co-operative Alliance commissioned a scan of co-operatives from around the world and from different sectors in order to investigate the current status of co-operatives with respect to sustainability. This analysis begins an investigation of the relationship between sustainability and the co-operative model with the question: are co-operatives compatible with notions of sustainability?  


The UN is correct to place its hope in the co-operative model as an engine of sustainability. There is a clear and direct relationship between sustainability and how co‑operatives describe themselves. The linkages to social dimensions of sustainability are stronger than the linkages to environmental and economic dimensions, but all three are present. The results of the crowdsourcing demonstrate that co‑operatives embed sustainability into their operating model and values, but further study is required to understand definitively the degree to which co‑operatives are ‘walking the talk’.