Co-operative Agenda 21


                    Co-operative Agenda 21

                                                     May 1995
I.          Agricultural Sector
II.         Consumer Sector
III.        Fisheries Sector
IV.         Housing Sector
V.          Industrial/Handicraft Production Sector
VI.         Tourism Sector
VII.        Energy Sector
VIII.       Financial Sector
X.          Education, Communications and Public Awareness


The greater the degree of community control over the
resources on which it relies, the greater will be the
incentive for economic and human resource development.

As people's organizations, co-operatives are ideally placed to
implement activities dealing with the protection of the
environment as well as with sustainable development questions. 
The protection of the natural and human environment is a key
issue for the survival of future generations.

Co-operatives have been concerned with environment and
development issues for decades.  However, in October 1992, the
International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) Congress adopted a
Declaration on the Environment and Sustainable Development.  The
Declaration reaffirms co-operatives' commitment to action in
promoting sustainable development practices in all sectors of
activity citing the preservation of the natural environment, the
importance of promoting environment education and the need to
influence government policy in the area of environment and
development.  The Declaration also recommended a compilation of
member activities into a Co-operative Agenda 21.2/

One of the common observations made by those participating in the
drafting of this document has been that above all, co-operatives,
due to their member orientation, have an enormous potential for
raising not only awareness among their members, but also general
public awareness through the education and training of their
members and the communities in which they serve.  Building
people's capacity to address environment and development issues
is perhaps the key aim of the Co-operative Agenda 21.  Co-
operatives whose individual membership includes over 700 million
individuals worldwide have responded to the challenge and can no
doubt be instrumental in implementing the United Nations Agenda

This document identifies presents and potential contributions of
the co-operative movement to promoting environment and
development objectives. The draft of the document was
circularized to the ICA specialized bodies, bodies which regroup
co-operative organizations by economic sector, asking for their
specific input.  This final version has incorporated their
additions and suggestions.  

One final note, the document presents co-operative specific goals
and activities listed by sector of economic activity.  No
specific section on the role of women is included as women co-
operators participate in all type of co-operatives.  They are key
actors in influencing the policies of co-operatives especially
with regard to sustainable development.  The Co-operative Agenda
21 present guidelines for actions for all co-operatives and all
co-operators without regard to gender. 

I.          Agricultural Sector

Agriculture occupies one third of the land surface of the Earth,
and is the central activity for much of the world's population.3/ 
It is therefore, not surprising that agricultural co-operatives
and agricultural related service co-operatives 4/ represent a
significant part of the of the co-operative movement worldwide. 
The large number of men and women involved in agricultural and
agricultural related service co-operatives confirm the fact that
co-operatives have an important potential in increasing
agricultural production so as to meet world food demands which
are expected to increase by 50 percent by the year 2000 and in
influencing and modifying production methods, marketing and
distribution practices.

Objectives :

(1)   Promote sustainable agricultural development;

(2)   Assure food security;

(3)   Promote the conservation of plant and animal genetic

(4)   Promote land and water conservation.

Methods :

(a)   Promote agricultural co-operatives which are attentive to
      environmental necessities;

(b)   Increase on-farm inputs, promote integrated farm management
      technologies including crop rotation, organic fertilizers,

(c)   Reduce and/or rationalize external inputs such as
      fertilizers, pesticides, energy consumption;
            - undertake research to develop pest resistant crops
            - ascertain and evaluate application of indigenous
              methods to pest/disease control

(d)   Evaluate harvesting, storage and distribution methods to
      reduce waste;
(e)   Provide education and training to co-operative members
      through the organization of seminars, symposia and other in
      areas such as :
            - general environment education
            - soil conservation, erosion control
            - appropriate use of pesticides, chemical fertilizers
(f)   Influence government in such areas as :
            - trade liberalization including GATT/WTO
            - pricing policies for agricultural produce
            - access and provision of agricultural credit
            especially as regards women farmers

(g)   Strengthen ties with other agricultural producer
      organizations such as the International Federation of
      Agricultural Producers (IFAP) which have technical
      committees examining environmental questions and
      international multinational organizations dealing with
      agricultural questions such as the Food and Agricultural
      Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the
      International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

II.         Consumer Sector

Consumer co-operatives have been consistently concerned with
changing lifestyles and the need to promote more sustainable
consumption patterns.  Their policies represent an integrated
approach to sustainable development which includes evaluating
environmental, ethical and health issues at the individual and
global level.

It is imperative to investigate and change the production system
of goods in order to promote a truly effective environmental
policy.  The consumer co-operative movement can not therefore
remain disinterested in production systems, but should instead
use its power of influence to encourage and promote products and
production systems that are more environment-friendly, given that
natural resources are dwindling.

It is for this reason that consumer co-operatives have pledged
to adopt integrated production and distribution systems which
take into consideration environmental, consumer health and social
responsibility issues.

As consumer co-operatives account for 14% of the total number of
ICA members with approximately 70% of its membership coming from
highly industrialized countries, consumer co-operatives can play
a particularly key role both with regard to the education of
citizens/consumers and to influencing the adoption of production
systems whose  environmental production and marketing standards
are better adapted to safeguarding natural resources. 

Objectives :

(1)   Promote patterns of consumption and production that reduce
      environmental stress including the indiscriminate use of
      natural resources, the discharge of waste and the release
      of emissions while meeting the basic needs of humanity;

(2)   Develop a better understanding of the role of consumption
      (lifestyles) so as to develop innovate policies and actions
      to encourage environmentally sustainable consumption

Methods :

(a)   Launch environmental information and educational
      initiatives to encourage sustainable consumption patterns
      including the developing consumer environmental awareness
      and environmentally sound purchasing decision-making;

(b)   Promote training and exchange information/technology
      especially as regards production and distribution systems;
            - rationalize technologies 
            - promote information exchange to minimize costs for 
            the implementation of environmentally sound strategies

(c)   Establish commercial policies with environmentally sound
            - assess products using Life Cycle Analysis 
            - withdraw harmful products from the market
            - develop environmentally safe and sound products

(d)   Promote minimization of waste by applying the policy of 3Rs
      - reduce, reuse and recycle;
            - reduce packaging
            - opt for reusable materials and establish recycling
            - encourage source-sorted waste collection

(e)   Adopt environmental protection as an integrated objective
      of production; 
            - introduce the "ecological cycle" principle as the
            basis of planning, development and programming of
            consumer co-operative activity and appropriate
            environmental management systems

(f)   Review and adopt pricing policies to ensure market
      competitivity for environmentally sound products;
            - lobby Governments to introduce pricing policies
            which reflect the environmental cost of products

(g)   Undertake or participate in environmental impact research;
            - encourage and promote the use of environmental
            assessment instruments for products, packaging,
            production and distribution activities

(h)   Participate in sustainable development debates at national
      and international institutional levels;
            - national environmental legislation
            - establishment of "polluters" taxes

(i)   Strengthen ties with other consumer associations and
      international organizations.

III.        Fishery Sector

Marine living resources provide an important source of protein
in many countries and their use is often of major importance to
local communities.  They provide food and livelihoods and if
sustainably utilized, offer increased potential to meet
nutritional, economic and social needs.

Marine fisheries yield 80 to 90 million tons of fish and
shellfish per year./5  In certain countries where a large
proportion of national yields are fished or processed by co-
operatives as in the case of Japan where roughly 90 % of all
fishery products are the products of members of fishery co-
operatives, there are substantial contributions that can be made
to national objectives as regards the sustainable use of marine
and freshwater resources.


(1)   Promote the sustainable use of marine and freshwater
      fisheries including aquaculture;

(2)   Promote the environmental conservation of marine and
      freshwater habitats;

(3)   Promote public awareness on the importance of marine and
      freshwater resources to environmental and food issues.

Methods :

(a)   Develop and increase the potential of marine and freshwater
      living resources to meet human nutritional needs, as well
      as social, economic and development goals through the
      promotion of fishery co-operatives which are attentive to
      environmental and resource conservation;
            - take into account traditional knowledge and
            interests of local communities, small-scale artisanal
            fisheries and indigenous people in the development and
            management programmes

(b)   Maintain or restore populations of marine and freshwater
      species at levels that can produce the maximum sustainable
      yield as qualified by relevant environmental and economic
      factors, taking into consideration relationships among
            - preserve rare or fragile ecosystems, as well as
            habitats and other ecologically sensitive areas.

(c)   Promote the development and use of selective fishing gear
      and practices that minimize waste in the catch of target
      species and minimize by-catch of non-target species;
            - prohibit dynamiting, poisoning and other comparable
            destructive fishing practices.
            - reduce post-harvest losses and discards by improving 
            techniques of processing, distribution and

(d)   Provide education and training on environmentally sound
      fishing and fish processing;

(e)   Provide technical and financial assistance to organize,
      maintain, exchange and improve knowledge of marine and
      freshwater living resources and fishing techniques, and
      build awareness on ecosystem conservation needs;
            - promote movement-to movement assistance and movement
            to non-movement assistance

(f)   Strengthen ties with multinational, regional and national
      organizations including the Food and Agricultural
      Organization of the United Nations (Fisheries Committee);

(g)   Comply with international agreements that aim at protecting
      marine resources.

IV.         Housing Sector

The overall human settlement objective is to improve
the social, economic and environmental quality of
human settlements and the living and working
environments of all people./6

The aim of housing co-operatives is fulfil the shelter needs at
low cost of its members whether it be by co-ownership of land or
housing units, construction, management, etc.  The forms of
housing co-operatives can vary according to country, national
housing legislation, and the needs of its members.  Housing co-
operatives can be temporary or permanent structures; they can be
urban or rural, however, whatever their form and area of
operation, the potential for assuring environmentally safe and
sound shelter is notable.

Objectives :

(1)   Provide adequate shelter 

(2)   Improve human settlement management;

(3)   Promote sustainable land-use planning and management;

(4)   Promote the integrated provision of environmental;
      infrastructure:  water, sanitation, drainage and
      solid-waste management;

(5)   Promote sustainable energy and transport systems in human

(6)   Promote sustainable construction industry activities;

(7)   Promote human resource development and capacity-building
      for human settlement development.

Methods :

(a)   Promote environmentally safe and sound housing co-

(b)   Promote environmentally sound planning;
            - land planning (where appropriate, encourage
            communally and collectively owned and managed land) 
            - infrastructure planning - access to water, 
            electricity, sanitation and waste management
            facilities, transport, etc. 

(c)   Promote the use of safe building materials and where
      appropriate integrate indigenous methods of building and
      indigenous building materials;

(d)   Provide training and technical assistance for co-operative
      members and related technicians, professionals and
      administrators of housing co-operatives particularly in
      regard to social, economic and environmental aspects of
      human settlements development;
            - strengthen ties with multinational, regional,
            national housing organizations.

V.          Industrial / Handicraft Production Sector

More efficient production processes, preventive strategies,
cleaner production technologies and procedures throughout the
product life cycle which minimize or avoid wastes can play a
major role in reducing impacts on resource use and the
environment. Technological innovations, development,
applications, transfer and the more comprehensive aspects of
partnership and cooperation are to a very large extent within the
providence of business and industry./7

Efforts to implement sustainable development will involve
adjustments and opportunities at the national and enterprise
levels, with workers foremost among those concerned./8  Members
of industrial or handicraft production co-operatives will
therefore have a role to play in assuring economic, social and
environmentally safe and sound development.

Objectives :

(1)   Promote more efficient and cleaner production technologies
      and procedures;

(2)   Make environmental management a key priority in

Methods :

(a)   Adopt environmentally sound codes of conduct, policies,

(b)   Promote movement-to-movement assistance especially as
      regards environmentally sound technologies;

(c)   Carry out environment assessments, audits and impact
      studies to determine the effects of co-operative activity
      on the human and natural environment;

(d)   Promote education and training programmes;
            - environment education
            - management training 

(e)   Take voluntary initiatives, promote and implement
      self-regulation and be more responsible for ensuring that
      activities have minimal impacts on human health and the

(f)   Strengthen collaboration with industrial organizations such
      as United Nations Industrial Development Organization
      (UNIDO) as appropriate.

VI.         Tourism Sector 

There is an intrinsic link between tourism and the environment. 
For a destination to be attractive, potential tourists must
perceive that destination is safe and clean in terms of health
standards, that is attractive because of its natural
splendour/wildlife or social/cultural richness.  Sustainable
tourism therefore, must be based on the rational use of natural
resources so as not to destroy the environment which is sought
after by the tourist (destruction that is often caused by mass
tourism).  The tourism industry in general must be able to strike
a balance between establishing viable tourism destinations and
limiting the negative environmental impact of tourism.

Tourism co-operatives, whether co-operative owned travel
agencies, developers, or tour operators, aim to provide adequate
low-cost tourist opportunities to co-operative members. 
Essentially they have the same concerns as the private sector of
the tourism industry, however, tourism co-operatives can be
influenced by members to make sustainable development and
environment issues high priorities. 

Objectives :

(1)   Promote environmentally safe and sound tourism;

(2)   Manage and preserve fragile eco-systems.

Methods :

(a)   Promote the formulation of environmentally sound and
      culturally sensitive tourism programmes as a strategy for
      sustainable development of urban and rural settlements;

(b)   Initiate environmental impact assessments prior to the
      development of tourism centres as well as to already
      operating sites;

(c)   Promote Eco-tourism - tourism with an environment education
            - promote tourism allowing reversible land uses such
            as camp grounds

(d)   Guarantee safe drinking water and environmentally sound
      treatment and disposal of sewage, solid wastes and
      industrial effluent;

(e)   Participate in the conservation and restoration of altered
      critical habitats;

(f)   Collaborate with multi-national, regional, national and
      local organizations dealing with the question of
      environmentally sound tourism including, the World Tourism
      Organization, the United Nations Economic Commission for
      Europe (ECE), the United Nations Educational, Scientific
      and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), etc.

VII.        Energy Sector    

Fossil fuels are a finite resource, yet they account for almost
75% of all energy consumption worldwide.  Only 25% of total
global energy consumption is produced from renewable sources of
energy./9  Industrialized countries are by far the greatest
consumer of energy especially energy generated from fossil fuels,
whereas the chief sources of energy in rural areas in developing
countries are fuel wood, crop residues and manure, together with
human and animal energy. 

Energy co-operatives, which at the present time are represented
in the most numbers by electricity co-operatives within the ICA
membership, promote the rational use of energy and to some extent
the use of renewable sources of energy to produce electricity in
rural areas./10  With the recent establishment of the ICA Energy
Committee, co-operatives in many sectors will be able to benefit
from the exchange of valuable information on energy conservation
methods as well as small-scale applications of such alternative
sources of energy as hydropower and geothermal energy.

Objectives :

(1)   Promote the sustainable use of energy;

(2)   Promote research on alternative renewable sources of

Methods :

(a)   Promote environmentally safe and sound energy co-operatives
      both in industrialized and developing countries (urban and
      rural electricity co-operatives, petroleum co-operatives,

(b)   Provide information and technical assistance to co-
      operatives so as to promote the use of renewable resources
      to generate energy;
            - evaluate and use indigenous experience and
            traditions as appropriate

(c)   Identify alternative sources of energy - biomass fuels,
      solar and wind power, hydropower, geothermal power, etc.;

(d)   Strictly comply with regulations for offshore oil and gas
      platforms with which co-operatives are associated or own,
      and assess discharges, emissions and safety and the need
      for additional measures;

(e)   Provide education and training on energy conservation.

VIII.             Financial Sector

Approximately 33% of ICA member organization are financial co-
operatives whether they be co-operative banks, savings and credit
co-operatives, insurance co-operatives, etc.  Since economic
incentives to environmentally sound activities are perhaps the
most effective, financial sector co-operatives should be able to
induce changes in attitudes and policies.

Objectives :

(1)   Promote environmentally safe and sound sustainable
      development through the use of financial mechanisms.

Methods :

(a)   Adopt environment policies / code of ethics;

(b)   Promote and create innovative financial mechanisms to
      promote environmentally sound sustainable development. 

IX.         Education and Public Awareness

One of the fundamental prerequisites for the achievement of
sustainable development is broad public participation in
decision-making./11 A condition of participation is access to
information, and in the case of environment and sustainable
development participation requires access to information relevant
to environment and development held by national authorities,
independent institutes and economic enterprises including
information on products and activities that have or are likely
to have a significant impact on the environment, and information
on environmental protection measures.  

Co-operatives can provide means for the dissemination of
information from outside as well as from within the co-operative
movement.  As stated in the preface of this document, creating
public awareness and educating co-operative members and the
communities which they serve is one of the major contributions
of the co-operative movement.  Applicable to all sectors of co-
operative activity, the communication and information
dissemination function of co-operatives can constitute a major
input to the implementation of the United Nations Agenda 21 as
well as to the Co-operative Agenda 21.

Objectives :

(1)   Increase awareness on issues related to the environment and
      sustainable development.

Methods :

(a)   Disseminate information on environmentally safe and sound
      sustainable development issues through the co-operative

(b)   Disseminate information on the activities of co-operatives
      including activities in the field of sustainable
      development to non-co-operative media.


1/    UN Agenda 21, Chapter 14, para 14.16.
2/    "UN Agenda 21" was adopted by governments at the United
      Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio in
      June 1992.  It addresses the urgent problems of today and
      also aims at preparing the world for the challenges of the
      next century.  It reflects a global consensus and political
      commitment at the highest level on development and
      environment co-operation.  
3/    UN Agenda 21, Chapter 32, para 32.2.
4/    Agro processing, marketing, purchasing, production, and
      other services.
5/    UN Agenda 21, Chapter 17, para 17.70.
6/    UN Agenda 21, Chapter 7, para 7.4.
7/    UN Agenda 21, Chapter 30, para 30.2.
8/    UN Agenda 21, Chapter 29, para. 29.1
9/    Sorensen, Bent.   "The Future of Renewable Energy" in
      ECODECISION, No. 4, March 1992. pp. 54-56.
10/   It should be noted that the provision of energy especially
      to rural communities increases the potential for income
      generating activities which improve the economic and social
      conditions of the community.