Chapter I - Environmental Strategy within Co-op Movement

   This document has been made available in electronic format
      by the International Co-operative Alliance ICA

  Contribution of Co-operative Enterprises and the International
     Co-operative Movement to Implementation of UN AGENDA 21:
       Programme of Action for Sustainable Development 

                     Prepared jointly by
             the International Co-operative Alliance
                      the United Nations
  Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development

                 Geneva and New York, April 1995

        For information purposes only. Not an official
   document of the United Nations and not officially edited.

                          CHAPTER I


A.  General strategies for sustainable development at the
    international level

1.  At the global level

    The International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) and its member
organizations began to be involved in environmental matters in
the late 1950s, but only in the late 1980s did they focus on
formulating a common strategy.   ICA adopted the definition of
sustainable development agreed upon by the World Commission on
Environment and Development (the Brundtland Commission): "meeting
the needs of the present generation without compromising the
ability of future generations to meet their own needs." 15/

    In May 1989 ICA invited its member organizations to provide
information on the measures they and their own member co-
operative societies were taking to protect the environment.   A
selection of the response was published in 1990. 16/ 

   Early in 1990 ICA became a working partner of the Centre for
Our Common Future, joining its work of exchanging information on
initiatives and activities, creating a dialogue and maintaining
the momentum for change begun by the World Commission on
Environment and Development and its report "Our Common Future". 
ICA attended a meeting organized by the Centre in March 1990 at
Vancouver, Canada, at which recommendations were made concerning
participation in the United Nations Conference on Environment and
Development. ICA was also represented at the associated trade
fair on business and environment. 17/

    In September 1990 the ICA's Central Committee, meeting in
Madrid, gave particular attention to the issue of co-operatives
and the environment and to ICA's participation in the United
Nations Conference on Environment and Development.  In September
1992 ICA submitted to the Conference a document on the
international co-operative movement's promotion of sustainable
development and environmental protection.  At the Global Forum
the ICA, in collaboration with the Brazilian Co-operative
Organization and DENACOOP, held a two-day seminar. An ICA exhibit
at the Global Forum was organized by the Japanese, Italian and
Swedish consumer co-operative movements. 18/

    At its Thirtieth Congress, held at Tokyo in October 1992, the
issue of environment and sustainable development was examined and
a recommendation adopted that "ICA member organizations,
specialized bodies, as well as regional structures of the ICA,
formulate their own action programmes toward the compilation of
a "Co-operative Agenda 21" to be presented at the ICA General
Assembly in Manchester in 1995". 19/  The Congress also adopted
a Declaration on the Environment and Sustainable Development
which reaffirmed the international co-operative movement's
commitment to promoting sustainable development practices in all
sectors, preservation of the natural environment, environment
education as well as influencing government policy. 

   In April 1993 the ICA Secretariat prepared a draft of such an
Agenda for consideration by the Alliance's membership. During
1994 the draft was examined by ICA's specialized bodies, each
responsible for a certain sector of co-operative activity.

   In May 1993 the ICA Secretariat and the ICA Consumer Committee
held a Seminar on Sustainable Development in Rome. Its purpose
was to provide information on Agenda 21 and to mark the beginning
of a process of drafting a Co-operative Agenda 21 and
establishing action programmes on environment and sustainable
development throughout the international co-operative movement.
By early 1995 this draft was substantially completed, having
received inputs from ICA's specialized bodies and members.

    In October 1994 the ICA submitted to the Secretariat of the
United Nations Commission for Sustainable Development information
on the contribution of co-operatives to implementation of Agenda
21, some of which was incorporated in documentation prepared by
the Secretary-General for the Commission's third session, held
at United Nations Headquarters, New York, in April 1995. 20/

2.  At the regional level

    The International Co-operative Alliance operates regional
offices in all developing regions. These have been active also
in promoting the engagement of the co-operative movement in the
task of achieving sustainable development.  For example, the
Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific of the International Co-
operative Alliance, located in New Delhi, has published a report
on co-operatives and the environment prepared in collaboration
with the Indian Farmers' Fertiliser Co-operative Ltd. 21/ 

    Regional organizations of co-operatives have also adopted
strategies supportive of sustainable development.  For example,
the Organization of Co-operatives of America (OCA) is to organize
an International Workshop/Symposium on the Contribution of Co-
operatives to Sustainable Agriculture, Rural Development and the
Management of Agroforestry Co-operative Statistics in Latin
America, to be held from 19-24 November 1995 in Panama. 22/

B.  Sectoral strategies at the international level

1.  At the global level

    Co-operative enterprise operates in almost all sectors of the
economy somewhere in the world, and in a significant proportion
of economic sectors in many of the member states of the United
Nations:  particularly in agriculture, forestry, fisheries,
energy, utilities, housing, health, social services, savings and
credit, banking, and insurance.  For many of these areas there
exist specialized bodies within the International Co-operative
Alliance, as well as global and regional international
representative co-operative organizations.

    By 1994 the co-operative movements in a few of these sectoral
areas had formulated separate environmental or sustainable
development strategies. The sectoral movement which had made the
most progress in formulating a sectoral sustainable development
strategy was that of the consumer co-operative movement,
particularly under the aegis of ICA's Consumer Committee.

   Of direct relevance to the development of a strategy for
sustainable development by the co-operative movement was the
adoption by the International Federation of Agricultural
Producers (IFAP) at its 31st General Conference held at Istanbul,
Turkey in May 1994 of a policy document entitled "Farmers for a
sustainable future: the leadership role of agriculture". IFAP is
the only worldwide body grouping together nationally
representative general farmers' organizations. It had in 1994 80
such members, of which about one quarter were representative
organizations of national co-operative movements, or of national
agricultural co-operative movements.   In its policy document
IFAP noted that "farmer-owned businesses such as agricultural co-
operatives and farmer associations can invigorate the rural
environment.   These contribute both income and stability to the
rural population by providing essential services to the rural
areas, furnishing environmentally-sound inputs, generating
employment opportunities, and encouraging agro-processing which
raises the value-added going directly to the farmer. Such
businesses also provide farmers with the vital link to the
marketplace." 23/

    In October 1994 the ICA Consumer Co-operatives Organization
approved a set of guidelines for consumer co-operatives in which
it noted:

    "... the responsibility towards the environment on
    whose importance all our members concur with growing concern.
    The seriousness of the ecological problem is not only limited
    to local or limited areas (dangerous nuclear plants, animal
    species in extinction, healthiness of food, etc.) but
    concerns all of humanity and our planet's state of health.
    The consumer co-operatives intend to take action on the 
    market to correct the over-abundance produced by industrial
    societies, build a relationship with nature using, without
    destroying, the resources to utilize an eco-compatible
    economic development. This entails that the "production"
    culture must also give rise to the urgent establishment of
    the "reproduction" culture which requires all social and
    economic entities to give constant attention to all
    possibilities of recycling material used in manufacturing
    products." 24/

The Consumer Co-operatives Organization also adopted in October
1994 its contribution to the section on consumers of the ICA's
draft "Co-operative Agenda 21". 25/

2. At the regional level

   At the time of writing no information is available concerning
regional level sectoral strategies. This does not imply that no
such strategies have been formulated or are being considered.

C.  Strategies for sustainable development adopted by national
    co-operative representative and support organizations

1.  General strategies for the entire national co-operative

    A few national co-operative movements have formulated
strategies or policy positions with respect to sustainable
development, as in Zambia and Uganda, but these largely reflect
the position of agricultural co-operatives, and are examined in
Chapters II and III below.

2.  Sectoral strategies at the national level

    In these and other countries representative and support
organizations of co-operatives in certain sectors have adopted
similar policy statements. A selection is included below.

(a) Agricultural co-operatives

    At its 19th National Convention, held in 1991, the Japanese
Union of Agricultural Co-operatives adopted a set of guidelines
on the supply of safe and high quality food and other
agricultural products. These encouraged environment-friendly
agriculture and promoted what was known in Japan as "3-H
Agriculture"  standing for "Healthy, High quality and High
technology". 26/

(b) Forestry owners' co-operatives

    At its 21st National Convention, held in 1989, the Japanese
Forest Owners' Co-operatives Union adopted a five-year
environmental protection and conservation plan which called for
the positive exploitation of existing forests and the creation
of new woodlands and forests. 27/

(c) Fisheries co-operatives

    At its third National Convention, held in 1989, the Japanese
National Federation of Fishery Co-operative Associations adopted
a three-year environment conservation and monitoring system for
fishing grounds and an environment assessment system. 28/

(d)  Consumer co-operatives

    In many developed market economies the consumer co-operative
movement - that part of the total co-operative movement which,
by virtue of its very large membership is most responsive to the
general feeling of citizens concerning environmental matters -
has taken the lead in taking practical steps to reduce pressure
upon the environment. For example, the Japanese consumer co-
operative movement has accepted the role of innovator and pioneer
in economical environmental conservation. In 1991 the Japanese
Consumers' Co-operative Union had set up a special secretariat
called "Environment 21" to formulate action plans to establish
an environment conserving society for the 21st century.  It held
an environmental workshop jointly with the ICA Consumer Committee
and the International organization for Consumer Co-operative
Distributive Trade (INTER-COOP) in May 1992 in Yokohama and
Tokyo.  It sent a delegation to the Global Forum at the United
Nations Conference on Environment and Development later in 1992.
29/  In 1992 it reported to ICA that it believed that Japanese
society had noticed and had been affected by its position and
activities. 30/ 

  The Danish consumer-owned wholesale and retail distribution co-
operative FDB (which provides 33 per cent of the consumer goods
market in Denmark) has encouraged debate within the movement on
environmental issues, having circulated a discussion paper to
shop committees at all its 1,340 retail outlets. FDB advised ICA
in 1989 that it perceived the environmental issue as a great
challenge and wished to be "in the front line in tackling
environmental issues".  At its 1990 Congress it considered
guidelines for more environmentally sound operations. 31/ 

    In 1985, following consultation with its members, the United 
Kingdom Co-operative Retail Services Ltd. adopted a statement of
social goals which included the commitment "to do everything in
its power to protect the environment and ensure the efficient use
and protection of natural resources." 32/ 

    Although the Swedish consumer movement had been active for
several decades in the development of consumer-friendly products,
it adopted a new and comprehensive programme for the environment
in May 1990.   On 20 and 21 May 1990 the ICA Consumer Committee
organized jointly with the Swedish "Kooperativa Forbundet" a
conference on "the environment - the new challenge for the
consumer co-operative movement".  Representatives of co-
operatives exchanged views with those from that part of the non-
co-operatively organized distribution sector which had already
adopted environmentally-friendly goals and practices, as well as
with representatives of the environmental movement. It was
concluded that collaboration between the consumer co-operative
movement and the environmental movement would be beneficial to
both. 33/

    In September 1991 a follow-up workshop was held at Leicester,
United Kingdom, attended by 33 participants from consumer co-
operative movements in the United Kingdom, Denmark, Finland,
Germany, Japan and Sweden. 34/ 

(e) Financial co-operatives (savings and credit co-operatives or 
    credit unions; co-operative banks; co-operative insurance

    The co-operative movement has a very substantial economic
base which, when combined with values and principles fully
complementary with those of the environmental movement,
constitute a force of considerable significance for achievement
of sustainable development. Co-operative enterprises are in many
developed market economies major elements of the financial
sector: the largest bank in Europe is the co-operative French
Credit Agricole (owned by French farmers), the third largest bank
in the Netherlands is Rabobank, the fifth largest financial
institution in Canada is the Mouvement des Caisses Desjardins,
one of the ten largest agricultural insurance enterprises in the
world is the Japanese farmers insurance enterprise.

    Many financial co-operative enterprise have taken a leading
role in the movement for sustainable relations between society
and the natural environment. For example, in 1989 the Desjardins
International Development Society (SDID), part of the group based
upon the Mouvement des Caisses Desjardins, the savings and credit
co-operative system which is the largest financial institution
in Quebec, provided the ICA with the following statement of its
position in respect to sustainable development. SDID's aim was
to increase the well-being of individuals and groups within
society:  as this well-being was affected by the condition of the
environment, SDID believed that individuals should understand
that modern life involved waste and damage to the environment,
and that their choices were not without environmental cost.  
Consequently,  it was necessary not to stop progress, but to
orient it. The means by which this should be done was to prove
that conservation was an affordable option and to highlight the
vast cost of pollution. In order for recycling to be a viable
proposition SDID thought that the costs of combating
environmental damage should be reflected in the price of the
products which caused that damage. Industries could revise
production techniques to become more environment-friendly,
increasing productivity and reducing losses, whilst improving
their image.  Environmental protection in agriculture was
financially realistic in the long term.

   SDID suggested a number of ways in which member institutions
of the Desjardins Movement (that is the autonomous savings and
credit co-operatives or "caisses populaires" ) might contribute
towards the protection of the environment. Awareness-raising was
seen as one of the most important areas in which action might be
taken.  The importance of education by example was stressed.  All
members of the Desjardins Movement were invited to accept and act
upon SDID's suggestions in order to give young people a
"different" financial institution which, in opting for
development respecting the environment, would contribute to their
economic and social well-being.  Members should publicize their
commitment to environmental issues whenever the opportunity
arose, and should adopt an environmental code of practice.  They
should promote distribution of literature on environmental
matters; include environmental issues in all training programmes;
encourage involvement of staff in environmental issues; and help
to support local and regional projects. 

   The policy of using financial resources and functions to
promote sustainable development and to limit injurious forms of
investment has been referred to in the Introduction (Section C).

   Member co-operatives should set an example by using recycled
and environment-friendly products, banning substances identified
as pollutant. They should be aware of environmental variables
such as energy efficiency, appearance, respect for surroundings
and conformity to planning regulations when constructing or
renovating buildings. 35/ 

15/  ICA News, No.3, 1990, p. 4.
16/  Review of International Co-operation, vol.83, No. 2 (1990),
     pp. 79-98.
17/  ICA News, No.3, 1990, pp. 4-5.
18/  Review of International Co-operation, vol. 85, No. 4
     (1992), p. 135.
19/  Review of International Co-operation, vol. 85, No. 4
     (1992), pp. 10-11.
20/  Communication from ICA, April 1995.
21/  Communication from ICA, March 1994.
22/  Communication from ICA, April 1995.
23/  International Federation of Agricultural Producers, 
24/  ICCO Draft Proceedings, Plenary Session, 25 October 1994.
25/  Communication from ICA, April 1995.
26/  ICA News, No. 3, 1992, p. 17.
27/  Ibid.
28/  Ibid. p. 18.
29/  Ibid. p. 20.
30/  Review of International Co-operation, vol. 85, No. 4
     (1992), p. 146.
31/  Review of International Co-operation, vol. 83, No. 2
     (1990), p. 85.
32/  Ibid. p. 94.
33/  Review of International Co-operation, vol. 83, No. 4
     (1990), pp. 45-46.
34/  ICA News, No. 4, 1991, p. 8.
35/  Review of International Co-operation, vol. 83, No. 2
     (1990), pp. 84-85.