Monday, 9 October 2017

Co-ops Collaborating for a Sustainable Future - 12th October

I will be chairing the Co-operatives South East regional co-ops conference and AGM in Brighton entitled “Co-ops Collaborating for a Sustainable Future“.  It is focusing on how co-operatives can forge trading partnerships to reduce unnecessary waste and carbon emissions while boosting their trading activity.  So what’s it all about?

Sustainability has multiple meanings:
  • businesses being sustainable in economic terms (i.e. ensuring you generate sufficient profits to reinvest, planning for growth that is sustainable)
  • co-ops being sustainable in the way they manage themselves (e.g. delivering sufficient member benefit to retain members in your co-op, taking advantage of non-hierarchical management to be reduce management time)
  • environmental sustainability (e.g. the way our business processes use energy, water and other natural resources)
This event is going to explore how, by collaborating more, co-ops can lever in benefits for their co-ops, for the planet and for its inhabitants.  If we can use our co-operative advantage to reduce operating costs while improving our environmental performance it’s a win-win-win situation.  Social responsibility is written into the DNA of co-ops (the 7th co-op principle is concern for the community and impending ecological catastrophe affects the global community). This means if you buy from another co-op they are more likely to be operating to high environmental standards.  If you can’t fully audit your supply chain, using co-ops by preference is a start! Take that along with the 6th co-op principle and you will see an automatic imperative for us to start looking at ways we can collaborate to be more sustainable.  We are pre-disposed to working with other co-ops.  This is something private businesses would probably not consider if their imperative is to generate shareholder value (whatever the expense to the community) and if they see all other businesses as competitors. Picking an example of transport, trucks motor up and down the motorways and A-roads of this country, all too frequently empty on their return trips.  All that fuel being burned and traffic chaos created so an empty lorry can return to its home.  Could producer co-ops and those involved in distribution see an opportunity to carry co-operatively produced goods on the return trip?  Just a thought!  The same could apply to premises that often sit empty, and even the way that we purchase goods and services for our businesses. Really the event is about starting a whole load of conversations between co-ops.  At the event we will be provoking reps from co-ops across the south east with these questions:
  • Could you be working together with other co-operatives to improve your sustainability?
  • Are you looking for opportunities to share transport, premises or other costs with other co-ops?
Co-operatives South East is a regional co-operative council.  It is a federal body bringing together co-ops across the region with the intention of strengthening the sector, developing inter-trading, and promoting the co-op option. I am coming to the end of my 3 year tenure as a Director this October.

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