Co-ops and mutuals leading the way on sustainability best practice

02 July 2020

This International Day of Co-operatives, July 4 2020, the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM) has joined forces with the global community of member-owned businesses to highlight the importance on the contribution of co-operatives to combating climate change.

As Australia’s peak body for co-operative and mutual enterprises, the BCCM knows all too well the serious implications of climate change. The BCCM represents a number of at-risk communities, including farmers and agricultural industries that have faced several months of heightened challenges as a result of drought, bushfires and COVID-19.

BCCM CEO Melina Morrison said, “While it has taken shareholder pressure for some of the world’s largest companies to take action on climate change, co-operatives and mutuals have been ahead of the curve, responding rapidly to the concerns of members.”

“Co-ops and mutuals are in the unique position of existing for the benefit of their members and their communities. We see strong leadership from this sector in terms of sustainability best practice – because concern for community is a core principle of co-operation.”

For BCCM member Bank Australia, this has meant creating a platform centred on ‘clean money’: “As a customer-owned bank, we believe it’s important to use our customers’ money in responsible ways, creating positive impact for people, their communities and the planet.”

“For several years, we’ve had a strong position on not lending to the fossil fuel industry. We made this commitment in response to our customers’ desire to see us take action on climate change, and the majority of our customers support this position.”

Elsewhere in the co-operative and mutuals sector, Teachers Mutual Bank has been carbon-neutral for six years, making it a self-described leader in “fossil fuel-free banking.”

Co-operatives are also national leaders in community-owned and financed renewable energy infrastructure, with organisations such as Hepburn Wind in Victoria: “Community energy enterprises give local groups a chance to make a significant contribution to reducing climate change. They can also provide long-lasting economic and social benefits to the local community.”

And grassroots co-operatives such as Hobart’s Resource Work Co-op are making a real difference to landfill in their local communities.

“Being part of a co-operative means mission is more important than profit and we can prioritise our mission, to provide local paid employment and reduce waste, by pre-processing ewaste at our co-operative.”

Read more about how Hobart’s Resource Work Co-operative is diverting e-waste from landfill

Other examples of co-operatives and mutuals making sustainability central to their business model include:

  • Geraldton Fishermen’s Co‑operative was the world’s first to be certified by the Marine Stewardship Council for sustainable fishing practices.
  • Rabobank has created a documentary, Road to Change, outlining the environmental challenges facing the agricultural sector and how its members are working towards overcoming these.

Environmental issues will take centre stage at the BCCM’s annual Co-operative and Mutual Leaders’ Summit, to be held in November 2020. The 2020 summit is The Sustainability Edition: navigating the environmental, social and governance issues impacting the ability of our businesses to thrive and attract capital and investment.

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