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European industrial and service cooperatives participate in the International Summit of Cooperatives

18 October 2016 [ English ] français ]

The third International Summit of Cooperatives, an initiative of the International Co-operative Alliance and Desjardins Group, took place from 11 to 13 October, gathering 2,950 participants from 116 countries, this year focused on cooperatives’ “power to act”. For many speakers present, the true power of cooperatives stems from their long-term vision, collaborative spirit, and the integration of social progress with economic success: three factors that are shaping tomorrow’s economy. European cooperatives in industry and services participated actively in the Summit, the worlwide organisation them, CICOPA co-organised two sectoral workshops.

The first one, co-organised with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association of Unites States (NRECA), entitled “Cooperatives in industry, services and energy: how to address the SME dimension now and tomorrow?” focused on the main strategies and tools cooperative SMEs implemented to strengthen their competitiveness. The second meeting, entitled “Acting wisely on health and social services – the co-operatives’ way” co-organised with the International Health Cooperative Organisation (IHCO), shared the actual and potential expansion of health and social services provided by cooperatives.

SME cooperatives
The different mechanisms put in place by SME cooperatives to remain strong and transform society were analysed at the sectoral meeting co-organised by CICOPA and NRECA. he example of the General Confederation of Worker Cooperatives (CG Scop), the national voice of worker cooperatives (called “SCOP” in France) - and Collective interest cooperative societies (SCIC), was shared with the audience together with the experience of Coopfond, an association established to manage a solidarity fund built up by cooperatives affiliated to Legacoop (one of three cooperative associations in Italy).

Cooperative groups were presented as entrepreneurial inter-cooperation tools to compensate the SME size of the cooperatives represented by CECOP. Arantza Laskurain, Secretary General of MONDRAGON Corporation in the Basque Country (Spain) explained how the group has been conducive to 110 SME cooperatives’ development thanks to a sophisticated set of tools such as the pooling of results, common management of unemployment, common financial and social funds, R&D, services, training and education, etc. Representative of ENERCOOP, a multi-stakeholder cooperative (Société coopérative d’intérêt collectif – SCIC - in French), the largest cooperative group providing 100% renewable energy in France, shared how it provides a democratic and decentralised alternative to large operators in the energy sector, and promotes a transition to sustainable energy.

Health and social services provided by cooperatives
At the sectoral meeting co-organised by IHCO and CICOPA, eminent experts debated on the actual and potential expansion of health and social services provided by cooperatives. A strong emphasis was put on the new and increasing needs transforming society today that make the contribution of these cooperatives so necessary. Giuseppe Guerini, President of Federsolidarietà and CECOP mentioned some of these, such us the ageing population, rural depopulation and movement of people across national boundaries. What is the cooperative formula to respond to global challenges? The involvement of the whole community and in particular the multi-stakeholder dimension, under which many cooperatives providing health and social services are organised, is one of the spearheads of the cooperative business model. In this regard, J. Cotterau from the French Confederation of Worker Cooperatives (CG Scop) shared the model of French SCIC (Collective Interest Cooperative Societies), whose specific internal governance rules allow them to democratically combine the interests of different actors, such as workers, users and other community actors like associations or local authorities.

Nobel Laureate: cooperatives can reshape our economy
In three days filled with enriching debates, exchanges were fuelled by discussions about the key global issues as seen by some of the leading economic thinkers, including Nobel Laureate in Economics Joseph Stiglitz, who looked at the key challenges facing the global economy, and the role of cooperatives in addressing them. “We should learn from cooperatives, if we do, we can reshape our economy, reshape globalisation and who we and our children are. These alternatives make a very big difference. I believe we can construct a world where the economy performs better for all, based on solidarity”.

A first in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals
Cooperative and mutual businesses also reaffirmed their capacity, by virtue of their nature and values, to contribute to sustainable development. This is the first time an international economic group has committed to support the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which aim to eradicate poverty, protect the planet, and guarantee prosperity for all. Thus, the last day of the Summit was dedicated to mass reflection, as participants identified several courses of action for achieving the goals. To crystallize this collective effort, the resulting commitments and initiatives will be broadcast on Co-ops for 2030 in order to mobilize the entire cooperative.

The 2016 edition of the World Co-operative Monitor was unveiled
The world’s largest 300 cooperatives have had an increase inturnover of 7.2%. Over 32% of these are working in agriculture, 39% in insurance, 19% in wholesale and retail trade, and 6% in banking and financial services. Some of the top 300 cooperatives are also active in the health and social care sector (1%), the industry sector (2%) and other services and activities. The Mondragon Corporation remains the first cooperative group in the industrial sector with a turnover of USD $ 15.7 billion. Read CICOPA article analysing the results here