Co-op Roundtable Discussion

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“Economic, environmental and social sustainability across NZ business”

Key presenters:

Deloitte: Michael LeRoy-Dyson, Associate Director Deloitte Sustainability
Fonterra: Carolyn Mortland, Director Social Responsibility
Mitre10: Grant Fraser, General Counsel and Head of Mitre10’s Sustainability Strategy

(25 minutes from each presenter, discussion time around the table: 90 minutes).

Economic, environmental and social sustainability is at the core of the co-operative business model. Co-ops and mutuals are member-owned and controlled businesses and organisations as opposed to investor-owned and controlled. Members have “skin in the game” and are there for the long term and not (potentially) here today and gone tomorrow – as with many investors. Members who are becoming more and more committed towards achieving true sustainability.

The theme for this year’s International Day of Co-operatives (7th July) is ‘Sustainable Consumption and Production of Goods and Services’, this being one of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.   This provides an opportunity for NZ’s co-operatives to show how they run successful businesses while respecting and maintaining our natural environment and the resources that it offers, while also giving back to communities and providing social harmony along the way.

The United Nations has recognized NZ as one of the most co-operative economies in the world. Our co-ops and mutuals generate almost one-fifth of this country’s GDP, employ over 50,000 people and serve almost one-in-three Kiwis as members. Cooperative Business New Zealand strongly promotes the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, as we recognise that the co-operative business model is the most closely aligned towards supporting the UN in meeting these goals by 2030.

All of the goals are relevant to New Zealand and its people as we address social and economic inequalities and environmental issues at home. From an environmental perspective, the quality of life on land and in our rivers, waterways and oceans has always been important to New Zealanders as awareness and knowledge continues to rise, as does our intolerance towards pollution and harm to our eco-systems.

Many of New Zealand’s co-operatives, in particular those from the agri-producer sector, are now investing heavily into achieving true environmental sustainability. Fonterra reports that over 98 percent of the length of defined waterways in New Zealand now have dairy cattle permanently excluded through fencing, plantings and other systems. Ballance Agri-Nutrients and Ravensdown utilise satellite-controlled technologies to ensure the right amount of fertiliser is applied on the right pastures and at the right time. Producer co-operatives work to maintain the longevity of the land where they grow crops through sustainable farming practices including responsible irrigation.

Other initiatives from our agri-producer co-operatives include lowering greenhouse gas emissions through innovation and infrastructure, co-generation of energy and the more efficient use of energy. Co-ops are also minimising waste from farm to consumer, including the recycling of packaging and the introduction of Farm Environment Plans that focus on reducing the impact of farming and manufacturing on the environment.

Consumer co-operatives support sustainable sourcing for their products and educate consumers about responsible consumption. Co-operative banks and credit unions contribute to stability thanks to their proximity to their customers and provide access to finance at a local level while being widespread in their locations, including remote areas. In addition, profits are distributed back to customers each year and therefore retained locally, unlike NZ’s 4 largest retail banks.

Utility co-operatives are engaged in the transition to cleaner energy, such as the newly formed Energy Democracy Co-op, NZ’s first solar power co-op established in the Wairarapa earlier this month.

NZ’s co-operatives, mutuals and societies aim to provide goods and services in an efficient, planet-friendly way, while creating sustainable jobs and communities, decent work conditions, economic growth and gender equalities (see 17 SDG’s above).

In our drive for true sustainability we have the opportunity to collaborate more effectively – sharing information and resources, avoiding duplication of services and leveraging from combined purchasing requirements. Let’s now collaborate by sharing some of our ideas and knowledge at our next Co-op Roundtable Discussion!