Through co-ops and collaboration, NZ can be the world’s most sustainable nation

Through co-ops and collaboration, NZ can be the world’s most sustainable nation

  • July 7th is International Day of Co-operatives
  • The theme is “Responsible Consumption and Production of Goods and Services” (SDG No. 12).
  • Kiwi apex body, Cooperative Business New Zealand, says through co-operatives and collaboration, NZ can become the world’s most sustainable nation.

Economic, environmental and social sustainability is at the core of the co-operative business model. These 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 “Responsible Consumption and Production of Goods and Services”, this being SDG No. 12 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, giving back to local communities and NZ’s people, and providing overall social harmony along the way.

The United Nations has recognized New Zealand 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 supports and 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. Now, more than ever, awareness 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. Agri-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 including less use of fossil fuels, 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 the provision of access to finance at a local level while being widespread in their locations. In addition profits are distributed back to customers and therefore retained locally each year as opposed to the $5 billion plus per annum in profits currently being generated by NZ’s 4 largest retails banks, each of which is owned by an Australian parent company.

Utility co-operatives are engaged in the transition to cleaner electricity, such as the newly formed Energy Democracy Co-op, NZ’s first solar power generation co-op established in the Wairarapa region back in May. NZ’s co-operatives across all sectors aim to provide goods and services in an efficient, planet-friendly way, while creating sustainable jobs, decent work conditions and addressing gender equalities.

In the drive for true sustainability, NZ’s co-operatives have the opportunity to collaborate more effectively – sharing information and resources, avoiding duplication of services and leveraging from combined purchasing requirements.

Through collaboration and co-operatives, New Zealand can truly become the world’s most sustainable nation.


  • Cooperative Business NZ proudly represents the interests of this country’s co-ops, mutuals and societies.
  • The United Nations International Day of Cooperatives is celebrated annually on the first Saturday of July.
  • The aim of this celebration is to increase awareness on cooperatives, highlight the complementary goals and objectives of the United Nations and the international co-operative movement