Transforming Our World:

Transforming Our World:

The UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and How NZ Co-ops Can Help

To all Cooperative Business New Zealand Members (and NZ’ers)

Firstly, my apologies for the length of this article however we are trying to play our part in saving the world here and this is no short story! Please bear with me and read through as we are all involved in this in some way despite our levels of influence being at varying levels.

After four months in my role here at Cooperative Business NZ I thought I would write to you all about the big picture globally i.e. the United Nations’ (UN) quest to provide transformational change across the world ensuring a better future for all humans living on this planet.

As co-operative organisations here in New Zealand, otherwise other publically-listed and privately -owned organisations which choose to operate within strong co-operative principleswe have a key part to play in supporting the UN in leading the way globally. I now encourage you to think big picture.



In September 2015 the UN adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – see above. They had been drafted and proposed by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA), the world’s governing body for all co-operative organisations and businesses which collectively turn over more than US$3.0 trillion annually and employ over 250 million people globally. It is widely recognized that co-operatives, and other organisations which operate within strong co-operative principles, are best placed to support the UN and ICA in the achievement of these ambitious and yet critical goals towards achieving global peace and prosperity including economic, social and environmental sustainability. You will be well aware that the co-operative business model is based on that key word: sustainability.

This Agenda recognizes that eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge and is an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. All countries and stakeholders, acting in co-operative and collaborative partnership, will obviously be required to be fully committed in implementing this plan. The UN and ICA are determined to take the bold and transformative steps which are urgently needed to shift the world onto a sustainable and resilient path while pledging that no one will be left behind.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets demonstrate the scale and ambition of this new universal Agenda. They seek to build upon the Millennium Development Goals developed by the UN in 2000 and complete what these did not achieve. They seek to realise the human rights of all and to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. They are integrated, and indivisible, and balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental.

The Strategic Development Goals and targets which will stimulate action over the next fifteen years are as follows:

  1. People:We (the UN) are determined to end poverty and hunger, in all their forms and dimensions, and to ensure that all human beings can fulfil their potential in dignity and equality and in a healthy environment.
  2. Planet:We are determined to protect the planet from degradation, including through sustainable consumption and production, sustainably managing its natural resources and taking urgent action on climate change, so that it can support the needs of the present and future generations.
  3. Prosperity:We are determined to ensure that all human beings can enjoy prosperous and fulfilling lives and that economic, social and technological progress occurs in harmony with nature.
  4. Peace: We are determined to foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies which are free from fear and violence. There can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development.
  5. Partnership:We are determined to mobilise the means required to implement this Agenda through a revitalised Global Partnership for Sustainable Development, based on a spirit of strengthened global solidarity, focussed in particular on the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable and with the participation of all countries, all stakeholders and all people.

The UN agreement included the following:


  1. We resolve, between now and 2030, to end poverty and hunger everywhere; to combat inequalities within and among countries; to build peaceful, just and inclusive societies; to protect human rights and promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls; and to ensure the lasting protection of the planet and its natural resources. We resolve also to create conditions for sustainable, inclusive and sustained economic growth, shared prosperity and decent work for all, taking into account different levels of national development and capacities.
  2. As we embark on this great collective journey, we pledge that no one will be left behind. Recognizing that the dignity of the human person is fundamental, we wish to see the Goals and targets met for all nations and peoples and for all segments of society.
  3. This is an Agenda of unprecedented scope and significance. It is accepted by all countries and is applicable to all (including NZ), taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development and respecting national policies and priorities. These are universal goals and targets which involve the entire world, developed and developing countries alike. They are integrated and indivisible and balance the three dimensions of sustainable development.

UN’s vision

  1. In these Goals and targets, we are setting out a supremely ambitious and transformational vision. We envisage a world free of poverty, hunger, disease and want, where all life can thrive. We envisage a world free of fear and violence. A world with universal literacy. A world with equitable and universal access to quality education at all levels, to health care and social protection, where physical, mental and social well-being are assured. A world where we reaffirm our commitments regarding the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation and where there is improved hygiene; and where food is sufficient, safe, affordable and nutritious. A world where human habitats are safe, resilient and sustainable and where there is universal access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy.
  2. We envisage a world of universal respect for human rights and human dignity, the rule of law, justice, equality and non-discrimination; of respect for race, ethnicity and cultural diversity; and of equal opportunity permitting the full realization of human potential and contributing to shared prosperity. A world which invests in its children and in which every child grows up free from violence and exploitation. A world in which every woman and girl enjoys full gender equality and all legal, social and economic barriers to their empowerment have been removed. A just, equitable, tolerant, open and socially inclusive world in which the needs of the most vulnerable are met.
  3. We envisage a world in which every country enjoys sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth and decent work for all. A world in which consumption and production patterns and use of all natural resources – from air to land, from rivers, lakes and aquifers to oceans and seas – are sustainable. One in which democracy, good governance and the rule of law as well as an enabling environment at national and international levels, are essential for sustainable development, including sustained and inclusive economic growth, social development, environmental protection and the eradication of poverty and hunger. One in which development and the application of technology are climate-sensitive, respect biodiversity and are resilient. One in which humanity lives in harmony with nature and in which wildlife and other living species are protected.

NZ perspective and how we can help:

When considering things globally, there is widespread conflict and uncertainty at present. These include increasing acts of terrorism in Europe, the decimation of Syria and resulting mass exodus of refugees into neighbouring countries and Europe. There is widespread turmoil in the Middle East, attempted political coups such as that which we have recently seen in Turkey, and uncertainty with the upcoming US elections as well as Britain’s exit from the EU, the latter possibly the most likely to have a more direct impact on NZ economically (exports). In the background we have the United Nations and ICA working away towards the achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals as covered above.

It is widely accepted that the co-operative business model is best placed to support the UN and ICA in the achievement of these goals. A business model that is based on economic, social and environmental sustainability. Co-operatives which, through their long-term endurance and successes over decades and centuries, are able to offer stable employment for people, including over 43,000 jobs in NZ at present. Jobs that are critical to social and economic well-being. Cooperative Business NZ currently has 56 Full Members, 70% of these are now over 25 years old while three are over 100 years.

They include Fonterra at 145 years going way back to the first dairy company formed on John Mathieson’s Springfield farm on the Otago Peninsula in 1871 by eight farmers who decided to combine their milk volumes so that enough cheese could be produced to meet local demand. NZ’s largest organisation with a strong co-operative philosophy that has been able to operate successfully over a long period despite fluctuating market conditions including its current challenges with high milk supply volumes globally, low commodity prices and over the past 12 months a strengthening NZD against the USD.

Looking more widely co-operatives have their own Members (customers, clients, suppliers, staff etc.) now totalling over one billion globally. Here in NZ we have three co-operative financial institutions which have over 350,000 Members (customers) between them i.e. Co-operative Money NZ, The Co-operative Bank and Rabobank. That’s almost 8% of all Kiwis. Such Members within the co-operative sector, whether they be suppliers, customers or staff, who all benefit from the strength of the co-operative business model and the relative certainty that it provides. For example, co-operative businesses not closing down, products and services provided over the long term by trusted organisations and brands, job security and decent working conditions, fair and reasonable employment terms and conditions, gender equality and equal employment opportunities.

Co-operative organisations, large or small, who are fully committed towards serving their Members as best they can by achieving commercial success while taking care and responsibility along the way in keeping with that key co-operative principle: Concern for the Community (social responsibility). One only has to look at the quality of the top three nominations for our recent CBNZ Co-operative Business of the Year Award to gain an understanding of how NZ co-operatives give back to local communities, and NZ’ers, each year. Organisations like Farmers Mutual Group, Foodstuffs South Island and Fonterra who care about NZ’ers and are here for the long term.

What does all this mean? While our geographical remoteness is welcomed given current conflict in the world, it presents us with challenges in terms of overseas trade competitiveness and this, along with our small size (i.e. limited local market), has resulted in the need for Kiwis to be more innovative which is often talked about in the media. In addition, however, we need to be more co-operative. Kiwis working together more effectively sharing resources and information, combining procurement requirements so that better prices and supplier terms and conditions are negotiated, avoiding the duplication of services provided e.g. common support services across similar organisations within both the public and private sectors, and people and organisations working together effectively seeking win/win outcomes so that services (and products) improve and long-term growth and survival are assured.

In my view NZ has the potential to lead the way globally across all of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, however a key factor will be our willingness and ability to work co-operatively and in collaboration with each other. We need to work smarter. Yes, we have poverty in NZ (look at our growing number of homeless), we have those in hunger and we need to be providing outstanding public health care and education for our people at a cost that is sustainable and acceptable. We need to keep ensuring gender equality despite leading the way globally in the past. We have issues with the retention and distribution of clean drinking water (look at Havelock North right now) while we’re concerned by climate change and its impact on our economy that is highly dependent upon agriculture. We need to remain vigilant on industrial emissions and pollution control so that life in our waters as well as on land is not compromised, or even lost. We need strong institutions such as local councils which deliver the required services and facilities as a cost that is acceptable to ratepayers.

By being Members of Cooperative Business NZ, large or small, you will help support us in our advocacy for the co-operative movement both locally and globally, as well as our support for the UN and ICA in meeting the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and targets by 2030. We can all help by showing the world the way ahead with the right kind of thinking and commitment, co-operation and collaboration, innovation and forward vision. Let’s all play our part in helping to save the planet!

Thank you.


Footnote: Cooperative Business NZ fully supports NZ’s former Prime Minister, Helen Clark, in her current campaign to become the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Craig Presland


Cooperative Business NZ

1st September 2016.