Co-operative Impact on the Environment

Analysis of the co-operative impact on our environment.

Co-operative Impact on the Environment

The Measuring the Co-operative Difference Research Network is pleased to present the following research looking at how co-operatives impact their environment.

Talking the Talk (Dugid and Balkan)

Sustainability – social, economic and environmental – is one of the five key themes of the Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade, an International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) strategy document aimed at making co-operatives the world’s fastest-growing form of enterprise by the year 2020.  The Blueprint aims to position co-operatives as builders of sustainability, and “demonstrate convincingly that sustainability is in the intrinsic nature of co-operatives.”

With the Blueprint’s objective as a backdrop, this research aims to determine whether sustainability is a top of mind issue for Canadian co-operatives, co-op federations and umbrella organizations. The research explores whether Canadian co-ops “talk the talk”: that is, whether they report on sustainability-related activities and/or communicate concepts related to sustainability through their websites and publicly-posted reports.

The researchers analyzed the websites of 118 organizations including many co-operative federations and sectoral organizations, and most of the largest co-operatives and credit unions in Canada.

The researchers also looked at these organizations’ Annual Reports, Social Responsibility Reports where available, and other website content to determine how sustainability was communicated to members, customers, stakeholders and the broader public.

Highlights from Research Findings:

  • Of the 118 organizations whose websites were analyzed, 77% had  web pages, Annual Reports, or other reports that referred to some aspect of sustainability.
  • Of the key sustainability terms analyzed, the one most frequently mentioned was community, a concept closely linked to social sustainability, and largely related to co-operatives’ support of and donations to community organizations.
  • The other most common  terms related to concepts like Fair Trade, international development, improved employment conditions, accessibility, rural development, and environmental sustainability initiatives such as energy retrofits, waste reduction, and support for local environmental organizations.
  • Those co-operatives that demonstrate their commitment to communicating sustainability have truly embraced the co-operative-sustainability connection. Their depth and breadth of talking about sustainability is extensive and is clearly a part of the mandate of the co-operative.

Check out the full study here.


Fiona Duguid

Fiona Duguid

Consultant, Duguid Consulting


Donna Balkan

Donna Balkan

Professional Bio.