Note: This article is based substantially on chapter 5 of the forthcoming book, Cooperatives at Work (Cheney, Noyes, Do, Vieta, Azkarraga, & Michel, 2023), in a series entitled “The Future of Work” by Emerald Press (UK).
Cooperatives, like many other businesses, have been criticized in the past two decades for not taking climate change seriously enough as they formulate and update their policies. This is parallel to criticism about co-ops not fully embracing diversity, equity, inclusion and justice. These discussions are prodding cooperative associations, like the International Cooperative Alliance, to add two new principles to their long-established list of seven (June 2021] for a discussion of principles: The Cooperative Difference. A principle about ecological orientation and practice was proposed at the “Imagine 2012” conference in Quebec, but it has still not been widely adopted (see, e.g., the broad-ranging and compelling set of principles at: solidarityeconomyprinciples.org.
The overwhelming evidence of human-caused climate change and the frequency and intensity of climate-related disasters have led to a much-needed reckoning in the cooperative community worldwide. The sheer number of super-storms with massive flooding, unparalleled numbers of wildfires, and the acceleration of species extinction, have underscored the need for rapid reassessment of goals and a pivot toward planetary system health. As a result, the planet on which we —and all other species—depend is now beginning to take center stage in the principles of many co-ops and even in the development of new cooperatives dedicated to environmental awareness, and when possible, to regeneration and restoration.