Each year the United Nations identifies an issue of global importance and raises awareness about it in the international community. The 2012 International Year of Cooperatives recognizes the diversity of the cooperative movement around the world and its contribution to socio-economic developments, such as poverty reduction, employment generation and social integration.
The UN defines cooperatives as: “Business enterprises owned and controlled by the very members that they serve. Their member-driven nature is one of the most clearly differentiating factors of cooperative enterprises. This fact means that decisions made in cooperatives are balanced by the pursuit of profit, and the needs and interests of members of their communities”.
- There are over 1.4 million cooperatives in the world operating in every country from Argentina to Zambia,
- Over 1 billion people are members of cooperatives around the world,
- The largest 300 cooperatives account for over USD 2.0 trillion in turnover, equal to the 10th largest national economy,
- In Asia 45.3 million people are members of a credit union,
- Food co-ops have been innovators in the area of unit pricing, consumer protection, organic and bulk foods, and nutritional labeling,
- 80% of Spanish olive oil, 90% of Parmesan cheese, and 75% of Fair-trade goods are produced by cooperatives,
- In Kenya, 63% of the population derives its livelihoods from cooperatives. In the United States, 30,000 cooperatives provide more than 2 million jobs,
- Of the 4.8 million people in Norway, 2 million are members of cooperatives and many belong to more than one; therefore, the total number of memberships may be higher.
A few resources to learn more about cooperatives around the world:
- The official UN site for the year is http://social.un.org/coopsyear/
- The International Year has created a YouTube channel where co-ops have been uploading short videos. There will also be a Short Film Festival in November at the UN with the theme “Cooperative Enterprises Build a Better World”. The films will be posted online after the event.
- The two organizations coordinating the International Year of Cooperativesare the World Council of Credit Unions and the International Cooperative Alliance(ICA). The ICA website provides a wealth of information about these events.
- Stories.coop is a website dedicated to demonstrating the diversity of the cooperative enterprise model and to telling stories of successful cooperatives around the world.
- International Summit of Cooperatives recently took place in Canada and focused on economic and financial issues specific to cooperatives.
- In the future, the International Day of Cooperatives will be celebrated every year on the 7 July.
– This is part of a three part series on the International Year of Cooperatives. Part 2 will feature business examples from around the world and Part 3 will feature the response from business schools.
Please share your examples of cooperatives on the discussion board below.