BEDC calls for support of co-coperatives
The Bermuda Economic Development Corporation urged the island to consider the importance of working together to mark International Co-operatives Day.
BEDC economic and co-operative development officer Jonathan Starling said: “This International Co-operative Day, we encourage you to learn more about co-operatives and consider helping to create one or joining an existing one, and in the process help build a more equal and resilient Bermuda.”
Mr Starling said co-operatives have existed successfully in Bermuda, and co-operatives and hybrid co-operatives are currently in operation.
“The economic and co-operative development unit at BEDC was created to help these existing co-operatives and to support the creation of new co-operatives,” Mr Starling said.
“Co-operatives have a history of doing better during economically challenging times, which is certainly the current situation.”
With the current crisis in mind, he encouraged Bermuda to consider using the co-operative model.
“They can be major corporations, like Mondragon, Sunkist and Land O’Lakes dairy, or simple purchasing co-operatives, such as neighbours getting together to collectively buy staples and benefit from economies of scale,” he said.
The first Saturday of July has been celebrated as International Co-operatives Day since 1923. Starting in 1995, the United Nations has partnered with the International Co-operative Alliance to declare an annual theme to help rally support, excitement and awareness. This year’s theme is “Co-operatives for Climate Action”, chosen to promote the sustainable development goal: “Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impact.”
Mr Starling said, as member owned and government enterprises, co-operatives are guided by principles such as education, training and information, democratic member control and concern for community.
“This last principle is particularly relevant for the theme of co-operatives for climate change,” Mr Starling said.
“The principle concern for community stresses that co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.”
He said co-operatives are not solely about generating profits for their members.
“They recognise that they emerge from, and are rooted in, the communities in which they conduct business and that their success is based on their ability to support those communities to develop in a sustainable way,” he said.
“Co-operatives can realise this principle in many ways, be it through providing educational, social or cultural activities for their community, providing infrastructure for civil society, such as meeting rooms, or even training community members with democratic leadership skills through the co-operative, these skills being transferable to community organisation.”
He said while the co-operative principles predate the sustainable development goals, these goals have been largely adopted by co-operatives throughout the world due to their similarity and relevance, especially for the principle of concern for community.
“Additionally, co-operatives adopt the environmental slogan of ‘think global, act local’ working for sustainable development in general, with a focus on ‘their’ communities,” Mr Starling said.
“The primary concern of co-operatives is for the community within which the co-operative operates and from which it draws its members.”
Mr Starling said throughout the world, co-operatives have increasingly become active in climate change adaptation, be it through developing mutual insurance for crops, agricultural co-operatives, renewable energy co-operatives or helping their communities as a whole with climate change adaptation and mitigation.
“A particular strength of co-operatives is their effectiveness in building community resilience and adaptive capacity through community building, awareness raising, training and adopting new ‘green’ technologies.”
He said Covid-19 has changed the world and Bermuda.
“It is unlikely that we will return to what was ‘normal’,” he said. “While it is important to mourn that lost normal, this is also an opportunity for all of us to work together to ensure that the new ‘normal’ is better than that which we have lost.
“Co-operatives offer an opportunity to build a better normal, both in terms of ensuring greater social equality and socio-economic resilience. Both of these are important in the face of climate change.”
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