Guest editorial - Special issue on the Green Economy

Molly Scott Cato, pp. 3-4

The publication of this special issue is timed to coincide with the global conference in Rio that marks 20 years since the global community first reached a consensus on the need to put concern for the environment at the heart of its shared policy-making. During those 20 years it has become clear that the environment cannot be protected unless we address how the global economy works, hence the ‘green economy’ has been adopted as one of two central themes of the Rio+20 conference.

Scott Cato, 2012 - Guest editorial
Table of Contents

Peer reviewed papers

Co-operative Principles for a Green Economy  

Mary Mellor, pp. 5-14

A green economy would require a different type of economics that enables people to provision themselves within ecological constraints. Such an economy would need to operate on the principles of sufficiency and social justice, where production of goods and services would be limited to that which is necessary to meet human need, thus enabling all humans, other species and the natural world to flourish. This paper will argue that the co-operative movement has already developed key principles and structures that could provide the basis of a green economics, in particular the provisioning of pure and unadulterated food, economic democracy and the limitation of finance to a supportive role.

Mellor, 2012

Co-operative Banks and Agricultural Co-operatives: Building Innovative and Sustainable Communities  

Cynthia Giagnocavo and Luis Fernández-Revuelta Pérez, pp. 15-31

This case study and resulting observations about the role of credit and agricultural co‑operatives in providing the institutional framework for building sustainable economic and social communities is based on a province in the south-east corner of Spain. In a relatively short period of time, the people of the province of Almería went from suffering dire poverty to creating a thriving, increasing environmentally responsible and yet internationally competitive economy. The sustainability of such economic prosperity and the construction of co-operative businesses and institutions both during and after a brutal and inefficient dictatorship is notable. The co-operative bank was a proactive force in developing economic activity and technological innovation, founding and organising co-operative institutions and networks, filling a civil society vacuum and playing a cohesive function in the construction of a community from which a stable democratic economy could be built. Both credit and agricultural co-operatives were also instrumental in the transition from basic subsistence agriculture to a sophisticated agricultural sector, where benefits are equitably shared. While at first the agricultural activity was unsustainable, the co-operative institutions transformed their peculiar intensive farming systems into resource efficient and increasing biologically controlled enterprises. We set our discussion against the backdrop of ‘industrial districts’ or ‘clusters’, given their historical theoretical association with co-operative banks and local development and in light of the fact that Almería is a rare example of an agricultural industrial district. In our case study, traditional shortcomings identified in industrial districts have been overcome by the various development and growth strategies of the local co-operative bank. The characterisation of 'territory' is reconsidered both in the context of constructed communities and with respect to the need to reconcile the financial necessities of such community and the growth strategies of the co-operative bank.

Giagnocavo and Pérez, 2012

Multi-stakeholder Co-operatives: Engines of Innovation for Building a Healthier Local Food System and a Healthier Economy

Margaret Lund, pp. 32-45

Economists and business practitioners have long used the metaphor of a ‘supply chain’ to describe the process by which goods move from producers, to processors, distributors, retailers before finally reaching consumers. A more recent development is the concept of the ‘value chain’ which recognises additional value beyond simple transactional value that can be iteratively created, maintained or destroyed in the context of a series of repeated social and environment interventions and impacts inherent in production, sourcing and distribution activities. Co-operatives recently formed in the US are now successfully creating such value chains, bringing together farmers, workers, consumers, food processors, distributors and community members in a common venture designed both to ensure safe and healthy food and to support a vibrant local economy. While still a very new development, the use of such a shared ownership and governance structure represents a fundamentally shift in the movement of food products from farm to table, and one with tremendous potential not only for creating effective enterprises, but also for contributing to broader economic and social goals.

Lund, 2012

Shorter papers

Towards a Co-operative Energy Service Sector 

Pat Conaty and Ed Mayo,  pp. 46-55

The necessity for societies to reduce carbon to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change is creating new opportunities for economic decentralisation. Co-operative energy services are emerging in response to this adaptation challenge. The paper describes the current situation in Denmark and the USA. Policy support from national government has been key in both these cases to the healthy development of the significant co-operative energy sector. In the UK, co-operative energy services are emerging in four main areas: community scale renewable energy, combined heat and power, mutual finance for housing retrofit services and forms of bulk purchasing and energy supply. Like the USA and Denmark, rural areas of the UK are offering niche markets to develop co-operative energy services, although weaknesses are evident including a lack of strategic thinking, poor forums for communication and knowledge transfer, and weaknesses in the areas of finance in policy-makers’ understanding.

Conaty and Mayo, 2012

Greener Together: Influencing Environmental Behaviour the Co-operative Way 

Phil Beardmore, pp. 56-60 

Environmental policy makers widely acknowledge that in addition to improving the energy efficiency of our buildings and reducing the carbon content of the energy we use, we must also encourage, exemplify and enable pro-environmental behaviour. This maximises the fuel and carbon savings achieved in particular by programmes such as Green Deal, which aim to retrofit Britain’s older housing stock. Yet attempts to influence environmental behaviour, in the UK at least, are in their infancy and few practitioners have attempted to get to grips with what motivates environmental behaviour and what works in changing it. The Greener Together project was a co-operative movement project in England that aimed to demonstrate a co‑operative approach to environmental behaviour change.

Beardmore, 2012

The Green Economy: Why Ownership and Control Matter 

Molly Scott Cato, pp. 61-68

A green economy is not just the same economy with a different supply of energy and products: debates seeking to define the green economy have been too narrowly drawn and we need to be asking questions about the fundamental structure of the globalised capitalist economy. In this paper I discuss an economy based on closer relationships between people and the planet. I frame the discussion of the green economy through a reinterpretation, through the lens of co-operative values and principles, of four corporate buzzwords: Growth, Equity, Efficiency and Innovation. Unlike a capitalist economy, a mutual economy does not face an inherent pressure to grow, and this limit to growth forces questions about more equitable distributions, questions which co-operative structures are well placed to answer. Because money is not wasted in rents paid to external owners, co-operatives can also be more efficient, and the flexibility they are afforded by being owned and controlled by their workers and/or customers also allows them greater scope to innovate. I conclude that the challenge for the co-operative movement is to convince others that a green economy must also be a co-operative economy.

Scott Cato, 2012

Review article

Co-operatives and the Green Economy

Jan Myers, pp. 69-72

Green Economics: confronting ecological crisis – Robin Hahnel, 2011; Green Economics: an introduction to theory and practice – Molly Scott Cato, 2009; and Designing the Green Economy: the postindustrial alternative to corporate globalization – Brian Milani, 2000

Myers, 2012
UK Society for Co-operative Studies is registered in England and Wales as a charitable incorporated organisation Number 1175295. Our registered office is Holyoake House, Hanover Street, Manchester, M60 0AS.
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