The Co-operators Group and Desjardins Group Ranked Number One and Three Most Sustainable Cooperatives in the World

Two Canadian cooperative leaders have been ranked in the top three of a Corporate Knights’ ranking of the Most Sustainable Cooperatives in the World. The Co-operators Group Limited provides insurance and other financial services, and The Desjardins Group represents a number of cooperative financial service entities, from caisses to credit unions to other subsidiary companies. Cooperatives have a built-in orientation to the triple bottom line with their mandate to support the needs of their member-owners and by extension their communities and environment. And, the system of financial cooperatives in Canada provides a solid alternative for consumers. Credit unions affiliated with Credit Union Central of Canada represent over $152B in assets1 with unaffiliated, Quebec-based Desjardins alone accounting for over $196B. Both the sizes of The Co-operators Group and Desjardins Group, and their orientation to cooperative values, have given them a clear path forward on sustainability. Embedding sustainability in operations, products and more Basing their sustainability program on the on The Natural Step principles, The Co-operators has embraced an advocacy role on climate change over the past several years—not surprising with catastrophic, mostly weather-related, events costing $1.6B in insured losses in 2011 alone in Canada.2 The insurer works with planners and other bodies such as CERES and the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative to support strong building standards and infrastructure, overall reduction of GHG emissions and other advancements. Client and youth engagement is also part of the program. Sustainability is embedded as an incentive in some products: clients get a 5% discount on their auto policy if they drive a hybrid or electric car, and 10% savings on a LEED certified dwelling. Also, really inspiring is IMPACT! The Co-operators Youth Program for Sustainability Leadership, training young green leaders from across the country. The Desjardin Group is ubiquitous in Quebec with caisses in many communities and 6 million members.  The Desjardin Group is working a twelve point program of sustainable development, including building energy efficiency, fair trade and ethical purchasing, a focus on reducing the impact of employee travel and—interestingly—setting up partnerships to develop a network for community-supported organic agriculture. This Corporate Knights ranking uses similar criteria to the Global100 such as energy, water, waste and GHG productivity, employee turnover, and percentage of women on the Board and in senior management. As Corporate Knights notes there is a challenge in measurement and disclosure. Of the 35 coops reviewed, little data was available on these indicators below the top 20. Ultimately, it is great to see these Canadian CR leaders getting recognized—as well as the strength of the cooperative model. I hope to bring more to you on Canadian coop innovations and activities! Footnotes 1, see 4Q 2012 System Results, Jan 20, 2013 2