Co-operatives: Driving sustainable development and balancing management challenges

Asia is harnessing the power of co-operatives to achieve environmental, social, and governance goals while promoting sustainable business practices

ESG has become a crucial focus for governments, businesses, and investors. chayanuphol/Shutterstock

Co-operatives are globally significant, with the world’s 300 largest cooperatives generating a combined turnover of USD2.1 billion in 2020. According to Eco-Business, they represent over 12 percent of the world’s population and provide employment for 280 million people, or 10 percent of the global workforce. 

Co-operatives are membership-based businesses owned and controlled by their members, who can be customers, employees, residents, or suppliers. They operate on principles such as self-help, self-responsibility, and a social mission to benefit the community. While corporations often receive attention for sustainability efforts, co-ops are seen as inherently more sustainable due to their democratic and community-oriented structure. However, co-ops face management challenges in balancing economic, social, and resource management goals. 

Several co-ops in Asia are championing sustainable development, including the Indian Farm Forestry Development Cooperative, the Japan Consumers’ Co-operative Union, the Lamac Multi-Purpose Cooperative, NTUC FairPrice in Singapore, and Bank Rakyat in Malaysia. These co-ops are involved in various sustainable initiatives, such as introducing eco-friendly products, promoting responsible fisheries, engaging in reforestation, reducing food waste, and supporting renewable energy use.

Related: Sustainable developments don’t have to be expensive

Forbes Asia reported that ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) has become a crucial focus for governments, businesses, and investors aiming to achieve a sustainable future. At the World Economic Forum, leaders discussed leveraging philanthropy, driving climate adaptation, and investing in sustainable infrastructure to meet emission reduction goals by 2030. 

Apical, a vegetable oil processor, aims to become a leading biofuel feedstock provider by utilising waste and residue. Sino Group in Hong Kong prioritises sustainability in real estate, targeting net zero emissions by 2050. HSBC Global Private Banking offers investors ESG-enhanced, thematic, and impact investing options to align with a low-carbon economy. 

However, some investors feel they lack sufficient ESG data to evaluate companies. Both investors and companies acknowledge weaknesses in reporting standards and the need for improvement. FGV Holdings Berhad, a palm oil producer, has implemented labour practices aligned with international standards, including a no recruitment fees policy. Businesses can drive meaningful change by integrating ESG principles and addressing social justice issues alongside environmental concerns.

The Property Report editors wrote this article. For more information, email: [email protected].