Abstract Humanity faces tremendous problems such as climate change, resource depletion, biodiversity loss and growing inequalities. Sustainable development (SD) is the framework under which the United Nations (UN) have committed to cope with these problems. In parallel, co-operatives have been gaining increasing attention – e.g. by UN who recently called co-ops “key to a SD”. Even the German chancellor Angela Merkel said in here opening speech for the co-op year 2012:
“Co-operatives in Germany are role models when it comes to pooling economic, ecologic and social interests and to think about the future.”
Co-operatives are institutions which allow to address several problems related to the profit-oriented capitalist economy. To which extend co-operatives can contribute – or are even the key to – a SD in Europe was in this essay investigated using the 17 Post-2015 SD goals (SDG) proposed by the UN. It could be found that co-operatives can contribute significantly to most of the SDGs, especially in the areas of health promotion, education and energy provision, environmental protection, equity enhancement and the creation of strong, resilient communities. Co-ops can also facilitate behavioural change towards strong sustainable consumption – which means, in contrast to weak sustainable consumption, not to buy more energy- or resource-efficient prducts but rather to consume more better, long-lasting, more satisfying products. So, a strengthening of the role of co-operatives in Europe might lead to a more sustainable Europe.
The whole essay was published as an essay for the Sustainability and Adaptation Master course at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Febuary 2015.