Today, cooperators everywhere celebrate the International Day of Cooperatives. The United Nations established the holiday to recognize co-ops’ contributions to society, culture and the economy. This year’s theme is “Sustainable Consumption and Production.” ¹ The World Commission on Environment and Development defines sustainable development as “meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” ²
Cooperatives provide sustainable solutions
Cooperatives are businesses owned by the people they benefit. They exist in every major industry and are common in food and agriculture. Co-ops provide members with sustainable solutions. They help farmers gain access to larger markets, boost product quality, reduce costs and achieve greater efficiency and operational effectiveness.
Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) is owned by 14,500 farmer-members. The co-op’s sustainability program aims to improve animal and environmental health. DFA’s Gold Standard Dairy Program upholds standards set forth by the National Milk Producers Federation’s National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management Program (FARM), for animal health, nutrition, management, housing and facilities, handling and transporting. DFA offers on-farm consultations to members to identify areas where sustainable practices can benefit their operations. Members that participate in the Gold Standard Program receive tailored resources and on-going technical assistance to improve sustainability on the farm. ³
Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives (OEC) power rural communities in 77 counties. In recent years OEC has diversified their energy sources portfolio to include renewable sources such as air, wind, hydro, biomass, solar and heat recovery. The co-op promotes energy efficiency through advising, energy audits and appliance rebate incentives that reduce members’ energy expenditures and save members money. ⁴
Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company is the No. 1 writer of insurance policies for farms and ranches. Nationwide works towards greater sustainability by reducing environmental waste and carbon emissions and promoting recycling. Nationwide’s green purchasing initiative works with suppliers to purchase eco-friendlier products. The company partners with voluntary government and industry programs such as Energy Star and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). ⁵
On the International Day of Cooperatives farmers everywhere tip our hats to recognize these and other cooperative businesses’ dedication to sustainable consumption and production.
*Article originally published in Farm & Dairy Newspaper
- United Nations Development. (March 3, 2018). 2018 International Day of Cooperatives. Retrieved from https://www.un.org/development/desa/cooperatives/2018/03/02/coopsday/
- United Nations General Assembly. (1987). Report of the world commission on environment and development: Our common future. Oslo, Norway: United Nations General Assembly, Development and International Co-operation: Environment.
- Dairy Farmers of America. (n.d.). Sustainability. Retrieved from http://www.dfamilk.com/our-cooperative/sustainability
- Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives. (n.d.) Efficiency. Retrieved from https://ohioec.org/oec/efficiency/
- Nationwide Insurance. (n.d.) Energy & Environment. Retrieved from https://www.nationwide.com/about-us/energy-environment.jspSTAY INFORMED
The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences Center for Cooperatives launched Co-op Mastery: Beyond Cooperatives 101, a new and innovative online training course designed to educate cooperative members, boards, management, employees, and students.
Co-op Mastery: Beyond Cooperatives 101 is made possible by a grant from the CHS Foundation 2017 Cooperative Education Grants Program. The training is housed in The Ohio State University’s public-facing online education platform. It is free and can be accessed online at go.osu.edu/coopmastery.
“Co-op Mastery curriculum focuses on mid-level knowledge about the cooperative business model,” said Center for Cooperatives Program Manager, Hannah Scott. “Training modules build on existing fundamental materials by providing an in-depth look at governance, finance, taxation and other areas not typically covered by courses in fundamentals, yet challenging topics for stakeholders.”
The training features eight modules which include video interviews with numerous leaders in the cooperative movement:
- Logan County Electric Cooperative General Manager Rick Petty discusses cooperative principles and various functions of cooperatives.
- Dennis Bolling retired President and CEO of United Producers Cooperative shares the benefits cooperatives provide members.
- Mid-America Cooperative Counsel Executive Director Rod Kelsay discusses effective education and training the Board of Directors.
- Ohio State Univerisity Extension Educator Dr. Chris Bruynis gives insight to key factors that contribute to a cooperative’s success.
- Nationwide’s VP of Sponsor Relations Devin Fuhrman shares the story of Nationwide’s history as a mutual cooperative company.
- Agricultural attorney Carolyn Eselgroth of Barrett, Easterday, Cunningham and Eselgroth, LLP addresses legal considerations when forming a cooperative business.
- Co-Bank Senior Relationship Manager Gary Weidenborner leads users through an interactive financial document exercise.
- David Hahn, Professor Emeritus the Ohio State University, explains cooperative taxation.
“We invite folks to ask questions and receive answers from our Center staff in the online Co-op Forum,” said Joy Bauman, Program Coordinator. “They can also browse an extensive collection of online resources in the Cooperative Library.”
The CFAES Center for Cooperatives offers customized in-person workshops to complement the online training. Workshops are designed to serve the requesting cooperative’s needs. Examples include: new employee education, board of director education, strategic plan development, cooperative marketing and policy development. Workshop participants receive a companion workbook with activities to fortify learning. They gain on-going access to Co-op Mastery online training materials, which they may work through at their own pace or search for specific information to meet immediate needs. Users can return to the Co-op Mastery online materials at any time to troubleshoot cooperative issues and they can receive ongoing technical assistance from CFAES Center for Cooperatives staff. To request a workshop or more information, visit go.osu.edu/cooperatives or contact the Center for Cooperatives at firstname.lastname@example.org or 740-289-2071 ext. 111.
The Mid America Cooperative Council (MACC), an organization representing over 100 cooperatives in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan, is offering a unique leadership training for co-op employees, board members, and other prospective leaders. The sessions on February 21-22 and March 6-7 in Oxford, Ohio will include tours of successful cooperatives in various sectors, sessions on leadership and management, and talks with cooperative leaders from across Ohio, among other activities.
In 2016, staff members of the OSU South Centers had the opportunity to participate in the forum, which included tours of Butler Rural Electric Cooperative, Inc. and CHACO Credit Union as well as visits from representatives of Miami University Credit Union, Dairy Farmers of America, and COBA/Select Sires. The various speakers shared how their co-ops benefit members, how they are governed, and the services they provide to members. Each highlighted their “cooperative difference,” including their prioritization of members’ needs, education efforts, and concern for community. OSU South Centers’ Kimberly Roush, explained the inspiration she gathered from visits to local co-ops. “I noticed an interesting result of the cooperative environment during the leadership forum—the overall culture of the cooperative employees who spoke with us. The staff explained specific details about the reason for and the function of their cooperatives. Then they shared something more—talking about member activities and interaction with the community. It was exciting to learn how the cooperative principles permeate the local culture.”
Not only did staff learn a great deal from various guest speakers, the forum was an opportunity to network with and learn from other participants who worked across various sectors like credit unions and agricultural marketing and supply co-ops.
To learn more about the 2018 Cooperative Leadership Forum, visit http://editor.des08.com/macc/Brochure_CLF_2018.pdf. Contact MACC with any questions at (317)-726-6910 or email@example.com.