With COP-26 underway, messages about the climate emergency will dominate all media outlets over the next few weeks and well into the future as we try to grapple with what is by far the most important issue globally. As the delegates arrive in Glasgow, we thought it was timely to catch up with Darah Zahran, team leader at Co-operative Development Scotland (part of Scottish Enterprise) on how Co-ops can play a part in supporting the climate agenda.

During the COP-26 summit, we will all look to world leaders to drive significant and long-lasting change. It is sometimes easier to look for answers from others and with the significant challenges our planet faces, there is no doubt that strong leadership is of vital importance, but we can all play a part by considering what we buy, our transport methods, how we spend our time and importantly how we do business.

Increasingly our team has been making connections between co-ops and more sustainable ways of doing businesses. We work with many community co-ops where care for the environment is a critical part of their ethos. A great example is the Isle of Eigg Brewery, Scotland’s first co-operative brewery. They are a people-centred, values-based business who also strive to be as low carbon as possible.  We also work with many community shops who prioritise local suppliers, adopting a business approach which, by its very nature, produces less carbon than sourcing from those further away. Energy is another critical sector where we see a lot of interest as communities meet consumers’ needs in a much less harmful way, while generating income to reinvest in the community. Our recent guest blog from Community Shares Scotland is a great source for more information about these businesses.

In time for COP-26, our partners at Co-ops UK published a significant report titled The race to net zero: The role of co-ops in driving climate action post-COP26. The report shows what we were already sure of, that co-ops are taking the issues of climate seriously. 66% of the co-ops surveyed are taking action to reduce carbon emissions. 23% have gone as far as publishing a strategy to achieve net zero and 61% are taking action to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases they produce. Those are significant stats when you compare them to the UK’s FTSE 100 companies where only 30% have pledged to eliminate their carbon emissions by 2050. However, there is more to be done and the scale of change across the co-op sector, as with wider business, is significant. The survey identifies where further support is required: 41% of participants wish for more grant funding to be made available to implement net zero strategies and 40% wish to access expert advice and guidance on developing low carbon or net zero strategies.

The co-op sector is an exciting place to work and provides hope for a better way of doing business that puts people and planet before profit. As the sector grows and with good access to support, we believe values-led, inclusive business models will play a key role in balancing our environmental, economic and social responsibilities through fairer business practices. Find out about the support available to set up a Co-op on the Scottish Enterprise Website: https://www.scottish-enterprise.com/our-organisation/about-us/who-we-work-with/co-operative-development-scotland