Canadian co-operatives are leading contributors to the quality of life in Canadian communities. This assurance is enshrined in the international co-operative principles, which include commitments to community and the environment vested within the 7th Principle, Concern for Community:
"Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members."
The purpose of this Guide is to provide a roadmap, or framework, for co-operatives seeking to bring this principle to life by developing or enhancing their environmental commitment and contributing positively to environmental conditions. It focuses on the governance, management, and leadership systems and processes that co-operatives can deploy to improve their overall environmental performance and contribute to sustainable communities.
The Guide is organized into four sections, or steps, in the development of an environmental governance, management, and leadership framework. Co-ops can adopt the order that best suits their purposes and can skip those steps that are already in place. The steps are:
Co-operatives are encouraged to work through these steps to develop an overarching framework and accountability system to advance along the path of continuous environmental performance improvement, and for those that choose, to assume a leadership role in their communities or sectors.
Although both guides in the Sustainability Toolkit refer to co-operatives throughout, it is intended that this term encompass all types of co-operatives including credit unions.
The term "Sustainable Development" was defined by the Brundtland Commission, in 1987, as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Sustainable development, sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) are often used interchangeably. In the business context, it has come to mean the integration of social and environmental factors into an organization's governance, operations, strategy, management, and day-to-day decisions.