Progress and challenges on the road to 2030. An interview with Giovannini

29 October 2018

“Cooperative enterprises are by nature a sustainable and participatory form of business: it is in their DNA”


“Our task is to address the roots of each problem by building cooperation through the framework and tools of sustainable development”, according to Italian economist and former labour minister, Enrico Giovannini: spokesperson for the Italian Alliance for Sustainable Development, member of the global Alliance for Sustainability and Prosperity, and Co-chair of the “Independent Expert Advisory Group on the Data Revolution for Sustainable Development” established by the Secretary General of the United Nationsand. Professor Giovannini in the  seventh annual World Cooperative Monitor talks about the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.

Enrico Giovannini, spokesperson for the Italian Alliance for Sustainable Development

How is the international community doing with respect to the UN’s 2030 Agenda?

“The achievement of the 2030 Agenda is progressing slowly. The goals defined in September 2015 by the Agenda, and in December 2015 by the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, initiated a gradual process of change in the structure and functioning of the world economy. On the one hand, we have seen an increasing awareness of the relationship between the economy and environmental destruction; between the economy and sustainable development; between health and economic well-being; between the economy and growing inequalities. On the other hand, we have witnessed significant political decisions, such as the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, going in opposite directions: they set up a bilateral rather than global development. We need, however, to move towards multilateral cooperation, translating the SDGs into action on the ground. The good news is that we are encouraged by the numerous initiatives committed to implementing the SDGs and the Paris Climate Agreement. For example the first-ever European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy or the European Commission’s legislative proposals on financing sustainable growth. Ultimately, as evidenced during the last High-level Political Forum for Sustainable Development (HLPF), the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals varies greatly from country to country, and that constitutes a weak point: we need a uniform attitude to bridge the gaps. Our task is to address the roots of each problem by building cooperation through the framework and tools of sustainable development”.

How can policymakers increase the level of implementation of the SDGs?

“We need to look beyond narrow economic indicators of progress, which have become the main driver of policy making. At the opening event of the Italian Sustainable Development Festival, Italian journalist Monica Maggioni said that the Agenda is a gift. This is because its complexity forces us to recognize that complex problems require complex solutions. We must acknowledge that there is no single correct answer and that no solution can be developed within the framework of a single country, which is why we need to cooperate at the international level. According to Zygmunt Bauman, in these days the predominant political aspiration is “Retrotopia”, which is projected towards the return to an ideal past more than towards the construction of a better future. Instead, if we aim at a “Sustainable Utopia” through Environmental and Social Sustainability, the need to make our voices heard becomes even more important”.

How and why should cooperatives play a key role in fulfilling the United Nations’ sustainable development Agenda?

“Cooperative enterprises are by nature a sustainable and participatory form of business: it is in their DNA. It is not sufficient, however. The pace of change is faster than ever and there must be a strong commitment by all governments and all businesses to advance the SDGs. Through collaborative strategies, we have to review our past, think of our present situation and work on our future challenges. In doing so, cooperatives can play a key role in promoting public awareness of a sustainable and viable future”.



The 2018 World Cooperative Monitor collected data for 2,575 organisations (around 200 more than last year) from 8 sectors of activity, 1,157 of which had a turnover of more than USD100m. The Top 300 cooperatives and mutuals report a total turnover of over two trillion USD.

The world’s top 300 cooperative organizations operate in different sectors: insurance (32%), agriculture (35%), wholesale and retail trade (19%), banking and financial services (8%), industry and utilities (2%), health, education and social care (2%) and other services (2%).

2018 Results. This year’s results show the largest organisations in the cooperative movement performing well, with only slight variations to the top positions across the sectors. In the Top 300 ranking based on turnover Groupe Crédit Agricole and Groupe BPCE, both from France, place first and second respectively, with BVR of Germany ranking third. And in the Top 300 based on the ratio of turnover over gross domestic product (GDP) per capita ranking, reintroduced this year, IFFCO from India holds the top position.

SDGs focus. New this year is a special analysis of the Top 300 and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This new addition to the WCM report takes a look at how the largest cooperative enterprises and mutuals in the world are moving towards achieving the SDGs, examining documents reported to the UN Global Compact project and Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).