Environmental performance in cooperative enterprises as determinant of economic and social wellbeing in the Eastern Adriatic : The Cooperative Sustainability Index

Niskota, Jozo (2016) Environmental performance in cooperative enterprises as determinant of economic and social wellbeing in the Eastern Adriatic : The Cooperative Sustainability Index. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


Societies in the world have been struggling to redefine ways to general prosperity, although a general interest in a more human world order is constant. At the same time, cooperatives operate as privately owned for-profit enterprises having social purpose as their primary objective. The aim of this research is to investigate the potential of achieving sustainable development in enterprises operating under the cooperative principles to bring about human development and environmental improvement. The paradigm suggests interactions among environmental performance, economic results, social benefits and the ethical cooperative principles. Information on more than 1,500 coops was gathered in the EU countries of Croatia and Slovenia, and in one non-EU country Bosnia-Herzegovina and a survey was carried out among coops that were commercially active over a 12-year period from 2002-2013. After deploying the survey via email and through structured telephone interviews, statistical analysis was completed on randomly chosen 100 coops. The results support the main research hypotheses. First, the union of environmental performance and cooperative principles (EP&CP) confirm the existence of a relationship with the economic results. Secondly, the combination of environmental performance and cooperative principles (EP&CP) also indicate a relationship with social benefits. Above all, it is concluded that better results in economic and social benefits are gained in the group having positive Environmental Performance and Cooperative Principles (positive EP&CP) compared to the group where positive only EP was observed. This generally indicates the important contribution of Cooperative Principles to Sustainable Development. Using the survey data an innovative Cooperative Sustainability Index (CSI) has been produced as composite indicator measuring the success in applying ethical elements within two dimensions: the cooperative principles dimension and the environmental. Slovenia has the highest ranking score; Croatia shows less success at the second position; Bosnia Herzegovina has the weakest results. Sustainable development conditions across the Eastern Adriatic region demonstrate an interesting diversity in the environmental sustainability results among the states, but to a certain extent there are similarities as far as social and economic conditions are concerned. Paradoxically, socialism damaged social enterprises like coops in the post-WWII period in the Eastern Adriatic. This occurred not only because the socialist governments misinterpreted cooperative principles, but above all because democratic organisations like coops in a non-democratic society challenge the ethical orthodoxy. In the last few decades, the recovery of coops has varied according to their geographical location. As demonstrated, coops mostly positively prevent contemporary environmental degradation of the world’s resources but also positively contribute to economic and social issues; this puts them in an important position to reduce the inequalities produced by contemporary authoritarian capitalism across the world. In this sense, the first Cooperative Sustainability Index will find its future application and usefulness.

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