Today, we are faced with a yet another challenge, with the conflict in Ukraine and its impact on the international markets, the energy prices and overall cost of production. Each of these crisis represents an enormous challenge for our agriculture sector, for our members, farmers and our cooperative business models, but they also always highlight the importance of our sector and the strong resilience we have built together over the years in order to deliver to our consumers, no matter what.
Therefore, even if in a difficult time of our history, I wish to celebrate the innovative spirit of our cooperatives, their constant work on improvement and in generating value for their farmer members. More and more, now more than ever, we need support in becoming more sustainable and be part of the solution for the critical challenges linked to the sustainability transition. We need to cooperate, we need enablers; we need access to finance; we need to promote an innovative and sustainable culture in our enterprises.
For this reason, we have decided to put under the spotlight the innovative practices of our enterprises designed to address the three pillars of Sustainability.
Cogeca has since 2009 been celebrating outstanding innovations with its European Award for Cooperative Innovation and this 5th edition has surely brought some amazing initiatives from across the EU. Recognising the amazing achievements of agri-cooperatives, of every size, from different geographies and at every stage of their growth.
During this edition of the award we had the very difficult task of selecting 6 winners among more than 100 excellent applications received. All of them presented projects and activities focusing on the creation of new products and services, market space, processes, and business models. All driven by concrete economic, social, or environmental objectives.
And the truth is that all applicants deserve recognition for their investments and innovative mindset. They demonstrate that for agri-cooperatives, the buzz word ‘’business as usual’’ means holistically focusing on our strategic priorities, which aim at:
• Investing to design tomorrow’s agriculture
• Being data savvy and consumer aware
• Keeping rural areas vibrant and dynamic
• Boosting growth and jobs
• Improving competitiveness of our members and enterprises
• Moving from resilience to anti-fragility for the next generation
• And support agriculture to be economical, social, and environmentally sustainable
When outlining these priorities I think that the force of cooperatives is due to the fact that priorities and long term-objectives coincide. We are not driven by profit, we are driven by values. This is our DNA.
Thanks to the innovative efforts of our enterprises, we realise that leading in sustainability is not only one of agri-coops core strategies. It represents a cooperative view that encompasses every aspect of their business development.
Sustainable development is for us a synonym for opportunity and progress, as well as a reminder of obligations towards the next generation of farmers, our children. The message we want to pass today is a positive and optimistic one. We can do it because our cooperatives are demonstrating the willingness to express what they stand for and in turn understand what society, including the farming community, expects of them.
In particular, the cooperatives operating in the agri-food sector have implemented actions, which are clearly aligned to the objectives of many policy developments that are taking place today. They are aligned also with the EU Code of Conduct on Responsible Food Business and Marketing Practices and its 7 aspirational objectives. They are targeting the indicative, tangible, and measurable actions to contribute to a more sustainable food-system. And for this reason, I call on all of them to adhere to such a code, present their commitments, because their innovation clearly shows that they are on the right path.
All these elements, in my opinion, put our enterprises in a competitive advantage. However, there are also many risks, especially due to complete shifts in the regulatory environments. As most in the agriculture sector, agri-cooperatives and their members thrive from stability and predictability which allows them to plan their investments towards a more efficient and sustainable production. Ensuring these investments is key to reach our long-term sustainable objectives.
This Award is therefore, certainly, an occasion to make policymakers aware that supporting the development of the cooperative model is the way forward to address the sustainable goals we are setting.