December 2023 Issue: Co-operator Newsletter Quarterly December 2023

Co-operative Movement Night 2023 Tips Hats to Co-ops and Their Sustainability Efforts

Co-operative Movement Night 2023 Tips Hats to Co-ops and Their Sustainability Efforts
Caption: Co-operative Movement Night 2023 Tips Hats to Co-ops and Their Sustainability Efforts

By Sng Ler Jun 

Second year in the running, the Co-operative Movement Night 2023 (CMN 2023) made its highly anticipated return on 21 September. Organised by the Singapore National Co-operative Federation (SNCF), CMN 2023 commemorated sustainability practices undertaken by local co-operators. Though the event’s theme “Sense & Sustainability” also doubles as a reminder that sustainability efforts can come in myriad forms — like indulging in the different senses.

Sustainability for the senses

Attendees at CMN 2023 embarked on a sensory trial of sorts, where they witnessed how sustainability, despite its niche, can appeal to the senses. In one instance, they could blend their own fruit smoothie by cycling on a bicycle; in another, they could savour protein bars made from ethically reared crickets.

Attendees also got the chance to browse dresses that have been made from upcycled materials by a domestic worker, as well as tune in to live music performances by local musicians who use recycled materials as their musical instruments.

Attendees were also encouraged to take public transport or rideshare to CMN 2023.

12 Co-operatives commemorated at CMN 2023

Co-operators on sustainability at Co-operative Movement Night 2023 | SNCF
Co-operators at the Co-operative Movement Night 2023

Over 300 co-operators attended CMN 2023. The event’s special guest was Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth Alvin Tan.

“There are many ways that co-ops can promote sustainability. One way that co-ops do this is through education,” he told attendees while acknowledging the good work by preschool co-operative NTUC First Campus. At NTUC First Campus, preschoolers get to participate in national gardening programmes by National Parks Board as well as embark on adventure trips to various parks and nature reserves in Singapore. “These inculcate a love for nature from a young age so they can better steward our world.”

Food security was another issue closely associated with sustainability. The minister of state added: “It is great to see the Employment for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities Co-operative launch the Mushroom Buddies. This promotes local food production by growing, harvesting and selling organic and nutrient-rich mushrooms.”

Minister of State Alvin Tan 2023 at the Co-operative Movement Night 2023 by  SNCF
Minister of State Alvin Tan 2023 at the Co-operative Movement Night 2023

A total of 15 co-operatives were acknowledged for having kickstarted sustainability efforts within their co-operatives, driving business sustainability and pursuing a greener future. These efforts gamut from using green technology to run business operations sustainability, educating children on green practices to leveraging digitalisation to reduce paper waste.

The 12 co-operatives present were Industrial & Services Co-operative Society, Love Empowered Co-operative, NTUC FairPrice Co-operative, NTUC First Campus Co-operative, NTUC Health Co-operative, Runninghour Co-operative, SeaCare Co-operative, Silver Horizon Travel Co-operative, Singapore Amalgamated Services Co-operative Organisation, Singapore Government Staff Credit Co-operative Society, TCC Credit Co-operative, and Employment for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities Co-operative.  

The other three co-operatives include POLWEL, Silver Caregivers Co-operative and Singapore Professionals & Executive Co-operative.

New S$500,000 Sustainability Grant to support co-ops

Mr Tng Ah Yiam, SNCF's Chairperson, at the Co-operative Movement Night 2023.

The Central Co-operative Fund (CCF), a trust fund under the purview of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, will also set aside S$500,000 as the CCF Sustainability Grant next year, said the minister of state.

“This is to encourage co-ops to learn about sustainability and how to contribute to our Singapore Green Plan, recognise adopters of sustainability practices and environmentally friendly actions, and further co-ops’ sustainable efforts with measurable outcomes,” he added.

The CCF Sustainability Grant will be administered through SNCF. Co-operatives will be supported in their sustainability journey in knowledge acquisition through training, implementing sustainability initiatives, and undergoing relevant business transformation for sustainable growth.

“The federation recognises that the way sustainable initiatives will grow and impact the larger community require all stakeholders to get started,” said SNCF’s Chief Executive Mr Ang Hin Kee. “It is about the aggregation of marginal gains, and we are happy to support the co-ops on their percentage improvements in the sustainability journey.”

Building co-ops’ capabilities with SUSS

SNCF and SUSS MOU Signing Ceremony at the Co-operative Movement Night 2023
SNCF and SUSS MOU Signing Ceremony at the Co-operative Movement Night 2023

At CMN 2023, SNCF signed a memorandum of understanding with the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS), promising to pool expertise in the areas of training, research and consultancy to launch a series of courses to develop capabilities in the realm of sustainability amongst co-operatives.

SUSS President Professor Tan Tai Yong said: “It is imperative for social enterprises such as co-ops to develop capabilities and embrace sustainability in their business practices and corporate governance. The co-op movement can strive to be an example of environmental stewardship for organisations in the People sector.”

Earlier in September, 10 co-operative representatives participated in “ESG for Co-operatives”, a one-day course on the rising prevalence of Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) efforts and how to communicate them via sustainability frameworks. This marked the first of many collaborations with SUSS.

On the course, Mr Sanjeev Tiwari, Chief Executive of AUPE Credit Co-operative and Credit Sector Chairperson of the SNCF Executive Council, said: “The workshop is a starting point for other co-operatives to first understand what ESG is, what it means for the sector we operate in and more importantly, how we can come on board ESG initiatives.”

General Manager at TCC Credit Co-op Mr Karthick Gangatharan, who also attended the workshop, added: “I had a better understanding of how co-ops have a part to play in furthering sustainability efforts through ESG practices. Credit co-ops, like TCC Credit Co-op, have long had transparency and good governance, and are thus poised to do well.”

“The myth is that it may be too difficult or costly can be clarified. We all can make a difference by starting small and over time meeting the ESG standards,” said Mr Tiwari.

SNCF’s focus to empower co-operatives in recent months stems from the discussions held as part of the Forward Singapore Exercise that started in September 2022. Through a series of conversations with different stakeholders, including co-operative leaders, co-operators, youths within the co-operatives, and thought leaders, participants had highlighted concerns, including sustainability, food resilience and climate change.

Mr Ang said: “Co-ops are set up with the intent to champion different social causes and have long been adopting Social and Governance practices. SNCF hopes to help co-ops to get started and to embrace sustainability by taking a more conscientious and long-term approach.”

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Who we are

SNCF is the apex body of Singapore’s Co-operative Movement, and secretariat of the Central Co-operative Fund (CCF). Formed in 1980 with the aim of championing Singapore’s Co-operative Movement, the apex body represents majority of co-operative members in Singapore through its affiliated co-operatives.