I have an uplifting set of figures land today from the ethical investment network, Oikocredit International, which operates out of offices in 31 countries worldwide. Here in the UK, we are proud to have Oikocredit as a co-operative member and support its work to attract individual and institutional investors.
The organisation now finances a €1 billion portfolio of enterprises in low-income countries with a development focus, including many formal co-operatives. Around forty million people, 84% of whom are women, participate in the ventures that Oikocredit helps to finance.
There is a healthy representation of fair-trade ventures in their lending, 85 over the year 2016, as well as a wider range of co-operatives, 2014 over the same period. Around half of the lending (48%) is rural, with just over a quarter (27%) focused on farming.
Oikocredit is one of a growing number of co-operatives and wider businesses that measure their performance against the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. In line with this, the International Co-operative Alliance has been running a support programme to encourage the link – Co-ops for 2030, linking to the target date for the completion of the goals.
Many years ago, the pioneering sustainability author Hazel Henderson described work like this to me as ‘the arrival of global citizens, in advance of the structures of global governance’.
One answer to the challenges of international co-operation is to build co-operative institutions that can pave the way to a fairer world.
With forty million people in its reach, Oiokcredit and its investors, many of them faith-based, are making a start on that path.