Beyond Blind Trust in Progress: How Cooperative Models are Paving the Way to a Sustainable and Fair Future

Cooperative business models are increasingly being considered as a reasonable option to refocus our economies and make them more dignified, fair and environmentally sustainable. The limits to Growth report presented by the Club of Rome in 1972 entailed the questioning of the blind trust in progress that had dominated the collective imagination until that moment. That blind trust in progress consisted of the idea that science would find the solution to any problem faced on the way towards that growth. Energetic and alimentary crises are some of the examples of the limits to growth. However, around the planet, there are many examples of other ways of organizing the economy in a more ecologically and socially sustainable way. In this brief article some of them will be exposed, putting special focus on their positive environmental impact, with the aim of raising awareness that the way of organizing the economy is not just one, and that the economy can be made by the people and for the people, and in an environmentally friendly way.

The first case takes place in Mali. With a poor food situation, the country has to import more than one hundred million tons of cereals every year. Many problems derive from this situation, such as the loss of purchasing power of the population and malnutrition derived from the lack of intake of proteins and vitamins. This project is based on the collective kitchen concept and the appreciation of local products, with which, together with the help of a person formed in local nutrition, they elaborate healthy, nutritive, and varied dishes. Some of its consequences are the empowerment of the women of the poorest areas in the nutrition of their families, the support to local productors and the creation of jobs, and the promotion of local products and development of biological crops.

Another example is El Salinerito, an Ecuadorian brand integrated by cooperative companies from the village Salinas de Guaranda, in the province of Bolivar. It is known for its model of solidarity economy: the profits are used for improving the business or for social development. The first of these cooperatives was created in 1972 to fight against the social problems and the poverty of the area, a consequence of the collapse of iodized mineral salt production when sea salt burst onto the markets. Different indicators show that improvements in health, living places, education, communications, and tourism have been made as a result of the action of the cooperatives. In addition, there has been a change in the way of understanding nature. Before, it was an obstacle to overcome; now is a precious treasure to keep and cherish.

In the last place, Som Energia is a cooperative created in 2010 in Girona, Spain. It shows that cooperatives can also take place in the first world and can compete with big companies of their same sector. The goals of Som Energia are mainly environmental. They offer 100% renewable energy, and they foment the increase of energy generation from renewable sources in Spain. At the same time, they promote the reduction of energy consumption in daily life with information and advice for their partners. Among its constitutive values are transparency and democratic control and the participation of the partners.

As seen throughout the article, cooperatives are a good way of organizing alternative economies, working in a more horizontal and democratic way. The number of people participating in cooperatives around the world is close to a billion people, so it is not a minor thing. In the future, cooperatives may be a good alternative to bring the economy closer to environmental and social reality, while the wealth created by their activities can be distributed in an equitable and fair way. In fact, they are already in the present.

Author: Raul Selva Talon


Guerra, P. (2012). Mirades globals per a una altra economia. Barcelona: Setem.


SALINERITO [Internet]. Available in:

SOM ENERGIA [Internet]. Available in:

WOIYO KONDEYE [Internet]. Available in: