On October 25, Co-op America is celebrating its 25th anniversary. In honor of what we have achieved together, and to signal the important work we have ahead, Co-op America will be taking on a new name, Green America. We’ll officially adopt our new name on January 1, 2009.
I want to assure you that though our name is changing, our mission remains the same.
Allow me a moment to reflect on what we’ve achieved together, the tasks ahead—and to share the thinking behind our new name with you.
Twenty-five years ago, a small group of people got together, united by a belief that we could create an economy that works for people and the planet—and Co-op America was born. At the time, it was becoming clear that corporate actions were at the heart of a growing list of social and environmental ills—from climate change to sweatshop labor. But changing the American business paradigm seemed impossible (in fact, many said we were crazy). Ronald Reagan had become president, pushing the philosophy that business knows best; political channels were blocked for people wanting a society based on values of justice and environmental responsibility. It seemed it might be more possible to advance these values through the economy.
So a dedicated group of founding
members bravely put forth a revolutionary idea to Americans:
Every time you spend or invest a dollar, it goes to work in the world.
Too often, it supports institutions and corporations that perpetuate injustice,
pollute the environment, and destroy communities. But we can change that.
We can use economic power to push for socially and environmentally
responsible businesses ... and put our society on a more sustainable path.
It was clear that to create a more sustainable society, we needed to stop corporate irresponsibility and create a green economy based on the values of social and economic justice, community and environmental health.
The History of Our Name
In those early days, our founders chose the name Co-op America for this mission. It came from the idea of individuals, businesses, and investors working together cooperatively to shift society onto a just and sustainable path. Before the language of "green" emerged, cooperation seemed to be a good way to express these deep, holistic ideas.
The name turned out to be a mixed blessing. While our members understand and feel connected to it, those who don’t know us are often confused by the name, thinking that we are a food or housing cooperative. But our mission is exactly the right one—and the work of our organization has been game-changing.
Thought and Action Leadership
Twenty-five years ago, no one had heard of green business. But, together, we started a green economy movement that now constitutes more than $360 billion in responsible products, from Fair Trade to green energy, and $2.7 trillion in responsible investments.
When Co-op America began, corporate boards were able to act secretly, advancing policies that perpetuated the most egregious forms of injustice. Today, thanks to our work together advancing shareholder activism, shareholder resolutions on social and environmental issues are winning majority votes.
Two and a half decades ago, the question, "Were the workers who made this product treated and paid fairly?" went unasked. Now, thanks to you, more and more Americans consider issues of sweatshop and child labor when they make purchases, and Fair Trade is discussed in classrooms, boardrooms, and kitchens across the country.
And, thanks to you, today corporations know that consumer and investor power is a force to be reckoned with. Together, with many allies around the world, we helped bring an end to Apartheid in South Africa; and we got companies like Disney, Home Deport, Dominion Power, Citigroup, and Procter & Gamble to improve their social and environmental practices.
Perhaps most exciting of all, new solutions about better ways forward have been seeded everywhere and are growing whole new, healthy ways of living, working, and doing business. From local, organic food to community investing to solar power to Fair Trade, green economy solutions are springing up everywhere. Thanks to you, we’ve been there to help people learn how to green their lives, green their businesses, and green the world.
The Next 25 Years
So, given this success, what is our work together for the next 25 years?
First, our job is to set the standard for "green." Our visionary work is to make sure that green always means social and economic justice along with community and environmental health. We need to make sure it is holistic and inclusive, without any greenwashing.
Our commitment is to help everyone understand that for "going green" to serve its highest purpose, it must be about people and the planet.
Second, our powerful, on-the-ground work is to rapidly scale up all of the green solutions that you, our members and allies, and Co-op America have pioneered over the last 25 years—from local, organic food and green energy to Fair Trade and living wages to zero waste and green buildings. Our job is to accelerate the green economy from where it is today to being the mainstream economy.
Together, we’ll be ramping up our work to tackle climate change, build fair trading systems, advance healthy, local communities, and provide green living, purchasing, and investing information for families and businesses everywhere.
A green economy is the foundation for a green society—one that works
That’s why we are taking on a new name: to celebrate that, together, we’ve achieved this tipping point, where going forward, "green" defines the terrain. And that for our next 25 years together, we will complete the shift to green—the inclusive, holistic, deep green.
And that’s why our new name is Green America.
Our new name will add to our power going forward—and unite all of our great programs, from Green Festival® to Green Pages™ to Green Energy—under one banner. It will unite all of the people who are looking for how to green their lives, green their businesses, and green the world. A new name, but the same mission.
Together,we will continue to be the thought and action leaders for a world where all people have enough, where all communities are healthy and safe, and where the wealth and beauty of the Earth is preserved for all the generations yet to come.
Be on the lookout for our new name on all of our publications, our Web site, and our campaigns, starting on January 1, 2009.
Most importantly, please join with me for the next 25 years in the work of involving everyone—all families, businesses, and communities—in going green.
For the future,