Environmental sustainability needs to be defined. At the moment, co-operatives have very strong environmental sustainability values at their heart, but that would clearly need to be set out in the confines of this Bill.
Added to that, environmental and social governance, or ESG, is the buzzword of the City right now. Investors have flooded into the market looking to immunise their portfolios against climate risk and help promote a sustainable recovery from this pandemic. This Bill provides such an opportunity or pathway for investment, and it would be a travesty if this Government were to walk away from that opportunity.
My Bill is not just warm words on the environment. It would provide a genuine route towards greening our local communities for the benefit of all, creating green jobs, creating green skills, raising capital for the vital retrofitting of housing association stock, and strengthening sustainable and secure sources of good-quality British food and produce from British farms. The list is endless. My Bill is a bid to match co-operative values to the mission of climate action, with communities pooling resources collectively to install and generate energy; taking small steps with huge benefits, such as creating cheap renewable energy, so that no one in the community is left behind by rising energy costs and fuel poverty or priced out of green evolution.
Co-operatives UK expects there to be 1 million employee and worker owners in the UK co-operatives sector by 2030, but we can go one step further: we can ensure that co-operatives kickstart a local green economy and create local jobs and skills. There are Awel and Egni co-operatives and others across the country, such as Brixton energy and Bristol energy co-operatives and OrganicLea, a co-operative farm that trains local people. Initiatives such as these spark local imagination and creativity and put the power back into the hands of local people.
The Bill is about not just the co-operatives of today, but the ones of tomorrow that could be born out of the successes of this Bill—the co-operative bus and rail companies creating genuinely affordable and environmentally sustainable modes of transport as we decarbonise our roads, or seed capital for communities to take over local utilities. In Wales, we have Dwr Cymru, which is a prime example of a semi-mutual water company run on a not-for-profit basis, with profits invested and recycled solely for customer benefit. I am thinking of co-operative run social care, childcare and other communal services, as proposed by the Welsh Co-operative Centre in its “better, fairer, more co-operative Wales” report, or even co-operative agriculture, food production, or community zero-waste cafés and restaurants, such as SHRUB co-op in Edinburgh. Action is needed—not empty words and greenwash—and that is what my Bill aims to deliver.