Contributed by DIKTIO K.A.P.A.
Sifnos Coop, the Energy and Development Cooperative operates on the small Sifnos island of 2,800 residents and aims to highlight and develop the full potential of the island, its tourism development, crafts, trades, agriculture and generally all branches of economic activity, in the direction of self-sufficiency with respect to the environment and future generations, through the utilization of Renewable Energy Sources (RES) and the enhancement of sustainability and social cohesion.
The legally incorporated cooperative consists of 56 members who are consumers and producers. It is a “Civil Cooperative,” in line with the Greek cooperative legislation and the cooperative statute. This means that it is a civil partnership because of its advantages in relation to a “Social Partnership” (as termed by Greek legislation) or in relation to any other incorporated company type of the private sector. It cannot be acquired like any other company, but it can be deployed and operated as any other company type. It is not limited by the laws governing a “Social Partnership” which allows it to distribute profits to its members under certain conditions. The members decide how to manage profits.
Formed in 2014, the time between project conception and incorporation was 2 years. Business planning and development support was provided by REScoop 20-20-20, an initiative launched by the federation of groups and cooperatives of citizens for renewable energy in Europe with the support of the Intelligent Energy Europe Program (European Commission). It is providing technical and legal assistance as well as funding consultancy to the Sifnos island cooperative.
Access to skills is currently very limited. The cooperative finds skilled persons (consultancy, management) from urban areas in Greece and from other EU countries. Legal barriers include national bureaucracy and RES-related legislation for non-grid-connected areas and islands in Greece. A solution was to exempt Sifnos island from the general RES legislation, by designating this effort as a pilot project. With this designation, the goal is for the Sifnos island to become energy self-sufficient through renewable energy sources. This will provide an opportunity for Sifnos island to become a leading example, through the use of proven currently available RES technologies, for other non-grid-connected areas and islands in Greece.
Θες Γάλα cattle farmers’ cooperative began its partnership in 2011 by integrating the force of 55 farms and 100 producers in Thessaly and Macedonia. Each day they produce approximately 120 tons of cow’s milk, which is sold mainly in the domestic dairy market while a part of it is sold through automatic milk sellers in Larissa and Thessaloniki. The milk production of the cooperative corresponds approximately to about 10% of the domestically produced fresh cow’s milk, serving mainly families and children.
It also cooperates in the field of raw materials, a acquiring supplies and products for members at very competitive prices, with an emphasis on safety and quality. This has led to the establishment of “Contractive Agriculture”, a network of synergies with local farmers for the production and supply of raw materials, working to reduce the cost of production for members while providing a stable income for farmers.
The legally incorporated cooperative promotes the idea of cooperation between the member-producers, ensuring the sustainability of their units through Contractive Agriculture and other economies of scale into the purchase of raw materials and supplies, and also through cooperation in the full range of primary sector and local markets. The biggest problem that “Thes Gala” faced was the negative environment that the institutional framework has caused and state decisions bureaucracy. Also, in the beginning of their operation there was distrust against the model of cooperation because of a poor impression caused by previously failed cooperatives.
Formed in 2010, the cooperative was incorporated within 2 years. The cooperative established a strict business plan with five years’ horizon development, both the cooperative data, and for the innovation of vending machines. The plan was provided with financing from own resources by retaining part of the profits of cooperative members for the development of infrastructure and to create a reserve. After securing a guaranteed price for milk for members, a small capital fund for cooperative development was created. In this way, extraordinary bank debt was avoided, even for working capital.
It is a combination of commercial and social business, meaning that the cooperative works with purely private economic criteria, but aims to be a big part of society, offering an everyday commodity at an extraordinary low price. At the same time, it runs a number of corporate social responsibility programmes giving direct support to vulnerable groups.
One of the barriers experienced was the bad financial environment and exclusion from the bank loans on favourable terms, which was combatted with equity utilization. There was also lack of institutional framework for provision of milk vending machines. A new institutional arrangement was created through the cooperative’s intervention in the functioning of milk vending machines.