The Co-operators Outlines First Steps in “Sustainability Journey”

BURLINGTON, ON, Oct. 17 2007 – Kathy Bardswick, president and CEO of The Co-operators outlined the initial stages of the group of companies’ “sustainability journey” as the keynote speaker at the Ontario Co-operative Association’s 7th Annual Co-op Conference and Gala in Burlington, Ontario today.

Speaking to a group representing co-operatives and credit unions from across the province, Bardswick discussed how the principles of economic, environmental and social sustainability align naturally with co-operative values. Citing the sector’s commitment to enhancing the quality of life in their communities, she said co-ops and credit unions are well positioned to address the opportunities and challenges in the years ahead as organizations strive to adopt more sustainable practices. As one of Canada’s largest co-operatives, Bardswick was pleased to share The Co-operators experience as it embarked upon its sustainability journey.

“We make no claim to being a leader in sustainability at this point. But we are sincere in our commitment to becoming a better, more sustainable organization and we have begun the journey in earnest,” she said. “My hope is that by sharing the approach we’ve taken, the process we’ve followed in preparation, that other organizations may draw some lessons and put some of these ideas into practice in their own ways.”

Following a period of education and consultation with staff and member-owners, The Co-operators board of directors approved a Sustainability Strategy this summer and amended the organization’s Vision and Values statements to reflect its commitment to sustainability. Working with The Natural Step, a non-profit organization that provides sustainability advisory and training services, The Co-operators has created a department of Sustainability to co-ordinate efforts across the group of companies. Among the initiatives to be undertaken in 2008 are the measurement of the organization’s environmental footprint; the development of a Climate Change Strategy; incorporating sustainability principles into insurance products; and educational initiatives.

“Measuring our environmental footprint is crucial. Without such baseline data we could not genuinely understand our unique challenges as a group of companies, and our progress would not be quantifiable,” Bardswick explained. “Staff and our co-operative member-owners are very much engaged in this process and supportive of the direction we’re taking. With their support we will make real contributions as a co-operative, an employer and an insurer toward a more sustainable society.”

Bardswick’s keynote speech kicked off the annual conference and gala which is held during Co-op and Credit Union Week, October 14-20. The day-long conference entitled “Building Up, Moving Forward” includes workshops and educational sessions for members of Ontario’s co-operative sector.

About The Co-operators:

Based in Guelph, Ontario, The Co-operators is a group of Canadian companies offering home, auto, life, group, commercial and farm insurance, as well as investment products and property development. With assets of $7 billion, The Co-operators is a co-operative owned by 37 Canadian co-operatives, credit unions and like-minded organizations. It is well known for its community involvement, and is listed among the 50 Best Employers in Canada.