How can energy cooperatives and community enterprises transform our economy to tackle urgent challenges for the transition to a circular and climate-neutral society?

* Event in-person and online.

Speakers: Prof. Thomas Bauwens (Rotterdam School of Management) and Prof Marc-André Pigeon (University of Saskatchewan).

Moderator: Prof. Rafael Ziegler (HEC Montréal).

A pre-event of the Global Coop Innovation Summit 2023, organized by the Institut Institut international des coopératives Alphonse-et-Dorimène-Desjardins in collaboration with the Réseau de recherche en économie circulaire du Québec in the context of the SHRC-partnership ”Social economy embedding circular economy: theory, practice and potential”

In the past, the circular economy was often mistakenly associated with a primary focus on downstream processes such as recycling and industrial ecology. However, more recently, there has been a collective shift in understanding, leading to the recognition of two crucial and interconnected trends. Firstly, there is a growing emphasis on upstream approaches, rethinking production and consumption at the source and reevaluating reduction and substitution processes, particularly in the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Secondly, it is now acknowledged that achieving a circular economy requires active participation from citizens in shaping a circular society that reflects on consumption and waste reduction practices. Renewable energy cooperatives, which have long held a niche position in many countries, emerge as intriguing examples in this context. They play a vital role in driving the transition towards a climate-neutral and inclusive circular economy. To maximize their impact, these cooperatives need to explore strategies for expansion. So what do we know about scaling strategies emerging from cooperatives and communities more generally? And what are recent developments in this respect in Canada?

Addressing the first question, Professor Thomas Bauwens (Rotterdam School of Management) will introduce the SCENSUS research programme on the societal impact of community enterprises for sustainability transformations. How can communities reshape society beyond markets and states? And what are the mechanisms through which community enterprises (CEs) can transform our economy to tackle urgent sustainability challenges such as climate change? In Germany, France, the Netherlands and the UK, the SCENSUS programme studies three forms of CEs in key sustainability fields: renewable energy, the circular economy, and car-sharing. By studying CEs that have achieved varying levels of scaling, SCENSUS aims to develop a multi-level, unified theory of the mechanisms by which CEs can scale their societal impacts, With the SCENSUS programme, Bauwens and his team aim to

  1. Introduce a new interdisciplinary theory of the dynamics of CEs within the wider political economy;
  2. Advance the research frontier on collective action and organisation studies;
  3. Change the current thinking about the role of markets and states as an inescapable dichotomy that dominates the way modern societies build institutions and organisations;
  4. Contribute to emerging perspectives on a post-growth world and alternatives to capitalism.

Following this presentation. Professor Pigeon (University of Saskatchewan) will respond to this European perspective offering his reflections on harvesting the cooperative impulse for an enriched notion of the circular Economy: the case of renewable energy co-operatives, and the role of federations and leagues as well as the broader co-operative sector for facilitating and increasing the impact of cooperatives and community-based initiatives.

The RRECQ is supported by the Fonds de recherche du Québec.
Fonds de recherche - Québec