In a year when Spain turned to the Eurozone for bailout assistance, there has been one sector of the Spanish economy which is inspiring in troubled times.

At Consum, one of Spain’s biggest cooperatives and one of the most significant retail cooperatives in Europe, profits rose in the past year when most of the rest of the business sector was reeling.

And not only that, but it found the funds and the inspiration to make significant inroads into improving its sustainability performance.

Jean Luis Durich, Consum’s Director General, explains that it has put much effort and seven million euros into its sustainability practices and reporting which meets the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standards.

In 2011 Consum reduced its carbon footprint by 16 per cent. To achieve this significant reduction it cut its water consumption by 22 per cent and its electricity consumption by 10 per cent.

“When you work hard and constantly, targets can be accomplished,” writes Francesc Llobell, Consum’s president. “At Consum we know how to grow and we grow organically, intelligently and with the focus on people. 2012, declared by the UN as the International Year of cooperatives, should be a year of reflection at time when capitalism itself is being questioned, and in which the system turns its gaze back on people, who are undoubtedly the reason for cooperatives’ existence.”