The March edition of Co-op News we look at how technology poses challenges to credit unions, as well as other co-ops. There are also updates from the 6th Ways Forward conference in Manchester, where shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey shared her vision for a co-operative economy, and a Q&A with Co-operative College vice principal Dr Cilla Ross ahead of the 2018 co-op education and research conference.
The March edition of Co-op News we look at how technology poses challenges to credit unions, as well as other co-ops. There are also updates from the 6th Ways Forward conference in Manchester, where shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey shared her vision for a co-operative economy, and a Q&A with Co-operative College vice principal Dr Cilla Ross ahead of the 2018 co-op education and research conference.
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Are credit unions
ready to embrace
Plus ... Helping
Updates from the 6th Ways
Forward conference ...
Financial inclusion... The
Fairtrade Shopper Report ...
sed Member Pioneers ...
International credit union
9 770009 982010
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Photography: PEG Ghana
CONNECTING, CHAMPIONING AND
CHALLENGING THE GLOBAL CO-OP
MOVEMENT SINCE 1871
Holyoake House, Hanover Street,
Manchester M60 0AS
(00) 44 161 214 0870
Anca Voinea | email@example.com
Miles Hadfield | firstname.lastname@example.org
DESIGN: Keir Mucklestone-Barnett
Elaine Dean (chair), David Paterson
(vice-chair), Richard Bickle,
Sofygil Crew, Gavin Ewing, Tim
Hartley, Beverley Perkins and
Secretary: Ray Henderson
Established in 1871, Co-operative News
is published by Co-operative Press Ltd,
a registered society under the Cooperative
and Community Benefit Society
Act 2014. It is printed every month by
Buxton Press, Palace Road, Buxton,
Derbyshire SK17 6AE. Membership of
Co-operative Press is open to individual
readers as well as to other co-operatives,
corporate bodies and unincorporated
The Co-operative News mission statement
is to connect, champion and challenge
the global co-operative movement,
through fair and objective journalism and
open and honest comment and debate.
Co-op News is, on occasion, supported by
co-operatives, but final editorial control
remains with Co-operative News unless
specifically labelled ‘advertorial’. The
information and views set out in opinion
articles and letters do not necessarily
reflect the opinion of Co-operative News.
Our view: Are co-operatives and
credit unions ready to embrace
Disruption is the buzzword in this issue, which looks at how technology poses
challenges to credit unions, as well as other co-ops.
Whether for member interaction, marketing or automation, credit unions can use
technology to improve services. We have featured various examples of how the
sector is trying to go digital while continuing to promote financial inclusion.
Community banks are not only competing with the big banks, but also against
fintechs and payday lenders. Our Q&A with credit union and tech experts reveals
ways in which organisations can explore the opportunities for partnerships with
fintechs and decide what their strategic goals are.
The key digital trends likely to cause disruption for credit unions and will affect other
sectors as well, particularly retail.
Tech was also on the agenda at the Ways Forward conference in Manchester, where
shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey shared her vision for a co-operative
economy where people working in organisations have a stake in them and an interest
in their long-term future.
We heard at the conference how, two years ago, tech co-ops in the UK joined forces
to launch Co-operative Technologists, a network of web development, web hosting,
and design co-ops.
But while co-ops in the UK are already delivering #techforgood, the concept of
platform co-ops, where users and service providers are multi-stakeholders, has
yet to be put in practice – largely due to a lack of start-up capital to create such
Yet developing simple and easy-to-access channels will be crucial if co-ops and credit
unions want position themselves as ethical alternatives to the big service providers.
ANCA VOINEA - JOURNALIST
Co-operative News is printed using vegetable oil-based
inks on 80% recycled paper (with 60% from post-consumer
waste) with the remaining 20% produced from FSC or PEFC
certified sources. It is made in a totally chlorine free process.
MARCH 2018 | 3
Updates from the 6th Ways
Forward conference ...
Financial inclusion... The
Fairtrade Shopper Report ...
9 770009 982010
sed Member Pioneers ...
International credit union
CLOCKWISE FROM FAR LEFT
A new mustard co-op in Norwich as Colman’s
leaves? (p10); Jo Bird talks about her
co-operative experiences (p20-21); The
Co-op Group’s Fairtrade Shopper Report
shows Fairtrade is still relevant (p44-45);
and our credit union special looks at how
technology is changing the sector (p28-41)
4 | MARCH 2018
news Issue #7293 MARCH 2018
Connecting, championing, challenging
Are credit unions
ready to embrace
Plus ... Helping
COVER: This month we speak
to experts and leaders from
within and outside credit
unions, looking at how
technology is helping – and
hindering – the sector
Read more: p28-41
20-21 MEET... JO BIRD
The co-operative activist and local council
candidate on her co-op experiences and
the future of the movement
22 CO-OPS AND SOCIAL SOLIDARITY
Bob Cannell introduces the upcoming
23-27 WAYS FORWARD 6
Updates from the sixth edition of the
conference, which focused on
28-41 CREDIT UNIONS
28-29 WHAT ARE CREDIT UNIONS
How are credit unions using the latest
tech to improve services for members
30-33 Q&A WITH DIGITAL LEADERS
Latest trends from industry experts
34 WHO TO FOLLOW ON TWITTER
Credit union experts and
35 CREDIT UNION REBRANDING
Tailored advice on the dos and don’ts
36-37 MARKETING CASE STUDIES
From Clevr Money and 6 Towns
38-39 GOING DIGITAL... SLOWLY
Paul Gosling’s analysis of the
challenges posed by new technology
40-41 PROMOTING INCLUSION
Examples of how credit unions serve
43 INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY
How do co-ops perform as employers
of women? Co-op women share their
44-45 FAIRTRADE SHOPPER REPORT
The Co-op Group launches its 2018 report
with news that all its bananas, tea and
coffee ingredients will be Fairtrade
46 Q&A WITH CILLA ROSS
The Co-operative College vice-principal
looks ahead to the 2018 Co-operative
education and research conference
5-13 UK updates
14-19: Global updates
Labour announces the formation of Community Wealth Unit
Political support for co-operatives is
continuing as John McDonnell announced
Labour is setting up a Community Wealth
Building Unit to support co-operatives
and mutuals as a means of driving
local economic growth.
Speaking at an event in Preston, the
shadow chancellor said Labour would
work with the Co-operative Party, trade
unions and think tanks to implement
the community wealth building
Over the last couple of years, Preston City
Council has been pioneering the model
in the UK. Inspired by the Cleveland
Model in the USA, the Labour &
Co-operative City Council of Preston
has worked with local anchor
institutions such as universities
and hospitals, as well as through its
own procurement practices, to ensure
a greater share of the money it spends
stays in the local economy. Overall,
the project has seen more than £200m
returned to the local economy and has
supported 1,600 jobs.
Since 2016, the Co-operative Party
has been working with Preston Council
to explore how this model could be used
by other communities across the UK.
Now Labour’s new Community Wealth
Building Unit will work with councils to
learn the lessons from Preston and provide
support and advice to other councils.
“The next Labour government will
end austerity and properly fund local
authorities, instead of cutting back and
passing the buck like the Conservatives
are doing. But we cannot afford to wait
until we are in power nationally,” said the
shadow chancellor in his speech.
“There are many creative solutions
being used already, like in Preston, and we
need to spread this inspiring work around
other Labour councils now, so we can
bring services back in house, stimulate the
economy and provide decent jobs, extend
ownership and control, and strengthen
“By working together to share these
principles where Labour is already in
power locally, we can sow the seeds of
a country that works for the many, not
p John McDonnell, shadow chancellor, said Labour would work with the Co-op Party
At a second event, Mr McDonnell
said that building on his 2016 pledge
to double the size of the co-operative
economy, the next Labour government
aimed to transform the economy and
would work with the Co-operative Party
to form an implementation group to
test ideas and receive feedback from the
Speaking at the Labour Alternative
Forms of Ownership Conference, he
also announced that the Co-operative
Party has commissioned an independent
report from the New Economics
Foundation on how to expand the
Responding to Mr McDonnell’s
speech, Co-operative Party general
secretary, Claire McCarthy, said: “We
warmly welcome Labour’s commitment
to significantly expand the co-operative
sector, and the central role co-operatives
will play in an economy where wealth and
power are more widely shared.”
She added: “The Co-operative Party has
commissioned an independent report to
explore what action a future government
could take to help double the size of the
“Separately, we will work closely
with the Labour Party to convene an
implementation group, which will ensure
the voice of the co-operative movement is
heard at the highest levels of the Labour
Party as it plans for government.
“These two initiatives, together
with [the] announcement on local
government, and the Co-operative Party’s
own forthcoming report on democratic
public ownership, demonstrate the
significant opportunities for the
co-op movement in the years ahead.
“The Co-operative Party looks forward
to working with partners in the wider
labour and co-operative movements
to make co-operation the template
for the kind of country that together
we will build.”
MARCH 2018 | 5
Co-op trade union
Naco votes to transfer
A ballot of Naco (National Association
of Co-operative Officials) members has
resulted in 82% voting for a transfer
of engagements into Usdaw, the shop
workers’ trade union.
Naco began looking at a potential
transfer into Sata, the management arm
of Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and
Allied Workers) in 2017, its centenary year.
The co-op trade union has represented
managers at the Co-op Group, Central
England, Channel Islands, Chelmsford
Star, East of England, Heart of
England, Lincolnshire, Midcounties,
Scotmid and Southern. It has also
worked with other co-ops including the
Phone Co-op, Co-operatives UK, the
Co-operative College and Well Pharmacy,
but had seen membership fall.
This year’s ballot, which had a 24%
turnout, means the transfer to Usdaw
will go ahead. The trade union is hopeful
that the transfer will be effective from
Tuesday, 1 May 2018.
“While this is a sad day for Naco, having
celebrated our centenary last year, the
p Naco, the co-op trade union, represented workers from the Co-op Group, Scotmid and
Chelmsford Star among others
transfer into the Sata section of Usdaw
is a necessary and positive move,” said
Bob Lister, Naco interim general secretary.
“It means Naco members will continue
to be protected by a strong and respected
voice within the co-op movement, where
both our unions have represented staff for
many years. The Naco membership have
given us a clear mandate to do what they
believe is in the best interests of all. It has
been a challenging few months to get
to this position, but we’re now looking
forward to a very positive future.”
Usdaw is the UK’s fifth biggest trade
union, with over 430,000 members.
It is also the fastest growing, with
membership increasing by more than 28%
over the last decade.
“We are delighted that Naco has opted
to transfer into Usdaw and we welcome
their members to our union,” said John
Hannett, Usdaw general secretary.
“This decision ensures Naco members
have the backing of an experienced and
knowledgeable trade union. Usdaw has
had a long relationship with the Co-op,
we understand the business and already
represent tens of thousands of their staff.
That means we can hit the ground running
when Naco members join us in May.”
New stores planned at
Chelmsford Star takes Co-op
Marque for funeral division
Central England Co-operative plans to
open 10 new stores and funeral homes
and revamp dozens more as part of an
investment plan for 2018.
The project will create hundreds of jobs
across its trading estate of 16 counties. The
society will open new stores and funeral
homes in Birmingham, Peterborough,
Yorkshire, Derby, Leicestershire,
Northamptonshire, Suffolk, and
Nottingham. Also, 10 stores and 20 funeral
homes will be given a makeover.
CEO Martyn Cheatle said:
“We are really proud of
the success of our food business ... in what
is a highly competitive and increasingly
uncertain trading environment. We want
to continue with that success and this is
why we are committed to an ambitious
growth and investment strategy.”
Star’s take on the
Chelmsford Star Society has rebranded its funerals division as
Co-op Funeral Directors – and each of its eight branches has
been named after the community it serves.
The new branding is based on the Coop Marque, replacing its
previous dark blue with purple.
The project saw a “considerable” investment but was “deemed
necessary and appropriate by our members”, said Kevin Bennett,
head of membership and marketing. He said the old Chelmsford
Star name had caused confusion for branches elsewhere in the
trading area and made them heard to find online. “Now, each
of the branches is named after the area it is based in, similar to
our food stores, and so can be promoted online easier. It also
highlights our local, community-based approach.”
With regard to the Co-op Marque, Mr Bennett said: “This
is an existing, recognisable Marque we already believed
in. We didn’t take the ‘clover-leaf’ approach because there is
significant confusion surrounding co-operatives across the UK,
and we felt using it would add to that. The Marque is renowned
across the globe for its values, and we wanted to reflect our belief
in that movement.”
6 | MARCH 2018
Growth strategy sparks fierce debate at Phone Co-op AGM
The Phone Co-op’s four-year growth
strategy proved controversial at its AGM in
Sheffield on 3 February, with one member
attacking the plans as “reckless”.
But the co-op’s chair Jane Watts told the
News the changes were essential, adding:
“This is not only a strategy for growth, it is
a strategy for survival.”
The strategy involves major investments
in a bid to grow sales by 250% by 2021,
with a focus on values-led customers such
as housing, the third sector, co-ops and
Interim CEO Peter Murley told the AGM
the society was badly under-invested
in IT infrastructure, premises and staff
development and reward. The co-op
was over-exposed to low-margin and
competitive residential and personal
markets, he added, without the capacity
to offer compelling services to highermargin
In order to move from a 70/30 split
of consumer/business customers to a
40/60 split in five years’ time, significant
investment was needed – implying three
years of trading losses, said Mr Murley.
A member asked what level the reserves
were at today and Per Simonsen, the
outgoing chief financial officer, confirmed
that in the first quarter of the new financial
year they had reduced from the £1m
reported in the accounts to approximately
£750,000. They would be reduced to zero
by the end of August.
The projected losses/profits in the
business plan were as follows: Year 1:
£1.12m loss; Year 2: £0.91m loss; Year 3:
£.26m loss; Year 4: £0.97m profit; Year 5:
One member asked if a transfer of
engagements was being pursued. Mr
Murley responded that these options were
being explored all the time. Former Phone
Co-op director, Justin Anderson, asked if he
knew what a transfer of engagements was
in a co-op context (a takeover by another
society). Mr Murley said he did and that
he was exploring both receiving transfers
and pursuing a transfer of the Phone
Co-op to another society.
Members asked how this would be
funded once 20 years of reserve funds had
been lost. The response given was that
members’ capital would be spent.
One former director, Peter Turnbull,
described the Board’s plans as “reckless”,
while other members expressed the
opinion that pursuing growth for its own
sake was not in line with the society’s
ethos or necessary.
But Mr Murley said he didn’t believe
that standing still was an option given
the sub-scale nature of the society in the
markets where it operated.
Simon Blackley, former chair of the Phone
Co-op, presented a motion welcoming the
information shared but criticising the lack
of consultation with the members.
He reminded the meeting that the
society was preparing to spend its whole
accumulated reserves followed by a
significant proportion of the £7.5m of share
capital. Referring to the Co-operatives UK’s
Code of Best Practice on withdrawable
share capital, he reminded the board that if
25% or more than £1m of share capital was
at risk of being lost, the society was obliged
to suspend withdrawals.
When asked, the board did not indicate
whether share capital withdrawals were
likely to be suspended.
The motion was passed 79 to 12. At the end
of the meeting, Simon Blackley circulated a
requisition for a special meeting to vote on
a motion of no confidence in the board.
The meeting also saw Nick Thompson
announced as chief executive; he was due
to take up the post on 19 February. The
following day, at the organisation’s board
meeting, Jane Watts was appointed chair.
Replying to Co-op News’s online report
of the meeting, Ms Watts said: “We have to
refocus our business to allow us to compete
in less price-sensitive market sectors,
which will provide us with the profits we
need to survive and go forward.
“We will never compromise our
co-operative values. As a co-op, our
business is owned by our members, and
their investment in The Phone Co-op,
both financial and practical, is key to our
success. However, the time has come for us
to face the issues that, if ignored, will very
likely lead to the failure of the business.
“Our five-year strategy therefore
addresses the need for investment
in systems, people, premises and
infrastructure. It also reflects the fact that
our customer demographic is changing
and that we have to refocus our plans to be
‘where our customers are’.”
She added: “This is not only a strategy
for growth, it is a strategy for survival. We
have reached a position where business
turnaround is the only option. We are
competing in a consumer market which is
increasingly price sensitive and in which,
with under 30,000 customers, we can only
ever be a niche player.
“We have a real opportunity to position
the Phone Co-op as the provider of choice
for socially responsible businesses, co-ops
and small corporates and our plan is
formulated to target these potential
customers. To succeed, we need to
take more risk, but the board and the
management team firmly believes it is a risk
that will pay off within five years.”
She said a special general meeting
had been called for Saturday, 28 April in
Sheffield, with all members invited, to
ensure adequate debate about the strategy.
“Talking, listening and debating are the
essence of a co-operative business and we
are keen to tell members more about our
plans and, equally important, hear their
feedback, listen to their concerns and
address them,” she added.
MARCH 2018 | 7
Co-op Energy leads the way
on scrapping standard
Co-op Energy has become the first big
energy supplier to scrap standard variable
tariffs (SVTs) for customers on a fixed deal.
This means the supplier, owned by
Midcounties Co-op, will no longer switch
customers to its Green Pioneer SVT once
their fixed-price tariff ends. They will
instead be shifted to a new fixed tariff,
which will run until May 2019, with no
exit fees. The new tariff is around £100 a
year cheaper than Co-op Energy’s SVT and
“guarantees 100% clean energy”.
The adjustment applies to customers
whose fixed deals have ended since 31
December 2017. While fixed tariffs have a
set price for a certain period such as one
or two years, SVT costs are variable, so
the rate paid by customers varies as well
– making them more expensive.
The change follows the government’s
pledge to cap SVTs. A 2017 report into
the energy market by the Competition
and Markets Authority estimated the
detriment from excessive prices to the
domestic customers of the Big Six energy
firms to be about £1.4bn a year between
2012 and 2015.
A Co-op Energy spokesman said: “From
31 December last year, all customers who
do not switch to an alternative tariff when
their fixed tariff ends are automatically
moved onto our new Co-op Fixed Green
Energy May 19 v2 fixed-price default tariff.
“This ensures customers who have
chosen a fixed tariff in the past get the
peace of mind that the price on their new
tariff will currently be fixed until May 2019.”
Meanwhile, Hull & East Yorkshire Credit
Union (HEYCU) has partnered with Co-op
Energy to reduce energy bills.
HEYCU, established by volunteers in
1999, has 12,500 adult and 1,500 junior
members with combined savings of £10m.
Under Co-op Energy’s Co-operative
Energy Saving Initiative, it has installed
22 solar panels, LED lighting and internal
insulation. This could generate nearly
5,000kWh, worth up to £800, a year.
The initiative is designed to combat
climate change by helping individuals,
community groups and small businesses
reduce their energy consumption and
bills. It offers advice and smart technology,
supports community energy generation
and works with government funding
schemes such as ECO subsidies and
the Feed-in Tariff. It has also launched
an online shop where customers can
purchase energy-efficient LED bulbs.
“Our project with HEYCU shows
what can be achieved when we work
collaboratively to help shape the future
of energy generation,” said Martin Cook,
affiliates manager at Co-op Energy.
John Smith, CEO of HEYCU, said: “The
scheme is a fantastic initiative and made
us realise that, even as a relatively small
organisation, we can play an important
part in tackling climate change.”
Mark Lyonette is leaving ABCUL
Mark Lyonette is to leave the role of chief
executive at the Association of British
Credit Unions (Abcul) in May.
Mr Lyonette, who has been with Abcul
for more than 20 years, will move to the
National Pharmacy Association as chief
executive in June.
During his time at the trade body,
membership has almost quadrupled and
assets have grown nearly 900%. He helped
secure legislative reform for credit unions
and maintain proportionate regulation
following the 2008 financial crisis.
Mr Lyonette was also chief executive of
Abcul’s subsidiary, Cornerstone Mutual
Services, which is delivering the Credit
Union Expansion Project on its behalf. The
government-funded project was designed
to provide a core new banking system
and mobile app for credit unions. So far,
only three credit unions of the 35 which
signed up for the platform have gone live.
“It has been a great pleasure to have
been part of the growth of the credit
union movement for so many years,”
said Mr Lyonette. “We have achieved a
huge amount working together with our
members. It has been a privilege and an
honour to have had the opportunity to
serve our members, their credit unions
and the sector as a whole.
“I will be sad to leave the sector and
many friends after so many years but I
leave behind me a strong management
team which is dedicated to providing an
excellent service to members, day in and
day out. I have every confidence that the
association and the movement will go
from strength to strength.”
Abcul president Robert Kelly said:
“I would like to pay tribute to Mark’s
huge contribution to the development
of the credit union sector in Britain. He
has dedicated such significant time and
p Mark Lyonette spent 13 years as chief
executive of the trade body
energy to developing our organisation
and wider sector ... His strategic vision,
leadership and desire for collaboration
will be missed and we wish him every
success in his future endeavours.”
He added: “The Abcul board is firmly
focused on ensuring the transitional
period is delivered in the most effective
way possible as we continue to meet
8 | MARCH 2018
The Co-op Group’s Local Community Fund is open for applicants...
Could your cause apply?
Local causes that want to bring people and
communities together are being invited to
apply for funding from the Co-op Group.
The Co-op’s Local Community Fund has
helped raise £22m for over 8,000 causes
since launching in September 2016.
This month, the Fund is opening for its
fourth round – and this time is encouraging
more causes than ever to apply.
While previously only registered charities
could apply for the funding, the Group
is now opening up applications to other
small, locally focused organisations –
including other co-ops.
The Fund takes the 1% raised by
members buying Co-op own branded
products and services and adds in the
money raised from the 5p carrier bag
levy. This money is distributed to causes
in 1500 local communities, grouped
geographically around Co-op Food stores
and Funeral Homes.
Applications are reviewed by the Group
and the Charities Aid Foundation, and
three are chosen for each community.
Members located in that community
can choose which one their 1% goes
to, with any unallocated money
split between the three causes at the end
of the cycle.
The fourth cycle opens on 5 March,
and the Group is looking for projects
that bring people together, meeting
co-operative values. As well as charities,
this could be social enterprises,
not-for-profit organisations, co-operatives
and other small, locally focussed
organisations (with a turnover of
• Causes can apply between 5 March
and 7 April 2017. For more details, visit
What else is happening at the Group?
NEW-LOOK NAPPIES: The Co-op Group is relaunching its baby care range for a new
generation of parents – starting with nappies. Working with design agency Robot
Food and children’s book illustrator, Jim Field, the Group aims to spark an emotional
connection with mums and dads, built on the real experience of parenthood.
TRAVEL INSURANCE SHAKE-UP: Co-op Insurance has entered the travel insurance market
in a bid to “disrupt the sector by offering a new product shaped by its members”. Its
new product includes cashless medical expenses for all ages and medical conditions,
meaning customers will not have to pay out themselves for any medical treatment –
“a first for the general insurance market”.
MODERN SLAVERY: The Group is urging support for a bill to help victims of modern slavery. Introduced by Lord McColl, the private
member’s bill calls for increasing the period of time during which victims receive support from 45 days to a year. The retailer will also
be offering a victim of modern slavery a job at one of its shops in Scotland. Fifteen survivors have already secured a job with the Co-op
in England as part of its Bright Future employment programme.
ENERGY DRINKS: A voluntary ban on the sale of energy drinks to under-16s has been imposed by the Co-op amid health concerns.
The age restriction, which will apply to 39 products containing more than 150mg of caffeine per litre, will come into force in March
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: A £50m investment to cut the cost of everyday food has been announced by the retailer, with some products
have been reduced in price by more than 40%. In another initiative, it is trialling a delivery service in Manchester in partnership with
Deliveroo. The initial trial will focus on beers, wines and spirits as well as snacks and confectionary.
BED MARKET: The Co-op Group has launched on online beds shop in an attempt to take a share of
a market worth £1.6bn – and which is growing at 3% a year. The retailer first sold beds in 1904, and
it has re-entered the market by forming a strategic partnership with British bed brand Silentnight.
Its website, beds.coop.co.uk, offers beds, headboards and mattresses with free delivery, a 14-day
cancellation policy and a five-year guarantee.
FAIRTRADE ROSES: The Group has become the first retailer to only use 100% Fairtrade roses in all of
its flower bouquets, when sourced from Africa. It has also pledged a £30K donation, generated by the
overall sales of Co-op’s Fairtrade roses in February and March, to help graduate nurses and deliver
improvement to the maternity services at the hospital serving the flower-growing community hospital
of Naivasha, Kenya.
MARCH 2018 | 9
New co-op could take the place of Colman’s Mustard in Norwich
After the shock announcement in January
that Unilever plans to close Colman’s
Mustard factory in Norwich in 2019, steps
are being taken to set up a communityowned
The condiment is an iconic brand for
the town, where it has been produced for
more than 200 years. Colman’s of Norwich
was founded by Jeremiah Colman in 1814,
after he created a tangy recipe mixing
white and brown mustard at a water mill
near the town.
Operations moved to the current
Colman’s site in the 1860s, not long after
the brand developed its classic yellow
packaging and bull’s head logo. It also
wove itself into the life of the town, with
philanthropic efforts including a school
for workers’ children and a nurse for
staff who fell ill.
In 1995 the brand was taken over
by Unilever, which helped mustard
growers to form the English Mustard
p Robert Ashton checks out local coverage
of the mustard co-op
Growers Co-operative in 2009 as a grower
But in December, Unilever announced
plans to move operations to Burton on
Trent and Germany, and said the Norwich
factory would close in 2019.
The news was met with dismay – and
also sparked a conversation between
Cllr Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour
group on Norfolk County Council, and
local social entrepreneur, Robert Ashton,
about the possibility of a new communityowned
This video posted on LinkedIn attracted
5,000 views in four days. An online survey
was completed by more than 100 people
and, after reports in the local press,
public support began to build for the
idea of Norwich Mustard as a community
Mr Ashton said: “This would put
ownership of the new brand firmly
with the people of Norwich. This would
prevent it ever leaving the city, as all the
shareholders will be local, or at least
people passionate about Norwich and of
course, its mustard tradition.
“The early success of this campaign
shows that the appetite for communityled
co-operatives is strong.”
A crowdfunding campaign which hopes
to raise £6,000 to fund the set up of the
co-operative, and the development of a
deliverable business plan, raised 20% of
the total in the first 24 hours.
Power to Change, a Lottery-backed body
which supports community business,
has agreed to match fund the campaign
with a grant.
Once the share issue has been
completed in the spring, the two founders
intend to hand control to a board of
directors elected by the shareholders.
Mr Ashton added: “I’ve long been a
fan of community-owned co-operatives.
It’s a fair, open and enterprising way
that people who feel strongly about
something can stop sounding off and do
something positive. The story of Colman’s
Mustard leaving Norwich is just such
“I believe that with the right people
in the team, we can create a new local
mustard brand that keeps the history
alive, in a contemporary, sustainable way.
“I don’t see Norwich Mustard competing
with Colman’s, but as a 21st century
opportunity to create a new brand that
excites, delights and can return modest
dividends to those who buy shares.”
Mr Ashton is now looking for a farmer
to grow mustard seed so a product can be
made to test demand, and for a premises
to manufacture the condiment.
10 | MARCH 2018
Dairy co-op Arla announces massive UK investment
Focus on local produce
store named best
supermarket in England
A store opened in the Cotswolds last
October by Midcounties Co-op has
been named the best in England, and
one of Europe’s finest, by industry
The Bourton-on-the-Water store, the
result of a £4.9m investment by the society,
is the only supermarket in England to
make it into the grocery researcher’s ‘Top
14 Stores to See in Europe’ report.
The eco-friendly store was selected
for its focus on sourcing local produce,
which the report highlighted as one way
to create “a compelling point of difference
for smaller retailers needing to stand out
from larger competitors”.
The report also praised in-store cooking
demonstrations that celebrate seasonal
dishes and local ingredients, and
described the unique products available
on the delicatessen counter as a “major
draw for customers”.
Experts highlighted the TV showing
local supplier stories as a stand-out
feature and said the store’s premium
feel, created by the high-quality fit out,
made for an “inspiring environment
Phil Ponsonby, chief executive (trading)
at Midcounties, said: “This is a fantastic
achievement for our Bourton Food store,
especially considering we only opened
last year. The Best of Our Counties range
is all about celebrating the food and
drink available in our communities and
supporting the talented local suppliers
behind the products. It’s great to hear
that organisations like IGD appreciate this
initiative and value local produce as much
as we do.”
Farmer-owned dairy co-op Arla has
announced a £72m investment plan for
its UK operation this year. The move will
see 10 sites across the country upgraded,
with new technology and expanded and
improved production capacity. This is the
latest announcement in the company’s
Strategy 2020 growth plans.
SAOS conference examines the future of co-operation
Over 120 farmers and agriculture
practitioners met in Dunblane on 25
January for the annual conference of the
Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society
(SAOS). As well as discussing the role of
co-operation in agriculture, they looked at
the future of the sector in Scotland.
2018 Co-op Education Conference to look at co-op skills
The 2018 Co-operative Education and
Research Conference takes place on 1-2
May at Federation in Manchester. The
conference will have two main strands:
The Co-operative University; and Learning
for New Co-operative Times. Over the two
days there will be panels discussions,
workshops and the presentation of
papers. u Read more on p46.
Three energy co-ops acquire Mear Moor Farm in Cumbria
Three renewable energy co-operatives
have brought Mean Moor wind farm in
Cumbria. A total of £2.8m was raised to
refinance the wind farm, which is the
first in the country to be transferred to
community ownership from a commercial
developer. Over 400 individuals
invested in the scheme, with a minimum
investment of £500 and a maximum
investment capped at £50,000.
Scotmid raises £120K to fund 24,000 Samaritans calls
Scotmid Co-operative has raised £121,000
for Samaritans, its charity partner of
the year. The money raised will fund an
additional 24,200 calls to the suicide
prevention charity from Scots who may
be struggling to cope. Over the next six
months the partnership hopes to raise
a further £180,000, to ensure the 19
Samaritans branches in Scotland can
keep their doors open.
MARCH 2018 | 11
Maximising Dignity through the Social and Solidarity Economy
p The SUSY Group in Brussels
In February 2015, 26 partners from 23
European countries – including the UK’s
Co-operative College – developed an EUfunded
project to promote the SUstainable
and Solidarity economY (SUSY). Since
then, the project has been mapping and
connecting initiatives working in the
Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE),
hosting training and awareness activities,
and promoting alternative methods of
production and distribution.
On 23 January 2018, as the project
ended, the SUSY consortium presented a
policy paper at the European Parliament
in Brussels that looked at ‘Maximizing
Dignity through the Social and
The paper is the result of three years
of exchanges among the SUSY partners,
and sets out a series of demands, covering
regulation of the private sector; putting
people and the environment at the
centre of decision making; human rights;
biodiversity and ecosystems; financial
transparency and accountability; and the
creation of sustainable prosperity for all.
“It’s inspirational to discover how
SSE initiatives are responding to current
global issues and to see how many have
arisen in Europe and in the world in
the last few decades,” says Dr Amanda
Benson, SUSY lead at the Co-operative
College. “In Europe, it’s estimated there
are approximately two million SSE
organisations. Roughly speaking that’s
about 10% of all companies, employing
over 11 million people (the equivalent
of 6% of the working population of the
“Over the course of the project it has
become clear that in order to effectively
fight the root causes of global poverty
and inequality, the entire system
needs to change.”
The project’s closing event in Brussels
was hosted by the Italian MEP Elly
Schlein (Progressive Alliance of Socialist
& Democrats) – with the participation
of Giorgio Menchini (COSPE), Marina
Sarli (Fair Trade Hellas), Kasia Hanula-
Bobbitt (CONCORD Europe) and
Jason Nardi (RIPESS). The discussion
focused on the SSE and its role in the
implementation of the 2030 Agenda. In
particular, it dealt with how the SSE can
represent a model for the private sector
in the transition towards a sustainable
economy, drawing from SUSY’s concrete
experiences in the field.
Many of these experiences have been
collated online. The SUSY website has
published international research on SSE
significant practices (‘Transformative
economy: opportunities and challenges
of the Social and Solidarity Economy
in 55 territories in Europe and in the
world’), a map showing more than 1,500
SSE initiatives, and 60 films on SSE
“As part of the project, the
Co-operative College developed three
best-practice films, which can be found
on the project’s YouTube channel,” said
Dr Benson. “These focused on CASA,
Shared Interest and Ellon Hinengo Ltd
(looking at best practice in Car Nicobar
“We also delivered training, events
and workshops on different aspects of
the Social and Solidarity Economy, and
last year hosted the speaker tour, which
saw speakers from Palestine and India
share their SSE experiences at events over
In addition, the college hosted
two film festivals, in Manchester and
Hebden Bridge, which combined the
SUSY documentaries with other films
to complement different themes, such
as the success of community currencies
strengthening local economies in the UK,
Switzerland and Brazil, a celebration of
people living on the Turkish Black Sea,
and the ‘Untouchable’ mayor of a village
council in India.
u For more information on the project,
and to download the full policy
paper presented in Brussels, visit
12 | MARCH 2018
gives £1m to help grow
The Nationwide Foundation is awarding
over £1m to six organisations to support
the growth of UK community-led housing.
This will fund support and advice to
community-led housing groups, enabling
them to deliver more decent, affordable
homes for people in need. While the
community-led housing sector is growing,
the Foundation says there is a “desperate
lack of support” which can bring projects
to a stand still.
“We envisage a future where communityled
housing is thriving and where many
more people, especially those in housing
need, are living in homes that have
been created by the community,” said
Nationwide Foundation’s chief executive,
Leigh Pearce. “The availability of help can
make or break whether a much-needed
scheme can get off the ground. We want to
ensure that community groups can realise
their vision and ultimately enable local
people to establish settled lives.”
The Nationwide Foundation was
established by Nationwide Building
Society in 1997 as a fully independent
corporate foundation. Its vision is for
everyone in the UK to have access to
a decent home that they can afford; it
launched the Decent Affordable Homes
strategy in 2013 and is committed to this
strategy until 2026.
The six recipients of the grant will
offer information, support, advice and
technical expertise. The focus will
be on making sure community groups
can deliver homes that are both decent
and affordable and meet the needs of
The National Community Land
Trust Network enable support
for community housing in places
where it is not yet available, and
increasing the quality of advice given.
Alongside this, Action with Communities
in Rural England will train a network
of advisors, raising their awareness
and improving their knowledge of
Four regional support hubs will use
the grant to strengthen and diversify the
services they offer.
• Dumfries and Galloway Small
Communities Housing Trust,
working in the south of Scotland
• Highlands Small Communities
Housing Trust, working in the central
belt cities and everywhere north
• Lincolnshire Community Land Trust
CIC, covering East Midlands and south
of the Humber
• Wessex Community Assets, covering
Devon, Dorset and Somerset
William George (Bill) Hall
1931 - 2018
By Peter Dean, friend, former co-op
director and former regional secretary
The co-operative and Labour
communities in Derby are mourning
the death of a very active member, Bill
Hall, on 3 January – three days before
his 87th birthday.
Bill was a main board member of the
former Derby & Burton, East Midlands,
Central Midlands and Midlands
Co-operative Societies, firstly as an
employee and latterly as an elected
lay member. He was a fearless and
tireless campaigner for workers’ rights
and always topped the employee
director poll. After leaving the board
under the former age rule he continued to
ask difficult questions of management at
For many years Bill was both the
Derby and regional chair of USDAW
(the Union of Shop, Distributive and
Allied Workers) and attended the
conference every year, making
regular rostrum contributions. He
negotiated wage deals with the
Co-operative Employers Association and
was not known for compromising.
Bill was a great debater and noted for his
wit – and it amused him as a republican
that for many years he was store
manager at Prince Charles Avenue
He was also chair of the Derby
Co-operative Party over several decades
and an executive committee member of
Derby Area TUC.
Bill was a very active director of Derby
Playhouse and loved the theatre and
cinema. He also sat on a benefits appeals
tribunal where he tried to assist needy
Reading was one of Bill’s greatest
passions and he was self-taught on
philosophy, sociology and politics.
He read avidly on politics and was a
great admirer of Tony Benn. Bill was
vehemently opposed to apartheid
and was a leading campaigner for the
co-op movement’s boycott. In the
early 1980s he joined the Labour
Party and became a valued canvasser
and leafleteer in his ward and
As was said at his funeral, “the worst
insult you could make to him was to call
His funeral was attended by family,
friends and Labour and trade union
colleagues, the chief executive
and president of Central England
Co-operative, Derby South MP Dame
Margaret Beckett and her husband Leo,
and Derby North MP Chris Williamson.
Tributes were paid by his sister Dorothy
and two friends.
MARCH 2018 | 13
Theme and slogan announced for 2018 International Day of Co-operatives
This year’s International Day of
Co-operatives (IDC) will highlight how
co-operation can lead to
sustainable societies. The slogan
for the day – Sustainable societies
through co-operation – was chosen via
a public vote following a social media
campaign on Twitter.
The theme was chosen to complement
that of the 2018 High-level Political Forum
p Image: Catarina Santos/ICA
for Sustainable Development (HLPF):
"Transformation towards sustainable
and resilient societies".
The day, celebrated annually since
1995 to raise awareness of co-operatives,
is held on the first Saturday of July,
which falls on 7 July 2018.
“We believe that co-operatives are an
important and efficient instrument to
fight poverty,” said Ariel Guarco,
president of the Alliance, who
attended the IDC launch meeting at the
UN headquarters in New York.
He added: “Co-operatives bring
people together in a democratic
and equal way. They allow
people to take control of their
economic future and, because they
are not owned by shareholders, the
economic and social benefits of their
activity stay in the communities where they
“These are two very important
characteristics of co-operatives especially
when it comes to fighting poverty.”
The launch event was organised
by the Committee for the Promotion
and Advancement of Cooperatives
(COPAC), in the framework of
the 56th session of the Commission for
Social Development. COPAC is made
up of the International Co-operative
Alliance, the International Labour
Organization, the Food and Agricultural
Organisation, the United Nations
Department of Economic and Social
Affairs (UNDESA), and the World
Farmers’ Organisation (WFO).
Mr Guarco also presented some of
the latest results of the online platform
Coops for 2030, which features
pledges that co-operatives from
around the world make regarding the
Goals (SDGs). So far around
100 co-operatives from 40 countries
have made 300 pledges using
The Phone Co-op
is looking for a
Vacancy: Society Secretary
Location: Oxfordshire, Manchester or flexible
Salary: £38,000 - £40,000
This is a strategic role at the heart of the Phone Co-op’s
governance, providing an important link between the
members, Board of Directors, Chief Executive and
senior management team.
To find out more about this exciting role,
please visit: s.coop/phonecoopsecretary
To apply, please email your CV and covering letter to:
email@example.com by 9 March 2018
Diana Dovgan appointed CECOP –
CICOPA Europe and CICOPA
The boards of CECOP – CICOPA Europe (the European
Confederation of worker, social and producers’ cooperatives
active in industry and services) and CICOPA (the international
organisation of industrial and service co-operatives) have
appointed Diana Dovgan as secretary general.
She has spent a decade as senior policy officer at the
organisation, and will assume her new position on 1 March. She
takes over the role from Bruno Roelants, who joined the
International Co-operative Alliance as director general
“After 10 years as policy officer in both organisations, I have
developed a sound and sincere belief in the co-operative model,”
Ms Dovgan said. “I am happy and honoured to pursue my
career in advocating the causes CECOP – CICOPA Europe and
CICOPA are standing by, such as worker-ownership and
In a joint statement, CECOP – CICOPA Europe’s president,
Giuseppe Guerini and CICOPA’s president, Manuel Mariscal
said. “We believe Diana Dovgan is the right person to build
upon Bruno’s achievements and at the same time bring new
ideas and vision to our co-operative movement.”
14 | MARCH 2018
US senator stirs debate over tax exemption for federal credit unions
Credit unions in the USA are defending
their right to federal tax exemption,
following questions raised by Senate
Finance Committee chair, Orrin Hatch.
Federal credit unions across the
country are currently exempt from federal
corporate income tax on the grounds that
they operate on a not for profit basis,
are organised without capital stock, and
operate for mutual purposes.
However, state credit unions pay
unrelated business income tax on income
from activities not related to their taxexempt
purpose. The tax exemption is
valued at $2.9bn a year, according to the
Joint Committee on Taxation.
On 31 January, Mr Hatch sent a letter to
the National Credit Union Administration
(NCUA), in which he expressed concerns
that many credit unions are taken
further from their original tax-exempt
purpose. He added that recent actions
taken by the National Credit Union
Administration have relaxed the field
of membership constraints and lifted
limits on activities such as business
lending, which, argued the senator,
has traditionally been less associated with
the mission of tax-exempt credit unions.
He claimed that other activities carried
out by some credit unions are “beyond the
scope of their original mission”, such
as offering insurance products, real
estate brokering and wealth management.
p Republican senator Orrin Hatch
p The Capitol building, home of the United States Congress
The letter also asked the NCUA to
explain various aspects related to its role
in overseeing credit unions.
Responding to Mr Hatch, the National
Association of Federally-Insured Credit
Unions (NAFCU) executive vice president
of government affairs and general counsel,
Carrie Hunt, sent a letter that advocated
for preserving the exemption.
“The credit union tax exemption has
long provided tremendous value to credit
union members and the overall economy
of the United States”, wrote Ms Hunt.
“An independent study of the benefits of
the exemption found that it provides a
$16bn per year benefit to the US economy.
Removing the tax exemption would prove
detrimental to the economy over the next
10 years through: $38bn in lost income tax
revenue; $142bn in reduced GDP; and the
elimination of nearly 900,000 jobs.”
The letter makes the case for credit
unions to continue to be supervised by
an independent NCUA and clarified that
the NCUA’s regulations are in accordance
with the Federal Credit Unions Act.
NAFCU argues that without the tax
exemption, credit unions could lose
their identity and may need to adjust
their savings and borrowings rates as
well as their ability to raise capital and
Another response to the senator’s letter
came from Jim Nussle, president and chief
executive of the Credit Union National
Writing to Mr Hatch, he said: “In the
aftermath of the financial crisis, more
Americans are choosing credit unions as
their best financial partner. In fact, more
than 12 million Americans have joined
credit unions since 2008. Some may have
joined because their bank failed, moved
or was acquired by another institution;
and others may have joined because they
grew frustrated with the policies and fees
of the for-profit sector.
“What is important is that when they
needed an alternative, a healthy credit
union system with the capacity to grow
was ready to serve them, and as credit
union members, they benefit from
conducting their financial services with
an institution that they own. The credit
union tax status is crucial to encourage
and support the continued existence of
this alternative, co-operative component
of the financial system and we thank the
Committee for preserving the existing
credit union federal income tax status.”
However, Senator Hatch’s letter
was welcomed by the Independent
Community Bankers of America (ICBA),
which represents smaller banks.
“Large, multi-bond and geographicbased
credit unions have exceeded their
statutory mission and use their taxexempt,
to gain competitive advantage over
taxpaying community banks,” said ICBA
president, Camden Fine, in a statement.
“Senator Hatch’s comments echo the
ICBA’s belief that the credit union model
has become outdated and that its charter,
purpose and tax-exempt status should be
reviewed by Congress."
MARCH 2018 | 15
p Rabobank head quarters in Utrecht
Rabobank National Association pays $360m to settle laundering case
A subsidiary of Dutch financial
co-operative Rabobank has pleaded
guilty to trying to obstruct the regulator’s
examination of its operations throughout
California. Rabobank National
Association (RNA) will also pay a $360m
fine for having processed funds from
likely illicit activities.
The case concerned transactions
processed between 2009 and 2012. In
pleading guilty, Rabobank admitted that
its deficit anti money laundering (AML)
programme led to hundreds of millions of
dollars in untraceable cash, sourced from
Mexico and elsewhere, to be deposited
into its rural bank branches in Imperial
County and transferred without proper
notification to federal regulators, as
required by law.
According to a statement published
by the Department of Justice, when
the bank’s regulator, the Office of the
Comptroller of the Currency, examined its
Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) and anti-money
laundering compliance programme in
2012, Rabobank executives “sought to
hide and minimise the deficiencies”.
“When Rabobank learned that
substantial numbers of its customers’
transactions were indicative of
international narcotics trafficking,
organised crime and money laundering
activities, it chose to look the other way
and to cover up deficiencies in its antimoney
laundering programme,” said
Acting Assistant Attorney General Cronan.
Worse still, Rabobank took steps to
obstruct an examination by its regulator
into those same deficiencies. The integrity
of our financial system depends on prompt
reporting by banks and other financial
institutions of suspicious, potentially
criminal transactions, and on these
entities’ truthfulness and transparency
with their regulators. Rabobank’s
guilty plea today and forfeiture of more
than $360m is a warning to financial
institutions that there are significant
consequences for banks that engage in
obstructive conduct in an effort to hide
their anti-money laundering programme
failures from their regulators.
“Rabobank had an obligation to shine
light on suspected drug traffickers, money
launderers and organised crime,” said
US Attorney Braverman. “Instead, this
bank deliberately allowed hundreds of
millions of dollars of suspicious cash
transactions and wire transfers to flow
through its branches and took measures
to hide this activity from regulators. We
will vigorously protect the integrity of the
banking system, and we will not allow the
financial institutions in our communities
to play any role in facilitating international
money laundering or financing
transnational criminal organisations.”
The BSA requires financial institutions
to implement and maintain an AML
compliance programme that detects
suspicious activity indicative of money
laundering and other crimes and
assures and monitors compliance with
the BSA’s record-keeping and reporting
requirements, including reporting to
the US Department of the Treasury any
Wiebe Draijer, chair of the Rabobank
Managing Board, said in a statement:
“The findings at our subsidiary RNA
relate to events that took place before
2014. The violations that took place are
serious, regrettable and unacceptable.
Rabobank is fully committed to
conducting business with the highest
levels of integrity, which includes strict
compliance with all applicable laws,
regulations and standards in each
of the markets and jurisdictions in
which it operates. Rabobank and RNA
co-operated fully with all authorities,
who specifically acknowledged the bank’s
co-operation. RNA, with the full support
and backing of Rabobank, has made
very strong efforts to strengthen its
internal controls and risk management
functions, which is also recognised
by the authorities.”
The settlement comes two months after
the former vice president of Rabobank,
George Martin, entered into a deferred
prosecution agreement in which he
admitted to his role in the bank’s
failure to maintain a proper anti-money
16 | MARCH 2018
Exhibition and hails
growth of sector
Ethiopia hosted its fifth annual National
Cooperative Exhibition, Bazaar &
Symposium earlier this month in capital
city Addis Ababa.
The event was led by the state Federal
Co-operative Agency, which works to
boost co-ops through developing their
market share and improving their legal
“The Agency has helped to build
more than 200 projects in education,
health, water, road and bridge building,”
Omar Surer, executive director of
co-operative unions, told delegates.
“It has benefited more than 225,000
citizens and has created job opportunities
for over 1.4 million citizens, with a special
focus on women and youth.”
The movement is being strengthened
with the development of co-operative
unions and associations. These provide
farmers with agricultural inputs such as
different chemicals and stronger crop
varieties, help to avoid higher payments
through market chain commissions, and
providing timely, cost-effective market
p The event was held in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa
opportunities. They also work to stabilise
markets by controlling the price and
transporting produce directly from farms
– which also gives consumers access to
cheaper, fresher, standardised produce.
The Ethiopian Herald reported that the
number of co-op associations grew from
245 in 2010 to 381 in 2017. The number of
basic co-ops rose from 38,454 in 2010 to
82,089 in 2017. And the number of union
members of co-ops grew from 6,792 in
2010 to 14,135 in 2017.
“These developments of co-operative
associations, basic co-operatives and
unions encompass nearly 18 million
people as members,” the Herald added.
“About 30% of the members are female.”
Abdo Adem, plan, project and
information director at the Federal
Co-operative Agency, told the Herald
that co-op associations were developing
agricultural products and creating
market opportunities for producers and
consumers by expanding investment,
encouraging savings and supplying loans.
He said co-ops have contributed more
than $500m to the country’s export trade
over the past seven years but warned the
movement still faces barriers, including
a lack of awareness of co-operative
associations and a market network that
was not strong enough to meet demand.
There is also a lack of skilled manpower
in the administration of co-operative
structures, and not enough support for
the development of co-operatives, and
assistance for the co-ops over foreign
trade, he said.
Co-op bank promotes inclusion for India’s nomadic tribes
A co-operative bank in Gujarat is offering
accounts to members of nomadic tribes,
who have no permanent address or proof
of income, on the basis of trust.
The Kalupur Co-operative Bank in
Ahmedabad is the only independent bank
in the country to issue loans to members
of the Vimukta Jatis – who have taken
up around 600 of its 4,500 accounts
dedicated to microfinance, reports the
Since 2006, the bank has issued
loans of Rs 50,000 to 100 nomadic
tribals to purchase houses under a
government scheme, and disbursed loans
of a maximum of Rs 25,000 to others
to expand their small businesses at a
10% rate of interest. The bank can issue
loans on trust because it has built up
p A nomadic tribe driving livestock through Gujarat
long-term relationships via the Vicharata
Samuday Samarthan Manch (VSSM),
an Ahmedabad-based organisation that
works with nomadic tribes, many of
whom are turning traditional practices
Bank staff join social workers from
the VSSM on visits to tribe members
to encourage to them to open savings
accounts. Many of them do not know what
a bank is, or fear being arrested if they try
to enter one. Others do not have a strong
concept of months or dates, making it
difficult to pay monthly instalments.
VSSM, founded by activist Mittal Patel
in 2004 to improve the status of India’s
nomadic tribes, sends workers to collect
instalments on loans, while the bank has
a mobile van unit that travels into the
rural areas to collect savings deposits.
MARCH 2018 | 17
Online training course to help the creation of new co-ops in Australia
An online course has been developed to
help people create co-op businesses – the
first initiative of its kind in Australia.
Developed by the government-backed
Farm Co-operative and Collaboration
Program (Farming Together), it features
an animated guide to help groups
understand collaborative business
structures, and compares co-ops with
With information on governance,
financing and member engagement, the
course comprises six 10-minute video
lessons with quizzes.
While it is designed for agricultural
groups, it is relevant for other potential
co-ops – such as housing or energy
co-ops – anywhere in Australia.
Participants who complete the course and
pass the tests will receive certification from
The course, offers two versions: a
simpler ‘how-to’ course preview and the
full certification course, both of which
are free. The video lessons are self-paced,
you can begin and stop them at any
time and each lesson provides access to
Farming Together programme director
Lorraine Gordon said: “If you’re thinking
about forming a co-op, becoming
a co-operative director, or if you’re just
curious about co-ops, this course provides
a broad and deep understanding of
require and what
discover that a
co-op is not the best
platform for your
group, and that
you’d rather use a
different form of
maybe you’ll discover
potential of a co-op beyond its immediate
“You could learn about how profits
get shared, how to develop your co-op’s
business plan or why different business
structures suit different collaboration
purposes. There is much to learn from this
A second course, for groups already
registered as co-operatives and wanting to
understand how to operate successfully,
will be launched later this month.
The video course was produced
by Farming Together’s systems and
knowledge portal manager Dr Cathy
Byrne, assisted by Business Council of
Co-operatives and Mutuals consultants
and Australia’s foremost co-operative
law experts, Robyn Donnelly and
Farming Together is a two-year, a
$13.8m initiative being delivered by
Southern Cross University on behalf of the
Australian government to help
agricultural groups value, secure
premium pricing, scale-up production,
attract capital investment, earn new
markets or secure lower input costs.
• Find the free course online at:
announced in Kerala state
Co-operative societies are to be set up for
the transgender community in the Indian
state of Kerala.
The move was announced at the state’s
eighth Co-operative Congress, hosted in
the city of Kannur last weekend.
Kadakampally Surendran, minister
for co-operation in the Kerala state
government, said the decision would
help push forward welfare schemes
to improve the social status of
transgender people, help them find selfemployment
and become independent.
He said financial aid, including grants,
for the transgender community will be
dispensed through co-operative societies
– the first formed anywhere in India
for the transgender community.
The first societies will be created in
districts that would be able to muster the
necessary number of members to meet
the requirements of the Cooperatives
This is the first time the congress has
been held in Kannur, which is seen as a
hub for co-operative activity in the state,
on India’s south-western Malabar coast.
Co-ops in the city cover a wide range of
areas, from poultry farms to dialysis units
offered to patients at subsidised rates.
Organisers believed this diversity made
it ideal for the this year’s event, which
looked at ways to expand the movement
into new areas of activity.
General convenor C Gireesan said: “The
co-operative sector cannot move ahead
with the credit system alone and hence we
have to diversify into more fields.”
Organisers said there was no co-op
policy for Kerala even though the state
has a strong sector. It was hoped the
3,000 delegates attending the conference
could contribute to a policy which will
eventually serve as a model for the whole
18 | MARCH 2018
will work with UAE
to maintain elderly
Union Coop, the largest co-op in the
United Arab Emirates, has signed
an agreement with the Ministry of
Community Development to finance the
maintenance of elderly people’s homes.
The memorandum of understanding
was signed by Naji Al-Hai, assistant
under-secretary for the social development
sector, and Hareb Mohammed bin
Thani, director of operations at
The project fits in with efforts by both
parties to recognise the centenary year
of the birth of the late Sheikh Zayed
bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding
father of the UAE.
Minister Al Hai said the agreement
“aims to achieve a decent life for
the people of the UAE, ensure the
provision of high-quality social services,
galvanising the community partnership
between the various sectors in the
country and consolidating the role they
play in social responsibility”.
Mohammed Hareb bin Thani said the
Union Coop is working with the ministry
to drive social development by helping
community members through the
maintenance of the houses of the needy.
“This would promote social
solidarity as well as co-operation
between the two sectors to enhance our
society,” he said.
Last year, Union Coop signed an
agreement with the ministry to support
the Hydroponic Agriculture Project,
to help develop skills in the industry.
Kenya Co-operative Bank wins financial sustainability award
The Co-operative Bank of Kenya was
the big winner at the annual Kenya
Bankers Association (KBA) Awards for
the year 2017. This year the awards were
themed around recognising “catalytic
finance” that impacts industry, economy
and society. An independent panel of
judges assessed the entries in the three
French co-ops contribute to debate on enterprise law reform
As the French government is setting out an
action plan for growing and transforming
enterprises, the co-operative movement
has shared its views on enterprise reform.
The national federation for co-ops,
Coop FR, has published a statement
highlighting the specific nature of the
co-op model, which it says focuses on
Coop Sweden’s profit down in spite of sales increase
Scandinavian retail co-operative Coop
Sweden has witnessed an increase in
sales, making profit for the third year in
a row. However, profits dropped during
2017, following a rebranding of one third
of its branches. Magnus Johansson, chief
executive emphasised the main aim for
2013 would be to increase sales and break
down negative trends.
Crédit Agricole co-op reports strong results in 2017
French co-operative bank Crédit Agricole
has performed well in spite of taxrelated
challenges. The mutual, which
is the largest co-operative in the world
by turnover, has witnessed a 33% jump
in its quarterly profit. The most recent
report published by the co-op shows its
fourth quarter net income has increased
Dairy co-op Fonterra joint venture with Russian distributor
New Zealand dairy co-op Fonterra and
Foodline, one of Russia’s largest food
distributors, have launched a new joint
venture in Russia, called Unifood. Fonterra
says the joint venture formalises a longstanding
partnership which has seen
Foodline operate as the co-operative’s
primary distributor of butter and cheese
within the Russian Federation since 2005.
MARCH 2018 | 19
... Jo Bird, director of Co-operative
Jo is a director of Co-operative Business Consultants, a co-operative
consortium of individuals and organisations committed to social justice
through solidarity co-ops, which has organised six Ways Forward conferences.
A leader of pro-democracy responses to situations in the co-operative
movement, she is also standing as a Labour & Co-operative candidate
in local elections in Eastham, Wirral on 3 May 2018.
WHY DID YOU START GETTING INVOLVED IN THE
Collective action is normal in my culture. My parents
raised me in the Woodcraft Folk, where we played
co-operative games in Birkenhead Co-op Hall. I
remember a mini-bus co-op taking our group – and
families of striking miners – to summer camps,
peace protests and picket lines.
As young adults and protesters, we were
vulnerable to private sector landlords and
prosecution. Housing co-operatives were the best
way to own and control our homes – as bases for
a better society and world. Setting up housing coops
was relatively easy thanks to advice and finance
from Radical Routes, a secondary co-op. Property
purchase was more affordable 25 years ago.
This co-op experience helped me gain employment
at the Co-operative Group’s Manchester head office
(1999-2003). I promoted co-operative solutions in
every sector – from care co-ops to car clubs – as
head of Co-operative Action, which later became the
Co-operative Enterprise Hub.
A solidarity visit to co-operators in Palestine-
Israel in 2002 inspired me to co-found the Olive
workers co-operative. We promoted responsible
tourism and fair trade through study visits to many
parts of the ‘Holy Land’ and crowd funded to replace
destroyed olive trees. We also worked with Zaytoun
CIC to bring fairly traded Palestinian olive oil and
other products to the UK market.
YOU ARE INVOLVED IN A LOT OF DIFFERENT CO-OP
PROJECTS. WHICH ONE ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?
It’s a privilege to work with the Belfast Cleaning
Society. Members of this co-op come from
THIS PERIOD IS OUR BEST
CHANCE IN A GENERATION TO
p Jo Bird [Photo: Jonathan Nicholson]
across divided and traumatised working class
communities. Since they started in 2012, I’ve seen
women become directors of their own workers
co-op, work together to sustain livelihoods, win
Living Wage awards, gain contracts in competition
with exploitative private sector agencies, and give
surplus to refugees. Belfast Cleaning Society are a
total credit to themselves and the co-op movement.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
There’s no such thing as a typical day for me! I am
regularly talking with voters (stomping), meeting
elected politicians, speaking at events, raging about
injustice, and making people laugh in comedy
WHAT CHALLENGES HAVE YOU FACED?
As a director of Co-operative Business Consultants
(CBC), I loved supporting hundreds of new and
existing co-ops and credit unions in North West
England, Yorkshire and Northern Ireland. However,
most funding for co-op advice programmes has
been cut. All kinds of co-ops are struggling to access
experienced, principled advice on their unique
challenges around start up, decision making and
finance. CBC doesn’t work for the Hive programme
as it is funded by the “Co-operative” Bank.
It seems to me that the co-operative business
sector is like a flotilla of ships travelling on economic
seas. We have flagships, container ships, careful
20 | MARCH 2018
pilots, ferry boats, leisure cruisers, speed boats,
house boats, sail boats, life boats, rafts and ship
wrecks. We sometimes share crew members. Some
boats build and launch new boats. Some boats have
leaks. Brexit makes choppy water and uncertain
seas. Ways Forward conferences, organised by CBC,
are one way of signalling to each other, to offer and
The co-op flotilla gets undermined by
incompetent managers, fat cat captains and
organised pirates. My CBC colleague, Bob Cannell
calls them players, parasites and predators. Big
Finance has an insatiable appetite to privatise the
commons – trying to capture all assets held by
public and mutual sectors. Collectively, we need
better legal and political protection. Their policies
must be challenged, contained and replaced.
GIVEN THE CURRENT POLITICAL CONTEXT,
WHAT DO YOU THINK THE FUTURE HOLDS FOR THE
CO-OPERATIVE MOVEMENT IN THE UK?
A lot has changed in the last few months for the
co-operative business sector. The General
Election was almost won by a mainstream party
with the most pro-co-op manifesto in living
memory. Labour’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, agreed
with Conservative chancellor Philip Hammond,
saying “We are an existential threat to their
Also, the Co-op Bank has become 100% owned
by hedge funds – yet still misleads people by using
the Co-operative name. The crises at the Bank was
the reason CBC started organising Ways Forward
conferences four years ago.
I find the situation very hopeful and exciting
now. This period is our best chance in a
generation to mainstream co-operatives and
solidarity in the economy. Together we can do
this, if we are principled, put in the work and are
kind to each other.
For me, co-op solidarity means equality and
democracy, and working together for the common
good – alongside our sisters and brothers in
trade unions, political parties and other
organisations that share co-op values.
The new president of the International
Co-operative Alliance, Ariel Guarco, sent Ways
Forward 6 conference a video message .
He builds on his experience
with utilities co-ops and factories recovered
during Argentina’s economic crises. He says,
“We are the only economic model that pursues
economic actions based on mutual aid,
responsibility, solidarity, equity, equality and
democracy. We put the people in first place and this
is the reason why we exist.”
CLASH OF CO-OP REGIONS?
It’s good to see that the Co-op
Group is to open no fewer than
100 new food stores in 2018
(Co-op News, February 2018),
thus hopefully increasing the
co-operative presence in many
According to the Group’s
director of portfolio and
development, “we are always
looking for new locations
to get closer to where our
members and customers live
and work....”. In Leicester
and Chesterfield? These are areas where Central England Society and its
predecessors have had a major sustained presence for many many decades.
What does the Co-op Group hope to add to this presence? Are there
really lots of Co-op Group members in those locations clamouring for stores
operated by a different society to the local one?
Or is this really an attempt by the Group to muscle in once again on the
activities of an independent society and to achieve growth by undermining
their own efforts? Is this what co-operation is about?
Chris Godbold, Corby
I’m glad to read about Central England Co-op raising funds for defibrillators
during the last 12 months and installing them in various shops and similar
premises from the 5p levy on carrier bags (Co-op News, February 2018).
I hope they will carry on as it is vital to health and wellbeing. This donation
is value for money and gives people a chance in life.
But what we also need is is training for the people who are liable to use
them, as you can have a defibrillator but you don’t have someone who can
use it. Value for money, but we can do more.
David Treacher, Hull
RESPONSE FROM CENTRAL ENGLAND: After every device was installed,
special familiarisation sessions took place for staff at Society outlets, nearby
business, local residents and community groups to help people find out more
about the device and its ease of use.
Have your say
Add your comments to our stories online at www.thenews.coop, get in
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Co-operative News, Holyoake House, Hanover Street,
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@coopnews Co-operative News firstname.lastname@example.org
MARCH 2018 | 21
OPINION: Co-operatives have
a key role to play in the SSE revolution
BY BOB CANNELL
Bob was a member of
Suma for 30 years and
Business Consultants in
2002. He was chair of the
former national worker
co-op association (ICOM)
and led the merger to
form Co-operatives UK
In recent years, our world seems to have gone
crazy. First Brexit: whatever your opinion of the EU,
the way this decision was taken was a shambles
with unforeseen consequences that we are
only just becoming aware of. And then the
election of Donald Trump as president of the
United States, arguably an even greater
comedy of errors, accidents and naked selfinterest
by cabals and cliques who intend
to get rich at everyone else’s expense,
while the Donald fiddles.
We cannot afford to run our world in this
childish way. We and our children are facing some
of the biggest challenges in our human history –
population pressure, corporate takeover, gross
inequality, climate change, resource depletion,
land degradation, water shortages and more.
You know the story. We don’t need the depressing
litany. But we do need to tackle these challenges
together as co-operating grown ups. The
adolescence of the human species is over. It is time
to be responsible adults.
All over the world people are rising to this
challenge. Usually external to governments, this
means coming together in networks of co-operative
solidarity, linking up community and citizen
THE SOCIAL SOLIDARITY
ECONOMY IS AN ALTERNATIVE
groups who are developing the new ways we must
use to live within our global means and preserve
The name for these initiatives and their global
networks is the Social Solidarity Economy.
Co-operatives have a key role to play in the SSE
revolution because they offer a means of enterprise
that is under community control (in contrast to
rapacious corporate capitalism). But co-operatives
alone are not enough to stop the bully boy
madness of capitalism.
The global SSE network is the Intercontinental
Network for the Promotion of Social Solidarity
Economy (RIPESS). So far we have no RIPESS
representation in the UK. The RIPESS charter says:
“The Social Solidarity Economy is an alternative
to capitalism and other authoritarian economic
systems. In SSE, ordinary people shape all of
the dimensions of human life; economic, social,
cultural, political and environmental. SSE exists in
all sectors of the economy.”
At the end of March, representatives of some
400 organisations who identify with the Social and
Solidarity Economy are coming together in Wigan
at the first UK SSE activists conference at CTRL
Shift: an emergency summit for change.
Our objective is to network all those
organisations, and many more that are currently
striving in isolation, to create a national
movement for Social and Solidarity Economy
and join the European and global networks.
Then we can hope to provide a coherent and
co-operating alternative for normal people,
like you and I.
u Find out more at www.ctrlshiftsummit.org.uk
22 | MARCH 2018
The Ways Forward 6 Conference
The 2018 conference was held in Manchester on 16 February to discuss co-operative solidarity,
with a keynote speech from shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey and sessions on
technology and public service mutuals
Rebecca Long-Bailey: Labour would work with co-ops to change the economy
Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey
urged the co-op movement to help shape Labour’s
policy agenda, in a keynote speech at the Ways
Forward 6 Conference in Manchester on 16 February.
She highlighted some of the party’s key plans
around doubling the co-operative economy,
inviting delegates to engage in driving them. The
sector is strong, she told delegates, but more needs
to be done to support it.
Highlighting the UK’s low productivity rate
(18%) and wage stagnation, she said there were
“deep, structural problems” with the economy and
the way it is run. The 1980s brought a shift from
common ownership and the promotion of co-op
models to a culture of short termism in corporate
governance, she added. Without a real, long-term
interest in a company, shareholders are unlikely
to make long-term decisions and investments that
would lead to growth.
Ms Long-Bailey called for a more diverse
business sector and measures to tackle income
wealth and inequality, as well as insecure work and
the growing gig economy.
Co-op policies announced by Labour include
a right to own, offering employees first refusal on
firms which are changing hands.
The party says it will grow the co-op economy
with support from a new National Investment Plan
and regional development banks. It advocates
community wealth building programmes to
promote local co-operatives and businesses.
The Co-op Party is also examining the Preston
model of encouraging anchor institutions to
procure services from local enterprises and
“Some of the hurdles that we identified were
access to finance through conventional institutions,
the ability of workers to buy out their company,
and a lack of protection from potential buyouts by
private companies,” said Ms Long-Bailey.
The Co-op Party has commissioned an
independent report from the New Economics
Foundation (NEF) on the legislative changes
needed to clear these hurdles and allow the co-op
sector to flourish.
“We expect [the report] to be a real consultation
with yourselves so that you can have an input, you
p Rebecca Long-Bailey, Ways Forward 6 Conference [Photo: Jonathan Nicholson]
can tell us what your real-life examples have been,
what your hurdles have been, and what you would
like to see in terms of support for the co-op sector in
the future,” said Ms Long-Bailey.
She said Labour will work with the Co-op Party to
form an expert group of co-operators and activists
to form an implementation group to engage with
the co-operative movement, road test ideas and
Asked whether the party was looking at other
countries’ legislation, she said examples in Spain
and France were being studied. She also confirmed
that Labour aimed to favour co-ops and local
community organisations in terms of procurement
and increase awareness about the business model.
Regarding public ownership, she said a priority
would be for employees to be protected. But while
some services could be brought back into public
ownership, for bigger infrastructure projects this
would be more difficult, she warned.
“We are relying on big players to deliver
infrastructure projects, but there are people who
are self employed; should we be looking at co-ops
to bring independent contractors together to give
them the opportunity to collaborate? Co-ops can be
major manufacturers, they can be banks, they can
be anything they want to be. It’s about making sure
people working in these organisations have a stake
in them,” she said.
MARCH 2018 | 23
Ways Forward: Can public service mutuals
keep the co-op ethos in a competitive market?
The question of public service mutuals as a response
to austerity came under scrutiny at Ways Forward,
with delegates warned against “the marketisation
of co-ops”. A workshop, Co-ops, Solidarity and
Austerity Cuts, also heard from supporters of the
initiative, looking at examples such as the Preston
model of local procurement.
Debbie Shannon, from Link Psychology
Co-operative, described the “crisis” in public
services in the wake of the 2010 austerity measures.
When her educational psychologists department
was outsourced from the local authority it was
decided the co-op model “ticked all the options” in
terms of delivering social value.
From there she got involved in the Preston model,
with two prongs – targeting procurement to deliver
social value and support the local economy, a move
which kept £200m in the Preston area in 2015/16;
and forcing the growth of co-ops to fill the gaps in
supply chains of anchor institutions.
She said programmes like Preston face three key
tasks: creating infrastructure to support co-ops,
bringing about a culture change, and promoting the
idea of co-ops. “What is a co-op? People don’t know,”
Other speakers were more cautious about public
service mutuals. Cheryl Barrott, a member of the
national executive committee of the Co-operative
Party and co-director of Change AGEnts, warned:
“We need to make sure that co-operation is not
used to privatise the public sector.”
But, she added, the loss of expertise to the public
sector through job losses since austerity measures
began meant it would be hard to recreate the old
model, and in any case, “there is not the appetite
among the public to have a big, state-y sector”.
Which, she said, begs the question: “How do we
put the public back into the public sphere?”
Paul Bell, a national officer at public services
union Unison, was more sceptical. He said, as a
member of the Co-op Party and Midcounties, that
he was sympathetic to co-ops – but also that his
union was “in favour of in-house services”.
He said privatisation of public services always hit
the terms and conditions of the workers, adding:
“The big problem trade unions have with co-ops is
with public service mutuals.
“Under public procurement rules, after three
years, public service mutuals have to compete with
the likes of Capita and Circa and there’s a race to
the bottom. How does the co-op movement add
value to workers who want terms and conditions,
and social mobility?”
He added: “Mutualising the private sector is
better – we support that for Carillion, for instance.
“But the public sector is already co-operative
because we own it.”
There was more criticism from Les Huckfield, a
former Labour MP who now works with Aizlewood
Group, which was formed to contribute to the
debate around public service mutuals and resist
privatisation within the public sector, specifically
in local government.
He said there had been a previous attempt to build
a public sector based around common ownership,
under the Labour government in 1976, which set up
24 | MARCH 2018
PAUL BELL FROM UNISON
60 local co-op development organisations around
the UK. “It created something like 2,000 co-ops of
various shapes, sorts and sizes in the 1970s, 80s
and early 90s,” he said.
“But today we are not talking about an expansion
of co-ops in the same dimension. We are talking
about an expansion of the co-op sector mainly
by privatising public services. Many of us have a
problem with that.”
Echoing Mr Bell’s warning on the effects of
competitive tendering, he said: “Whether it’s a
co-op, a social enterprise or third sector, they will
have to go through competitive bidding – and the
only way they’ll land that job is by cutting people’s
wages, terms and conditions.”
And he warned that outsourcing threatened the
“redistributive element” of public services as well
as the “democratic control over the delivery of
After the speakers had finished, the discussion
was thrown out to conference delegates. John
Boyle, party support and principle six officer at the
Co-op Party, took issue with the criticisms of public
“I don’t share your lack of enthusiasm about
co-ops being capable of winning contracts,” he
said, citing successful examples such as Shepshed
Carers in Leicestershire, which enjoys “a minimal
turnover of staff”, and a school meals co-op formed
by Plymouth Council.
He argued that co-ops are more democratic than
councils because they are run by members who
have a concern in the services being run rather
than local officials, and takes out the profit motive
needed to support shareholders and highly paid
chief executives and managers.
The 2012 Social Value Act was drafted to ensure
the procurement process took into account
“economic, social and environmental wellbeing.”
Mr Huckfield had pointed out that this was often
ignored during the bidding process but Mr Boyle
said the onus was on the co-op movement “to
challenge procurement officers to ensure the Social
Value Act is held up”.
But Ms Barrott warned that there was “a £2.5m
deficit in care” and if co-ops were forced to carry
out the effects of that deficit, “it could destroy
public faith in co-operation”.
She added: “We have to look at what works
well – such as small, boutique co-operation. Who
can afford this? How does a homeless person
afford co-operative housing? A redistributive effort
She called for a Faircare Marque to maintain care
standards and for the regulation of standards in
co-owned, democratically controlled multistakeholder
Ms Shannon defended the public sector
mutual model, reiterating the fact that Preston’s
procurement methods enabled it to keep £200m in
the local economy.
Pat Conaty from Co-operatives UK said: “The
primary issue is getting those corporations out who
have been starving social care of funds. If we set
minimum standards, unionise the co-op sector, we
could work together.”
But Mr Huckfield countered: “We do not want to
see co-ops in a market setting. Co-ops should be an
alternative to the market.”
Mr Bell said that while it wasn’t his job to criticise
co-ops, “it’s my job to say there’s not enough money
in the system. It doesn’t matter who provides the
service. From a trade union perspective, it’s the
workers who suffer first.”
Ms Shannon agreed: “No, we don’t have enough
money. But in the meantime, we need news ways
of doing things. Co-ops are about social value and
MARCH 2018 | 25
What’s next for the UK’s tech co-ops?
Two years ago, the UK’s growing tech co-op sector
has formed a network to show how technology
can be an empowering force for good – but
can they drive change into a sector dominated
by the big players?
Those new to the tech and platform
co-ops got to learn more in a workshop at
Ways Forward 6.
Launched in 2016, Co-operative
Technologists (CoTech) aims to create
a better technology sector in the UK
that focuses primarily on worker,
customer and end-user needs rather
than on generating private profit. The
network includes web development,
web hosting, and design co-ops.
Graham Mitchell, founding member of
Digital Life Collective, a co-op researching,
developing and funding technologies
that prioritise autonomies, told delegates at the
workshop that co-ops could be at the forefront of
delivering #techforgood, or technology solutions
that people could trust.
One area of growth is the platform co-op
movement, creating multi-stakeholder co-ops
where users, customers and employees would play
a key role in driving the business. But Mr Mitchell
argued that real platform co-ops have yet to be set
up, even in the USA where the term was coined.
The closest example he could find to the idea
of a platform co-op is Stocksy, a co-operative
of photographers providing stock photography
services. It was formed in 2012 and now represents
artists in 65 different countries and pays out one of
the highest royalty percentages in the industry. The
co-op has over 900 voting member photographers.
But customers cannot join the co-op,
said Mr Mitchell, who thinks a real platform co-op
We need to
David Alcock and Cliff Mills from Anthony
Collins Solicitors argue that it’s not enough
to boost the co-op economy – we need a
wholesale transformation of the business
landscape. Along with Ellie Perrin (France)
and Rhona McCord (Ireland), they led a
workshop on co-op legislation at Ways
We welcome Labour’s commitment to
doubling the size of the co-operative
economy. But we want to do it in a way
that doesn’t just develop an alternative
co-operative economy, but helps
transform business more broadly; which
helps people understand how business
can be good for everyone and contribute
to the common good. Business needs to
benefit the many people who are affected
by its activities – as workers, customers,
suppliers and neighbours; not just the few
who are its owners.
In the modern world, businesses have
become more significant than national
governments in terms of impact on the
lives of citizens. It is not just turnover of
the world’s biggest businesses which
increasingly dwarfs national budgets, it
is their ability to influence, change and
potentially control the context in which
individuals buy goods and services
(markets); their power over the creative
and working capacity of individuals
(workers); and their reach, through
digital technology and social media, into
people’s private lives (community).
This ever-growing power of businesses
would not be of particular concern to us
if it was held and used for the benefit of
human beings as a whole. But it isn’t.
Most of the power of businesses is
p Ways Forward discussed key issues affecting the
held by, and is accountable to, private
interests which have no absolute moral or
legal responsibility beyond themselves.
Consequently, the optimisation of
profitability and economic growth for
their own benefit outweighs any broader
concerns about human wellbeing and
happiness, climate change and future
One of humanity’s highest priorities
today is for business to be transformed
from operating for the private benefit of
investors to operating for the common
good of all. Co-operatives can play an
important part in that transformation. For
this to happen, three fundamental things
26 | MARCH 2018
should bring together both providers and users.
He believes that one of the main challenges in
developing such projects is the lack of venture
capital and a model to finance tech co-ops, which
have a long-term approach and are not listed on
the stock exchange. Co-operative development
specialists can also play a key role in driving the
tech co-ops movement.
“We can’t wait for the hobbyists – the IT people
in dark rooms – to come up with ideas for vibrant
platform co-ops,” he warned.
Another problem faced when trying to develop
such projects is being geographically isolated.
“We need to think outside a geographical
mindset – such businesses are formed online by
people from across the world,” said Mr Mitchell.
Chris Croome from Webarchitects co-op brought
a discussion of the open source software movement
to the session. This grew out of people’s need to
use software without paying for copyright. The
users are free to copy software and give it to anyone
else but whenever they pass it on they have to give
them these same freedoms. This enables anyone to
p Graham Mitchell discussed open source software
obtain and change the open source code.
“The free software movement is all about sharing,
like co-ops, there should be more interaction
between the two,” he said.
One of the pioneers of free software was US
programmer Richard Stallman, who developed the
concept of copyleft, which uses the principles of
copyright law to preserve the right to use, modify
and distribute free software.
The rapid growth 20 years ago of open software
raised the question of whether platform co-ops are
the next big thing, the session was told.
co-operative economy at Central Hall, Manchester
The role co-operatives can play in
contributing to the common good needs
to be publicly and formally recognised.
This essential recognition, which has
never existed in the UK in spite of the
historical origins of the movement, is
needed to provide a platform to address
the prevailing assumption that investorowned
enterprise is the only viable legal
and economic model for business.
Co-operatives need to be regarded and
treated as part of mainstream business
in the UK. This means bringing co-ops,
and other social businesses, under the
formal responsibility of the Department
for Business, Enterprise and Industrial
Strategy. BEIS should be responsible for
all types of UK business, not just privately
owned enterprise. This will help to provide
a platform to develop a coherent strategy
for enterprise to serve the interests of
all, and to create the appropriate basis
for government to support and promote
the most appropriate form of business
for individual sectors. It will also help
to avoid the risk of sub-optimal policymaking
just because the very structure of
government is in tension with the pursuit
of the common good.
We need a review of the laws of
registration for co-ops and other social
businesses. Such a review happens every
generation in relation to companies,
because such laws are seen as crucial to
the economic success of the country. There
has never been such a review in relation to
co-ops; nor has there ever been a strategic
review of all business forms (including plcs,
private and community interest companies,
mutual societies, social enterprises, and
charitable businesses). It is, therefore, no
surprise that our laws fail to provide the
legal framework necessary to create the
best possible environment for those striving
to carry on business for the common good.
As a first step to reinforce its longterm
commitment to the co-operative
movement, we ask Labour to make a
manifesto commitment to carry out a
review of the law and policy framework
for all enterprise for the common good
with a view to transfer departmental
responsibility for co-ops and community
benefit societies from HM Treasury to
the Business Department, and for BEIS
to assume responsibility for other third
sector businesses currently under the
umbrella of the Office for Civil Society
We recognise that securing formal and
public recognition of the contribution co-ops
make is a longer process. Some insight into
a mechanism for this, through collaborative
working between government, unions and
employers’ organisations, can be gained
from ILO recommendation 193, which
supports the promotion of co-ops based
on the International Co-operative Alliance
principles, and creating a supportive
environment for co-ops to secure the many
social and economic advantages which
Establishing a review of the laws of
registration for co-operatives needs
to follow on from the relocation of
departmental responsibilities, so that
such a review can be launched on a
proper basis where co-operatives are
formally located within the mainstream
of UK business, and recognised for their
contribution to the common good.
MARCH 2018 | 27
What are credit unions
In the age of digital technology, credit unions are
changing the way they function – making use
of digital channels to provide new services for
their members. One of the biggest challenges for
UK credit unions comes from fintechs, financial
technology companies which are taking shares
from traditional high street banking providers in
areas such as payments and lending.
A report by Ernst and Young estimated that
the UK’s fintech market is worth £20bn in
annual turnover, with 18% of this being taken by
emerging fintech. In contrast, credit unions
had an annual turnover of £113m for the year
ending June 2017.
While the UK has only four out of the top of
100 largest traditional fintechs, it accounts for
half the emerging ones in Europe. According to
the EY report, the highest growth areas are peerto-peer
platforms, online payments and data and
analytics products. The UK also has one of the
highest levels of internet and mobile phone
penetration globally and the highest amount
spent on e-commerce in Europe.
Another important trend is an increase
in consumer demand for mobile banking.
SOME CREDIT UNIONS HAVE
AN AVERSION TOWARDS THE
POTENTIAL RISKS IT POSES
BUT OTHERS HAVE ADOPTED
Research conducted by Equinity, a provider of
technology aimed at reducing regulatory burdens,
showed that banking via a mobile phone
or tablet was the most popular method.
Around 48% of respondents said they were
using a mobile banking app. More than half
of all banking transactions in the UK are
now done digitally.
The Way We Bank Now report for 2016, published
by the British Bankers Association in collaboration
with EY, showed that customers were using mobile
apps 11 million times a day in 2015, a 50% increase
from the previous year. Customer bank branch
interactions went down – from 476 million in 2011
to 278 million in 2016.
The second biggest challenge for credit unions
comes from payday lenders. Since the FCA’s
crackdown on payday lenders, the number fell
from 400 to 144 at the end of 2016. The payday
loans industry was worth £220m in 2017, a drastic
drop from £2.5bn in 2013. However, payday lenders
continue to set the benchmark on frictionless
Some credit unions have an aversion towards the
potential risks IT poses – but others have adopted
new technologies either by working together or
by partnering with fintech firms. Rainbow Saver,
based in Lowestoft, UK, is one of the credit unions
teaming up with The Change Account and its
technology partner Payment Cloud Technologies
to deliver a new form of transactional account,
designed to simplify finances.
The collaboration started less than a year ago
after Clyde Bank (the credit union’s initial pre-paid
card partner) exited the market, meaning they
had to look for a new partner to keep providing
the service. With support from the national
28 | MARCH 2018
credit union trade body, Abcul, Rainbow Savers
was able to get in contact with Raphaels Bank, the
issuer of The Change Account card.
The account has no penalty charges for missed
or late payments and no overdraft facility. It
also offers automatic online payment alerts
and a rewards programme. Members pay a set
£2 monthly charge and have access to 24/7
UK-based customer support.
“We ended up with a better product. For us to be
able to offer the pre-paid card at £2 a month is really
good,” says Sally Chicken, chair of Rainbow Saver.
Already 600 members of Rainbow Saver are using
the card, the majority of whom had previously been
financially excluded. The credit union is providing
mobile and online banking too – over 75% of loan
applications are coming from mobile phones. But
the service goes beyond offering a credit card;
support workers help people save or better manage
their finances by setting up budgeting accounts,
taking money and dividing it into agreed pots that
cannot be accidentally spent.
“With really vulnerable persons we can load that
card daily and we have a support worker who does
supermarket shopping with the person. So it is a
tailored service and one the banks don’t want to
provide,” adds Ms Chicken.
Overall, 35 credit unions are offering the Change
account, with 5,000 accounts in total.
“The Change Account product has certain
wallet and budgeting facilities as well as lower
fees for card holders which is why we chose to
partner with them and promote their solution. It
also has some key differentiating factors for user
credit unions such as the lack of a ‘float’, which
minimises risk and operational cost for the credit
unions that use it,” says Matt Bland, head of
policy at Abcul.
The project won the Best Fintech Partnership
at the 2017 Banking Technology Awards.
Another example is the Engage account.
Run by Contis Group, a payments
company, it is offered by over
140 credit unions across the
UK as a single national brand. It
provides banking via online, mobile
and an app, allows users to set direct
debits and standing orders and
withdraw cash from ATMs or transfer
money; just like the Change Account,
the Engage Account does not have an
overdraft facility. Credit unions offer
the account for different monthly rates.
Also positioning itself as an
alternative to payday lenders is My
Community Bank, launched in 2013
as the UK’s first online credit union
based on the cloud-based back
office system supplied by Mambu,
a cloud banking software-as-a
The credit union was initially set up
as Brent Shrine Credit Union in 1979
to serve people living or working in the London
Borough of Brent. It changed its name to My
Community Bank and extended its common bond
nationally to encompass the British South Asian
diaspora. There are three credit unions in the My
Community Bank network: Brent Shrine Credit
Union (trading as My Community Bank); Loans
and Savings Abertawe Credit Union (trading as My
Community Bank Wales); and North Edinburgh and
Castle Credit Union (trading as Castle Community
Recently, My Community Bank teamed up
with Mespo, a fintech enabling users to save
money on their utility bills by switching to other
providers. The partnership – the first of its kind
– was rolled out in November, with members
benefiting from Mespo’s financial management
product in order to improve their credit score
and save more money. Mespo uses psychometric
questionnaires which users complete to reveal their
ability to save or spend when they have no credit
history. The software links to their bank accounts
and tells them how much to spend on certain
products and services.
My Community Bank also uses CULoans.co.uk,
an online, shared marketing platform. Participating
credit unions are charged for completed loan
applications, the charge reflecting the economic
value of the loan. Using a price comparison
website – Moneysupermarket – the CULoans site
can instantly process loan applications. CU Loans
receives over 50,000 loan applications via their
platform every year.
With more and more partnership between
fintechs and credit unions emerging, the trend is
likely to continue.
MARCH 2018 | 29
Q&A with experts:
What’s next for the credit union sector?
EMANUEL ANDJELIC is chair and co-founder of Squirrel, a fintech that has designed an app to help people
create and stick to a budget. He was a keynote speaker at last year’s annual conference of the Association of
British Credit Unions. After graduating from Cambridge University in 2002, Mr Andjelic has been involved
in several IT projects and has taken on the role of investor, entrepreneur and mentor in several startups.
WHAT ARE UK CREDIT UNIONS ALREADY DOING
DIGITALLY AND WHERE COULD THEY IMPROVE?
Open banking regulations don’t currently cover
credit union accounts, so the risk is that these
accounts will become less attractive if they can’t
take advantage of the wave of cool new products
and services that regular bank customers will be
able to take advantage of.
CAN TECHNOLOGY HELP LIFT A REGULATORY
BURDEN FOR CREDIT UNIONS?
WHAT ARE THE KEY DIGITAL TRENDS THAT COULD
CAUSE DISRUPTION FOR CREDIT UNIONS?
Open banking and Payment Service
Directive (PSD2) regulations will be a game
changer for banking technology. Banks are
being forced to open up APIs (Application
Programming Interface) which means that
customers will be able to allow innovative
tech companies access to their data. These
companies are already busy building products and
services that create enhanced customer
experiences in everything from payments
“RegTech” is fast becoming the latest buzz word in
the financial technology seen, with lots of products
and services springing up that aim to make
everything from Anti Money Laundering (AML) to
Know Your Customer (KYC) checks quicker, cheaper
and more secure.
DOES SCALE MATTER WHEN CREDIT UNIONS ARE
CONSIDERING WHETHER TO ADOPT NEW TECH
The beauty of most new Fintech innovations is
that they don’t tend to discriminate against the
size of an organisation. The newest players with
the most innovative technologies are keen to
gain market share and will welcome the smallest
30 | MARCH 2018
BOBBY GOULD is client services director for CMutual. He has worked with the company serving credit
unions in a number of roles since 2001. He is currently studying at University of Ulster & Boston College,
working towards an MSc in executive leadership. He has facilitated strategic planning sessions with a
variety of credit union boards across the UK. CMutual is the pre-eminent insurance specialist for credit
unions, providing protection products and services, as well as sharing knowledge and insight from across
the credit union world.
WHAT ARE THE KEY DIGITAL TRENDS THAT COULD
CAUSE DISRUPTION FOR CREDIT UNIONS?
Mobile, mobile, mobile! By 2025, it’s estimated
that 75% of the workforce will be millennials – that
is, people born after around 1980. They have had
internet access their whole life. For many, their first
mobile phone was a smartphone. The challenge for
credit unions (and businesses in general) is that
keeping up with the competition isn’t good enough;
the real challenge is keeping up with the customer.
Credit union members are no longer comparing
their experience with RBS, Lloyds or Barclays
anymore, they’re comparing it with Amazon, Apple
and Google. Amazon accounted for upwards of 50%
of all online sales in the US, and over 40% of their
sales are made from a mobile device.
Therefore, a key digital challenge for credit
unions is how to serve members in an “always on
and available” mobile-friendly world. Among other
things, this means looking at the automation of
payments, transactions, applications, recruitment.
WHAT ARE UK CREDIT UNIONS ALREADY DOING
DIGITALLY AND WHERE COULD THEY IMPROVE?
Many credit unions now have websites and allow
members to check balances online. Electronic
payments and transfers are also the norm for many
credit unions in the UK. Some have implemented
electronic loan and membership applications.
To embrace technology, it can be helpful to think
about its variety of uses, and then prioritise.
Member interaction – using technology to
improve how the member can contact their credit
union, and be contacted 24/7/365.
Marketing – using social media for marketing,
awareness and advocacy.
Educate and excite – using technology to reach
out to members and explain the Credit Union
Difference, provide information and education.
Automate – using technology to reduce or
eradicate manual processes where possible, to
improve convenience and access.
increase transparency and perhaps renovate the
relationship between credit unions and regulators.
Where it is different from using existing tools
(like online reporting) is that it seeks to use new
technologies like cloud computing, APIs and data
analytics to solve regulatory and compliance
requirements more effectively and efficiently.
DOES SCALE MATTER WHEN CREDIT UNIONS ARE
CONSIDERING WHETHER TO ADOPT NEW TECH
Scale does matter – implementing a “digital
mindset” requires changes to the systems and
controls that a credit union utilises to deliver
effective governance. Cost, of course, is also
a big factor; however where credit unions can
identify common objectives or requirements then
collaboration can enable smaller credit unions to
benefit from new technologies.
TECHNOLOGY CAN POSE NEW CHALLENGES
RELATED TO SECURITY. HOW CAN THESE BE
The forthcoming introduction of the General Data
Protection Regulation in May this year places a
new emphasis on how companies protect personal
information. Technology is part of the solution to
security, as well as part of the problem.
Understanding where data is stored, why we
have it, who has access to it, and how we ensure
the security around it is suitable, is increasingly
important. One step that credit unions can take
is to become Cyber-Essentials certified. This
is a government-backed initiative that helps
businesses measure their cyber-resilience and take
steps to improve it.
CAN TECHNOLOGY HELP LIFT A REGULATORY
BURDEN FOR CREDIT UNIONS?
After FinTech comes RegTech! If Fintech focuses
technology on the member, Regtech is the
application of technology to decrease costs,
MARCH 2018 | 31
TANSLEY STEARNS is chief impact officer at the Filene Research Institute in Madison, USA. With more than
19 years of credit union leadership experience across a variety of functional areas, she works to help an
organisation move ideas forward to drive business results. Tansley was one of the original credit union
professionals chosen to be a participant in Filene’s i3 innovation program. In her three years with i3, she
worked with other credit union executives to create innovative projects including SmartScore, Decision
Point and Debt in Focus.
WHAT ARE THE KEY DIGITAL TRENDS THAT COULD
CAUSE DISRUPTION FOR CREDIT UNIONS?
Ease of use is a major issue in this area. Credit
unions are no longer competing against the bank
down the street or the credit union down the street,
but against the simple and easy experience that
all of us have with places like Amazon. Consumers
expect easy, intuitive and fast. From our report,
Member Effort Benchmarking: Measuring Ease of
Use by Jardine, Darroch & Anderson, we identified
that credit unions still have a long way to go to
make the home–loan experience easier and we
also struggle with handoffs both between people
and between channels.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning
will also have disruptive implications for credit
unions. From our report, Big Data and Credit
Unions: Machine Learning in Member Transactions,
by Kallerhoff, we know that if done well, this
can amplify credit unions’ efforts at product
progression, credit scoring and risk modelling. It
can also help us better assess member needs and
respond to those needs in a more proactive way.
DOES SCALE MATTER WHEN CREDIT UNIONS
ARE CONSIDERING WHETHER TO ADOPT NEW IT
PLATFORMS OR INVEST IN NEW TECHNOLOGY?
Scale absolutely matters. The great news for credit
unions is that we have the competitive advantage
of existing in a collaborative environment. We
have a host of examples where credit unions have
come together to improve performance, reduce
costs and enhance member experience through
collaboration. In our report, Collaboration in
Practice: 11 Credit Union Case Studies, by Hofheimer
& Rogers, we share several examples of IT efforts
where credit unions came together to advance
CREDIT UNIONS OFTEN PERCEIVE FINTECHS
AS RIVALS. CAN THE TWO WORK TOGETHER
SUCCESSFULLY? WHAT DOES RESEARCH SUGGEST?
It’s all about perspective, in Fintech:
Developments and Strategic Implications for
Credit Unions by Swart & Middleton, there
is a great framework for how credit unions might
consider fintech collaboration as outlined:
• Archenemies. These firms intend to disrupt,
destroy, compete, and capture your revenue.
Their business model is based on competition.
They are not your friends, but you can and should
learn from their marketing and technology.
• Archangels. These firms intend to be a resource
for traditional financial institutions. They see
themselves as a technology or service provider
and are eager to be integrated into your website,
application, or service stack. Their success is your
success - at least this is the narrative.
• Archetypes. These firms exemplify co-opetition.
They are competing against both banks and
credit unions, yet actively seek partnerships.
They have realised that they lead in technology,
you lead in knowledge of your markets, members,
and relationships. By combining forces, the
“smart” banks/credit unions can drive revenue
or improved customer services in partnership
with them. Without them, they believe that those
institutions that partner with fintech firms will
outcompete and eventually destroy the market
share and profitability of “solo” banks and
Each organisation has to assess what their
tolerance for such a partnership is and what their
strategic goals are. We believe that credit unions
have unique gifts as do fintech providers and
coming together can be a way to provide even more
value for consumers.
32 | MARCH 2018
With a background in computer science and design, EUGENE DANILKIS worked on NASA projects as an
engineer before founding and building Mambu: from designing and leading the product development and
to building and scaling the team and global footprint of the business. He graduated from the University of
British Columbia in 2004, which he followed with a degree in human-computer interactions at the Carnegie
Mellon University. Mambu provides banking technology built in and delivered via the cloud.
HOW DID THE PARTNERSHIP WITH MY COMMUNITY
In 2013 My Community Bank decided to launch a
complete online national credit union in the UK.
Their goal was to offer competitive and flexible
loan and savings products to everyone in the UK.
They decided to automate as many processes
as possible in order to compete with traditional
lenders. Mambu was deployed to manage loan
and deposit products, customer data, internal
processes and reporting and accounting. It
integrates into the website as well as services like
CallCredit, EchoSign, FD Online and Rapidata in
the UK. The successful implementation of Mambu
with the desired products and workflows included
third-party services, 20-second automated loan
decisions, 100% digital paperwork and the launch
of the credit union with zero internal IT staff and
full agility to modify and launch new products as
WHAT SORT OF SERVICES DO MEMBERS USING
THE APP GET?
Mambu is not an app: it is the lean alternative
to cumbersome core banking systems, a cloudnative
software, provided as a service, supporting
composable API-enabled ecosystems. We empower
our clients to operate like a tech company rather
than like a bank. We enable banking and lending
providers to utilise best-of-breed technologies
in order to deliver against their product design
brief, offer best in class on-boarding processes,
credit decisioning and pricing that uses multiple
data sets and metrics or aligning products to
specific social groupings or mindsets based on
ARE YOU WORKING WITH OTHER CREDIT UNIONS?
Yes , we have been talking to other credit unions
since the collapse of the government-backed project
and looking at how Mambu and other banking
ecosystem providers could work together to support
credit unions in moving to a new technology to
support more lean, modern and flexible products,
processes and customer experiences.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN DIGITAL TRENDS THAT COULD
CAUSE DISRUPTION FOR CREDIT UNIONS?
The growth in niche banking offerings from pure
digital providers is likely to increase competition
within the market in which credit unions operate.
This, together with the geographical limitations
placed on credit unions regarding their operations,
means they cannot scale to meet the technical
capabilities of the new digital banks and lenders, so
they could look very old fashioned in comparison.
WHAT ARE UK CREDIT UNIONS ALREADY DOING
DIGITALLY AND WHERE COULD THEY IMPROVE?
The UK banking and lending market is changing
rapidly, and those who do not adapt to the new
digital methods of customer interaction and
servicing will begin to struggle. However, due
to scale, many credit unions have only partially
digitised their offering as the cost implications
have historically not been commercially viable. But,
over the past 12-18 months, the UK has seen a vast
number of new ‘born-digital’ technology providers
enter the market and these are built around a best
-of-breed composable Application Programming
Interface (API)-driven architectures.
YOU ARE BASED IN GERMANY. CAN THE UK LEARN
SOMETHING FROM CREDIT UNIONS ABROAD?
Credit unions can learn a lot from overseas credit
unions and also from other micro-finance and
consumer lenders, especially those in developing
areas of the world. We have clients from Africa
to the Philippines that have created profitable
ventures, successfully launching new offerings
providing microloans to the public using a digital
core and smartphone technology, as well as
MARCH 2018 | 33
@FSCSNews, news from the The
Financial Services Compensation
@CUJournal, Credit Union Journal
(Mostly american stories, but recently
featured an ABCUL member and
article featuring Matt Bland)
@Money_Advice, Money Advice
,Trust National charity helping people
get out of debt, to budget and
@StepChange, provides free,
impartial debt advice and solutions to
anyone struggling with debt problems
@CUNA / @Nussle
President & CEO
Editor, Banking Techno
Outgoing CEO of ABCUL
Young money blogger
Chief Advocacy Officer
Founder of Big Fint Techmedia
Actor and activist
Credit Union Development Officer at
Engage Renfrewshire, (tackling poverty
Credit Union Foundation Chair, Financial
journalist and TV/Radio presenter,
CEO of Police Cu,
Chief Advocacy Officer
MP promoting credit unions in Parliament
MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary
Social investment consultant currently working
with Local Trust on Big Local
@JenniferTankard / @resp_finance,
CEO Responsible Finance, @ CEO, Director
34 | MARCH 2018
Tips for successful rebranding
With several credit unions undergoing a major
rebranding in recent years, we spoke to a digital
marketing expert to learn what the process entails
and how credit unions can create a strong brand.
Eva LaMere, president of Austin Williams, a
New York-based digital marketing, advertising and
rebranding firm, shares her insights.
WHAT ARE THE KEY ELEMENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL
CREDIT UNION BRAND?
Every brand has a unique and compelling story
to tell. The key is to find it: to uncover your brand
DNA; who you are – and more importantly, how
that connects to what your target audience wants,
and needs, you to be. That brand story is built on a
platform based on extensive research: we uncover
insights into consumer sentiments and motivators,
the credit union’s brand truth, and the competitive
environment in which they operate. A successful
brand connects the consumer to the credit union
in a way that’s relevant, engaging and stands
out from other financial institutions vying for the
same dollar. The brand platform is the foundation
for all messaging and creative content to ensure
we have consistency with that identity and brand
truth. Without that consistency, you will not build
a successful brand.
SHOULD ‘CREDIT UNION’ BE KEPT IN THE NAME?
DOES IT HAVE AN OLD-FASHIONED MEANING FOR
There is still a lot of work to do educating the public
about what credit unions do – or why they’re a
better financial option. So many credit unions
consider removing the moniker from their brand, or
reducing its emphasis. That’s not necessarily a bad
thing; it depends on what your research tells you
about your target market. But in those cases where
credit union is removed, we must replace it with
something – ‘Financial’ is a common option – and/
or create a tagline as an identifier. This tagline may
include the verb “bank” (no one “credit unions”,
after all) to explain both what the institution does
and to reinforce its mission.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES IN THE
Rebranding is a huge undertaking, so credit union
leadership first needs to understand what they’re
getting into and why. What is the ultimate goal? Is
it a viable and financially beneficial one? Take into
account the many perspectives from which your
rebranding will be viewed: your core constituencies
include not only your members and prospects,
but your employees and board of directors. How
do they feel about your brand now? How will
they view the rebranding and how will it fit with
how they interact with the credit union each day?
Leaving no stone unturned from a tactical and a
financial point of view is important, from those
“big” elements such as changing branch signage,
right down to planning for changes to those “little”
things like your email signatures.
IS REBRANDING IN ITSELF ENOUGH? OR SHOULD
CREDIT UNIONS USE THIS OPPORTUNITY TO
PRESENT NEW SERVICES FOR MEMBERS?
It depends on your competitive situation and your
goals. Any rebranding must start with research to
understand what prospective and current members
want or need and how or if you can deliver them.
If you’re not delivering the services people want
and need, no rebranding or marketing effort is
going to be successful.
HOW CAN RESULTS BE MEASURED? DO STRONG
BRANDS GENERATE STRONG SALES/AN INCREASE
p Eva LaMere, President of Austin Williams
At Austin & Williams, we believe every opportunity
to brand is an opportunity to sell and every
opportunity to sell is an opportunity to brand.
Every rebrand should start with key performance
indicators (KPIs) as well as a plan for measuring
them. Results need to be measured against goals:
increased awareness, increased membership, or
higher product sales volumes. If a rebranding isn’t
designed to deliver a solid return on investment
(ROI), don’t do it.
MARCH 2018 | 35
When it comes to rebranding, credit unions have the
challenge of presenting a unique and well-defined
One of the credit unions to recently go through this
process is Clevr Money - which used the opportunity
to also improve its digital offer for members.
The credit union started in 2009 as Blackpool
Fylde & Wyre Credit Union but quickly grew to
incorporate Preston and other parts of Lancashire.
As it expanded in other postcode areas, the credit
union had to increase its common bond as well. It
initially operated as Guild Money in Preston and
kept its original name for Blackpool.
But having two different websites and social
media accounts was an administrative burden.
“We decided late last summer to take the plunge
and completely rebrand the credit union to bring
it up to date,” explains chief executive Mike Barry.
“The branding was old and it did not fit in with
He emphasises that the organisation changed its
name but not its values: “We are still about people,
not profit. We remain committed to providing
fair and affordable loans to those who struggle
to get credit elsewhere, and who often end up
in a spiral of debt with high interest payday and
“But we also want to demonstrate that we’re open
for business to everyone in the area, even those who
might not necessarily think a credit union is for
them. Everybody has the right to access fair credit,
and joining the credit union is a genuinely smart
option for anyone looking to save or borrow money.
“As a not-for-profit lender there are no
shareholders walking away with big pay outs.
The money is reinvested or shared with members,
so we are able to offer some of the fairest interest
rates around. But many people don’t realise
this, or that the money they pay back or save is
used to help other local people needing support.
That’s being clever with money, and it’s what
CLEVR Money is all about.”
The credit union used the rebranding exercise to
diversify its digital offer with a new website where
people can apply for loans online, simplifying the
amount of paperwork needed. Once they submit
their details, the credit union runs a credit check
and gets back to those who are successful with a
loan offer and information about what it means to
be a member of a credit union.
“The new branding gives us leeway about being
clever with money. It’s not about poverty and debt
but doing something clever that you might be doing
already,” says Mr Barry.
The credit union worked with an agency, but a
subcommittee of its board of directors also had an
input in approving the final branding, which was
revealed in November.
Referring to the process, Mr Barry warned against
the temptation to say too much in a logo or brand.
“We nearly put in the words ‘savings and loans’ - but
in the end we chose something simple: ‘clever’ and
the word ‘money’, which includes all budgeting and
advice and encompasses a lot more than ‘saving
The local branch in Blackpool was refurbished to
match the new logo
So far, the results have been positive. Since
rebranding, the number of new joiners has
“We are competing in a dynamic and rapidly
growing marketplace,” says Mr Barry.
“In a changing world, where 63% per cent of
people use online banking, we need to keep pace.
This new look and feel, and the new website,
will help us to do that. This is just the start of
a redevelopment of the business which will
see more loan products and savings schemes
offered to help people avoid sky high
36 | MARCH 2018
A credit union in the West Midlands, which last year
moved the bulk of its marketing to social media to
match consumers’ switch to digital, says a heavy
online presence brings huge benefits, ranging from
greater awareness to improved communication
within the sector.
6Towns Credit Union in West Bromwich
developed its digital marketing campaign in
response to the trend for online loan. Over the past
12-18 months, it has moved almost all its marketing
onto Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.
This has seen its loan book grow 46% in 12 months.
A 2015 consumer survey for the Competition
Commission found that only 2% of consumers using
payday products in the past 12 months had also
used a credit union, although 15% of consumers
reported that they could have used a credit union
product instead of taking out a payday loan.
6Towns is trying to address the lack of consumer
awareness regarding credit unions by using social
media. For example, they created a YouTube
channel where they upload videos explaining the
benefits of joining a credit union, and giving tips
on how to avoid a payday loan, budget better and
The organisation doesn’t just communicate with
members on social media – it also speaks with
other credit unions.
“You have to understand your own core
demographic before you start entering into any
marketing strategy,” says Malcolm Keyte, business
development manager at 6Towns.
“You also need to understand what new
demographic you are attracting and where they
are coming from. You have to look at your business
plan – if you want to survive you need more young
people coming in. You need to start attracting
young savers and borrowers.”
Mr Keyte believes his credit union had a younger
market, offering it an easier progression from
traditional printed material to electronic.
6Towns is now working on new videos and
digital materials around the idea of debt.
“One of the issues we need to address as credit
unions is that, yes, we are here to help, but we
would not put people into debt,” says Mr Keyte.
“Credit unions have the responsibility to ensure we
don’t put people into debt so sometimes we have
to say ‘no’ to individuals and there is a backlash to
that. So we’re now working on a video on two key
questions: ‘Why have you rejected my loan?’ and
‘Are credit unions here to help us?’”
Mr Keyte believes the key to developing a
successful marketing campaign is building a
corporate personality across the different social
“It may be that you are focusing purely on saving
and loans,” he adds, “so you need to develop an
online personality based on that and it has to be
consistent. If you are using one logo on one social
media platform, it must be the same on any other
social media platform.
“Furthermore, once you start on a social media
campaign it’s not something you can pick up
and put down. It has to become a core part of
“The benefit of that is that you don’t rely as
much on partner agencies to get your message out,
you become far more independent and are able to
contact new and existing members without having
to rely on agencies to promote share, or hand out
leaflets. You are doing it yourself and it is more cost
effective than producing hard literature.”
Social media can also help to promote the
services of other credit unions and agencies,
he says. “These organisations need to be nurtured
and helped along the way – it is a co-operative way
of working. Too many organisations think posting
a picture of a table with leaflets and banners in
a church hall is getting across a message of what
they do as a credit union. It doesn’t actually say
anything, apart from the fact you were there.”
Building up followers can be a slow
process, warns Mr Keyte, but credit unions
should be patient.
“Don’t expect huge followers to like and share
immediately; it’s better to have 100 good followers
than 500 that you have bought,” he says.
He says feedback may also be difficult to obtain ,
although a strong performance for the credit union
can indicate that the marketing strategy is working.
MARCH 2018 | 37
Credit unions go
digital - slowly
BY PAUL GOSLING
Credit unions are struggling to cope with the
challenge of switching to digital functionality,
according to a global report from the Digital Growth
consultancy. While this is also true for banks, it
is clear that small credit unions have particular
difficulty in adapting to the online world because
of cost and often outdated legacy IT systems.
Ireland’s Registrar of Credit Union, Patrick
Casey, told January’s Credit Union Development
Association annual conference: “Consumers
expect choice, ease of access, efficient speedy
decisions and service fulfilment across all delivery
channels. Meeting their expectations requires
business models and operational change, enhanced
capabilities, new processes and investment in
enabling technologies. The scale of investment
and resources required can be significant and is
likely to be beyond the capacity of many
That message is as relevant to UK credit unions
as to their Irish counterparts. “We would agree that
there is under-investment in digital development
and a pressing need to move more quickly,” says
Abcul’s Matt Bland. “In all likelihood that will
mean they will work together to avoid duplicating
investment.” But Abcul accepts that much more
needs to be done.
Abcul points out that there are good-practice
examples of how credit unions are responding
to the challenge. “We have seen investment,” Mr
Bland says. “That is needed for credit unions to
It had been hoped that ‘Model Credit Union’,
part of the £38m Credit Union Expansion Project
funded by the Department for Work and Pensions
and delivered by Abcul, would be the basis for this.
But while the project has developed, it has done so
slowly, with just three credit unions – East London,
RetailCURe and Voyager Alliance – engaged in
the project, many fewer than the 35 that had been
expected. The three do now have online banking
facilities, with membership and loan applications
Incuto (formerly Efiniti) is a specialist provider
of IT services to credit unions, which recognises
the difficulties facing many because of often poor
existing systems. One of the attractions of Incuto’s
offer is that it sits on top of a credit union’s existing
IT system, while providing functionality that
includes online transactions and balance viewing,
plus support for a credit union in its risk profiling,
decision-making and financial reporting.
“We enable credit unions to be faster than a payday
lender and with a better service level than a
high street bank,” boasts Incuto’s chief executive
Andrew Rabbitt. Incuto has 10 credit union clients
at present, but has just signed a co-operation
agreement with the Scottish League of Credit
Unions and will be speaking at Abcul’s coming
conference in an attempt to increase its client base.
Derry Credit Union has made substantial progress
in providing digital functionality, following a
member survey three years ago. Members can
download an app that allows them to check their
38 | MARCH 2018
account balance, pay bills and make transfers
to their other credit union accounts and to noncredit
union accounts. The next stage is to develop
an e-contracting function, which will provide
members with the ability to approve contracts
without having to visit the credit union’s office.
Joan Gallagher, general manager of Derry Credit
Union, says that achieving this level of digital
functionality has been important for members,
but represented a real challenge. “None of
the federations has developed an appropriate
e-banking platform,” she argues. “So our credit
union has started from scratch. There was a real
piece of work in terms of risk assessment.”
But, she adds, “these platforms are expensive
for a credit union”. Derry was assisted by its
financial stability and large size – it has more than
“We have had great support from our IT
suppliers,” continues Ms Gallagher. “The next
person down the line should not have to pay for
all the development. The key for us was for the
IT supplier to have the capacity to deliver the
services.” The system was provided by Progress
Banking in Dublin, which has a number of credit
union clients in the UK as well as Ireland.
Abcul’s Matt Bland warns that the cost of
digital provision means that credit unions will
increasingly have to form partnerships or merge
in order to afford the type of online presence that
members now expect. “The reality is that in 2001
there were some 700 credit unions, but since then
the number has more than halved,” he says.
“Those remaining smaller credit unions
remain independent because they value their
independent identity, but the forces are towards
consolidation. As a trade association we are
agnostic about this. But it’s inevitable really.
“The collaborative approach enables
credit unions to retain independence while
benefiting from these things [such as digital
functionality], which is what you have seen
in the US. We would like to see more of that
in the UK.”
MARCH 2018 | 39
How are credit unions
spreading financial inclusion?
Credit unions in two cities are making a difference to their communities by thinking and working
co-operatively. Here’s what they’ve been doing, and what they think the future will hold ...
BY SUSAN PRESS
MANCHESTER CREDIT UNION
In the early 1990s, Beswick was one of the most
socially deprived areas of Manchester. It was here
in 1991 that Manchester Credit Union (MCU) started
life as a community-based organisation; in 2007 it
became Manchester Credit Union and now covers
the entire city, plus surrounding boroughs such as
Trafford, Tameside, Bury, Rochdale and High Peak.
It now has 24,000 members, assets of £1m, £6m
worth of savings and £6m in loans. Like many other
credit unions, it has grown significantly in the past
12 months. Chief executive Christine Moore reports
that since October 2017, nearly 1,000 new members
have been joining a month.
“There has been a 50% growth in lending and
we have doubled our business in the past year,”
she says. “I don’t think there is any one reason,
but welfare benefit changes have had a real impact
and there are now a lot of members in work but
on low incomes and zero hours contracts. To cope
with the increase we have improved our systems
dramatically, and developed our online offer.”
MCU held its first Credit Union Awareness week
in October and is part of the new Sound Pound
consortium of eight Greater Manchester credit
unions. In October 2017 it featured on the BBC’s A
Matter Of Life And Debt programme about the work
of credit unions.
“Credit unions used to have an image as the
‘poor man’s bank’ but that’s not so much the case
now,” says Ms Moore. “The TV programme was
really helpful. We were worried it would reinforce a
stereotype, but it was much better than that.”
In recent years MCU has seen a huge increase in
online applications and that means less face-toface
contact, although that option is still there for
those who prefer it. It has 18 staff and two years ago
moved its main office into the city centre in a bid to
expand its work. There is also outreach in places
such as Rochdale.
“All our branches were in deprived areas and we
wanted to attract a more diverse membership,” says
Ms Moore. “The majority of our members probably
still struggle but a lot of others are joining, too,
because of the ethical way in which we work.”
In the coming period the credit union is aiming to
expand its member base further.
Christine Moore has worked for the credit union
for 17 years and was the first member of staff in the
days when it had only 100 members.
She believes the Sound Pound network –
comprising over 48,000 members and £24m in
assets – will be help to grow the city’s credit unions.
“There were a lot of reasons we got together last
year and a major one was the fact we had a new
Greater Manchester Mayor coming on board who
we knew would be supportive,” she explains.
“We are looking at lots of ways to work together
collectively on issues such as responses to Universal
Credit. The network will also act as one voice with
the combined authority that brings. Because of
the increase in digital, we are looking at ways to
improve our technology, apps and websites.”
40 | MARCH 2018
SHEFFIELD CREDIT UNION
Sheffield Credit Union covers the Sheffield City
Region across South Yorkshire, offering loans from
£100 to £10,000. It was established in 2004 in an
amalgamation of a number of smaller credit unions
to provide members with safe savings products and
low-cost affordable loans.
In 2015 it won a Chamber of Commerce Business
In The Community award; the following year it
merged with Rothersave Credit Union to offer
services in Sheffield and Rotherham. The credit
union now employs around 16 staff who are
supported by a similar number of volunteers, and
has around 7,000 active members. It has £3.6m in
savings, £2.3m in loans and £5m capital.
Chief executive Jacqueline Hallewell says: “We
have relocated to a much more visible position,
streamlined our systems, built membership and
completely changed the way we do lending.”
A member of the Association of British Credit
Unions (Abcul), SCU has developed a lending tool
created by Experian and incorporated this into its
systems to make decisions. It has developed strong
relationships with the third sector on issues such
as housing advice, and runs joint projects with
the local authority.
Some 75% of the credit union’s business is
now done online, but face-to-face contact is still
valued as the best contact for some members.
“South Yorkshire is in a low wages pocket
generally, where Universal Credit has not been
rolled out fully, and we support organisations
and individuals because there is a lot of anxiety
about it,” says Ms Hallewell. “We continue to help
people with budgeting accounts to help them pay
rents – that is offered in partnership with housing
associations and prevents evictions in many
cases. Although our direct funding has stopped,
we still work with the council on various projects
and offer an employee payroll scheme.”
Although its main current project is supporting
the introduction of Universal Credit and looking
at how its products and services can support the
transition, SCU is also looking at how it can retain
members and respond to their needs.
New data protection legislation, which comes
into force in May, is another challenge but Ms
Hallewell says the overall picture is positive.
“We needed to change to spread the risk and
stop the stigmatisation of credit unions as ‘poor
people’s banks’,” she said. “We have improved
the way we serve our members and diversified,
increasing membership and improving the
standing of credit unions. We are also starting
to introduce more products suitable for people
in work and homeowners, beating the banks
for rates on loans and making sure our savings
products are better. A lot of people want to invest
with us because we are not-for-profit.
“By responding more quickly to what customers
want, providing products which reward loyalty,
and diversifying our work with partners while
making sure our members are more financially
included, we can ensure we do not lose our social
aims while keeping our business growing.”
MARCH 2018 | 41
Do you want
Join the Co-op News Book Review Club
The fall of the ethical bank is a Greek tragedy. The
Co-operative Bank tale is all about a large group of
decision-makers who believed their own hype—and
got it spectacularly wrong.
Journalist Paul Gosling looks at the contribution
those various decision-makers had in the nearcollapse
of the co-operatively-owned bank and looks
at where it went wrong.
The answer is not straightforward, but this book
looks at where the weaknesses originated, such as
an inconsistent business strategy and being just too
nice to challenge crucial decisions.
Do you enjoy reading and discovering
new ideas to promote the co-operative
If so, we want you to be a part of our reader
-led book club. Our book club features short
or long reviews, or simple comments on
books from our readers. Books reviewed
in Co-op News connect and champion
co-operatives. We look at books with new
ideas and stories that can help co-ops with
their everyday mission.
Do you want to be a part of this?
As a member of the book club, you can:
• Suggest books for review
• Submit your own reviews
• Tell us your interests and we’ll
send you a book to review
• So whether you’re interested in
sustainability, credit unions or education
– we’ll try to find a book to suit you.
Take part today:
42 | JANUARY 2018
How do co-ops perform as employers of women?
To mark International Women’s Day on 8 March, Co-op News asked women co-operators to share their
experiences in the movement. Themed Press For Progress, the day is a call to action for accelerating
The women who took part in the survey sought to highlight some of the issues
faced by female employees and members. Their time in the sector ranged from
two years to over 50. We received answers from shop floor staff, directors, regular members, employees,
managers and advisers. They come from various sectors, including consumer, worker and community coops
and regional organisations.
Fourteen respondents said they felt supported in their roles with two saying they sometimes felt
undermined and four admitting they did not feel supported at all. Over 65% said they believed co-ops
could do more to support gender equality, suggesting better communication around it, improving gender
pay gaps, allocating more resources to this task, making workplaces family-friendly and practising more
gender equality at board level.
When asked what were their positive and negative experiences, women co-operators had different
perspectives. Below are some of the answers we received...
• “Positives are flexibility, working in various
departments and an equal say. Negatives are
lack of HR within our co-op when issues arise.”
• “It was very male dominated back in the
1980s and it was hard to break through (but I did
!). Positive - in 2018 our board is gender equal.”
• “As an employee who worked at the age of 17,
it was very different then. The women worked
the tills and put stock on shelves the highest
you would amount to was head cashier. I
think now we can achieve anything. It did go
backwards when we took over Somerfield and
I personally witnessed their attitude to women
management. I had comments about it being
no job for a woman. It’s nice to see it’s reverting
back to a fair place to work.”
• “Joining a regional organisation as a
female co-operator under 30 is not a fun
experience. You get mansplained by people
who consider themselves to have the most
radical and advanced views in the co-operative
movement. It is hard to establish relationships
of solidarity with other women, as they cease
to hang out in higher lever organisations. I had
my work claimed to be done by men who work
with me, and men assuming work I do is done
by their mates. I didn’t enjoy this outside coop
movement, but it also happens here, and
there is lack of consciousness and
respect. Men hanging out on the board
sometimes dump their problems on me
treating me as their personal secretary,
while there is nothing I can do as another volunteer
who has a business to run. I have learned a lot,
but it was not positive learning. In the end
unequal treatment tires out anyone.”
• “Mostly positive ... A lot of support and
mentorship over the years in the various
capacities that I have had. A very flexible work
environment that has allowed me to have a healthy
work life balance, while also being a single
parent and prioritise the needs of my family”.
MARCH 2018 | 43
t tea and coffee are the
popular categories are important to Co-op Members, but each
with Fairtrade (46%),
have their own set of challenges. By supporting Fairtrade,
) and bananas (41%). The Member average purchases Fairtrade are consumer helping to has drive been improvements.
products for five years, though six and a half per cent say
they Cocoa have only started buying them in the last year while
Consumers are most
eight Demand per cent for cocoa say they continues have been to increase. purchasing
likely to look for a
Fairtrade However, for disease, a decade climate or more. change Just and one ageing
Fairtrade logo on:
consumers cocoa trees say are they reducing never yields. buy Fairtrade, In West though
two Africa thirds Fairtrade say they are buy involved Fairtrade in reforestation
1. Coffee (46%)
2. Chocolate (45%)
3. Bananas (41%)
4. Tea (37%)
or programmes ‘not often’. But and there’s are working an opportunity with farmers to to
change improve this farm behaviour productivity. as 33 per cent would switch to
Fairtrade if they understood more about the
benefits Tea of making such purchases. This is
followed Low prices along the with world liking market the product are resulting itself in
(34%), low wages believing for farmers. that they Becoming are of good a tea quality farmer
(21%) isn’t seen and getting as an attractive a recommendation occupation (16%). for young people,
meaning the long term sustainability of the industry is under
threat. Fairtrade is working with partners to improve wages
in the tea sector.
Creating a nation
of Fairtrade shoppers
5. Bagged sugar (20%)
6. Wine (11%)
7. Flowers (10%)
8. Cotton (9%)
mer has FAIRTRADE been buying Fairtrade
gh six and a half per cent say
g them in the last year while
been purchasing Fairtrade for
n 10 consumers say they never
irds say they buy Fairtrade
n’. But there’s an opportunity
3 per cent would switch to
more about the benefits of
is followed along with liking
eving that they are of good
34 yr olds
r buying Fairtrade are
d product preference:
1 in 5
goods ‘most of
ood for communities (51%)
44 | MARCH 2018
Last Coffee year the Co-op Group made a pledge: all the need to do what we can to really show
be customers the benefits to communities
Fairtrade. The announcement affected over 200 of them by making the Fairtrade choice,”
unreliable income for cocoa farmers. Farmers
items which used cocoa as an ingredient, from its says Mr Hill.
in Central and South America are already seeing the
chocolate cookies to certain cooking sauces - and “The Co-op difference is about us getting closer
which is altering growing to what we care about – and for us, that’s our
The patterns. move meant Fairtrade a five-fold is supporting rise the farmers amount to learn communities, new whether local or overseas, giving
of Fairtrade farming practices cocoa sourced to address by the these retailer challenges. each back to our members and customers and getting
year, from 526 tonnes to 2,848 tonnes, which closer to helping tackle issues that matter to
additional £400,000 for cocoa our shoppers.”
farming Disease communities. and climate change is impacting
Now banana the Group production is takings globally. things In a step Central further,
to cover all the bananas, tea and coffee used across
impacted yields. Fairtrade is working to support
its entire own-brand product range.
smallholders to overcome these short terms shocks.
It also recently became the first in the world
to adopt the new Fairtrade Sourced Ingredient
programme Sugar on flowers; all the African roses the
Co-op Co-op’s sources position for use across to 100% its entire Fairtrade flower bagged range
will sugar return came a Fairtrade as a result Premium. of changes And to celebrate to European
the move, tariffs, the which Group gave is making preference a donation to EU of and £30k,
generated threatened by the market overall access sales of for Fairtrade sugar producers roses
in February from developing and March areas. 2018, Many to the Caribbean community /
struggling graduate nurses to find employment
the sugar industry for income.
and offer training around increased patient care,
and deliver a much needed improvement in the
The flower industry employs a largely female workforce
FAIRTRADE of poor, ON less THE educated UP and therefore more vulnerable
workers. Fairtrade is working to protect workers’ The Co-op’s recent Fairtrade Shopper Report
In 2017, rights the and Co-op’s ensure Fairtrade decent sales working grew by conditions. almost highlights its top-selling Fairtrade products
14% - more than double that of the market. Brad as bananas, chocolate, teabags, wine, roses,
Hill, Wine Fairtrade strategy manager at the Co-op, sugar and coffee, with consumers most likely
believes Wine this grape is farming a result is of very both labour-intensive,
the retailer’s to look for a Fairtrade logo on coffee, chocolate
commitment to Fairtrade and the way it tells the and bananas. According to research by the
so wine production often leads to poor labour
stories of the people behind the Fairtrade Mark. retailer, the average Fairtrade consumer has been
standards and living conditions for small farmers
“As producers continue to tell us that buying Fairtrade products for five years, though
say they only started buying them in the
for Fairtrade them in a is mainstream working to tackle market, low and wages is the and provide last year while 8% say they have
only adequate certification housing to empower for workers. those producers been purchasing Fairtrade for 10
and pay a minimum price and Premium, we years of more.
The average Fairtrade consumer has been buying Fairtrade
products for five years, though six and a half per cent say
they have only started buying them in the last year while
eight per cent say they have been purchasing Fairtrade for
a decade or more. Just one in 10 consumers say they never
An unstable global market means an
unreliable income for cocoa farmers. Farmers
in Central and South America are already seeing the
impact of climate change which is altering growing
FAIRTRADE buy Fairtrade, FIRSTS though two thirds say they buy Fairtrade Mondeléz’s Cocoa patterns. Life, Fairtrade and Sainsbury’s is supporting Left: farmers Rose growers to learn in new
only ‘sometimes’ or ‘not often’. But there’s an opportunity
Fairly Traded scheme, farming which practices have to added address to these Kenya challenges.
In the to change UK, the this Co-op behaviour Group as has 33 per achieved cent would a customer switch confusion.
number Fairtrade of Fairtrade if they firsts. understood In 1998 more it was about the first the benefits “We know of the more Bananas fairly traded certifications
from the Co-op’s
supermarket making such to start purchases. selling Fairtrade This is followed products along in that with are liking introduced, Disease the more and confusion climate change this is is Fairtrade impacting
every the store. product It also itself led the (34%), way believing in stocking that Fairtrade they are causing of good for consumers. banana And production we know that globally. this is In Below: Central Fortin Bley,
coffee quality 15 years (21%) ago, and and getting the first a recommendation to stock tea 10 (16%). hindering the market America, development recent of hurricanes Fairtrade,” have Secretary badly General at
says Brad Hill.
impacted yields. Fairtrade is working
The Co-op’s report reveals that 86% of D’Ivoire (left) and Rosa
smallholders to overcome these short terms shocks.
consumers are concerned, to some degree, to hear Elena Lopez de Soto,
that some brands and retailers are moving away harvesting coffee at
5% 10% 1 in 5
from Fairtrade, rising
to nine out of 10 among Aguadas Co-operative,
of consumers of 25-34 yr olds the Fairtrade under 35s. Co-op’s position to 100% Fairtrade Colombia bagged
make Fairtrade make Fairtrade goods “There ‘most are of noticeable sugar came concerns as a result around of the changes to European
purchases ‘all purchases ‘all introduction the time’ of other tariffs, ethical which schemes, gave preference claiming to EU and
varying, untested benefits,” threatened the report market says. access for sugar producers
“Consumers could from easily developing confuse these areas. schemes Many Caribbean /
It sold the UK’s first Fairtrade-labelled chocolate with Fairtrade, and Central mistake American other programmes countries are very reliant on
bar The in 1994 four and leading switched reasons its for entire buying own-brand Fairtrade for are offering the same the level sugar of industry impact, for and income. the
chocolate bar range to Fairtrade in 2002. In 2016 it independent assurance of Fairtrade. However,
a combination of morals and product preference:
was the was ahead of other retailers in selling ownbrand
Fairtrade Easter eggs.
understand the term Fairtrade, and 49% having
with 23% of consumers saying they completely
1. Knowing that it is doing good for communities (51%) The flower industry employs a largely female workforce
It sold the first Fairtrade bananas (and converted some understanding, by demonstrating impact and
all bananas to Fairtrade in 2012) – and is also the difference, Fairtrade
in a good
and therefore more vulnerable
largest 2. seller Liking of Fairtrade products wine in the (29%) world.
to maintain and build workers. on its shoppers.” Fairtrade Top selling is working to protect workers’
According to Mr Hill, rights Fairtrade and ensure is Fairtrade the certification decent products
SCHEME 3. Seeing CONFUSION it as better quality (24%)
of choice for producers. “Producers at continue Co-op: to tell
us that Fairtrade is the Wine most effective certification
Fairtrade 4. Trusting trail-blazed the quality the because concept the of ethical for them in a mainstream Wine market,” grape farming he says, is “and very is labour-intensive,
purchasing supermarket ever since of the choice Fairtrade stocks Mark a launched the only certification so to wine empower production Bananas
those producers often leads to poor labour
all the way lot of back Fairtrade in 1994 – products and the scheme (21%) has now and pay a minimum standards price Premium. and Chocolate living We conditions need for small farmers
become mainstream. Three out of four (72%) of to do what we can
plantations. In South Africa
shoppers in the Group’s survey said they completely benefits to communities of them Tea by making bags the
Fairtrade is working to tackle low wages and provide
or mostly understand what Fairtrade is all about. Fairtrade choice.
adequate housing for workers.
Two thirds say they buy Fairtrade only “We believe the right approach is to build
‘sometimes’ or ‘not often’, but 33% would upon the success of Fairtrade. That’s why, in
switch to Fairtrade if they understood more addition to our sourcing commitment, Sugar we are
about the benefits of making such purchases. investing directly to extend further Coffee the benefits
And this is where one of the problems lies. of our trading relationships. We are embarking
Over recent years, the number of alternative
ethical schemes has risen, from the Rainforest
in new projects with our coffee farmers in Brazil,
tea farmers in Malawi and banana farmers in
Alliance to in-house labels such as Dominican Republic.”
It is not surprising to see that tea and c
products most synonymous with Fairtr
followed by chocolate (45%) and banan
4. Tea (
The average Fairtrade consumer has be
products for five years, though six and a
they have only started buying them in th
eight per cent say they have been purch
a decade or more. Just one in 10 consum
buy Fairtrade, though two thirds say the
only ‘sometimes’ or ‘not often’. But there
to change this behaviour as 33 per cent
Fairtrade if they understood more abou
making such purchases. This is followed
the product itself (34%), believing that t
quality (21%) and getting a recommend
MARCH 2018 | 45
Co-op Education Conference 2018:
Q&A with Dr Cilla Ross
The Co-operative Education Conference is focusing on two strands this year:
‘Learning for new co-operative times’ and ‘The Co-operative University’.
Organised by the Co-operative College, the conference takes place at
Federation in Manchester on 1-2 May. Here College vice-principal, Dr Cilla
Ross speaks about the event, and the role co-operative education has in an
Join the debate on
what the future of
look like at the 2018
May at Federation
in Manchester. For
and to book your
WHY SHOULD PEOPLE COME TO THE CONFERENCE?
WHO IS IT FOR?
The Co-operative Education Conference is an
opportunity to discuss new ideas around not just
co-operative education, but co-op policy and the coop
world. Yes it’s for people associated with co-ops,
but we need to push the boundaries of what that
means. This conference is for those in education,
those in the traditional movement or emerging
co-ops and anyone with a general interest in cooperation
and the social solidarity economy. We’re
thinking about the big ideas.
At the heart of the conference are two strands:
learning for the new co-operative times and the
co-operative university, which is getting a lot of
support (for example from the Labour Party) and
As we approach our centenary year in 2019, the
College is looking wider. We’re looking to create
great teaching, learning and research - but what
does this mean and who is this for? The conference
will be unafraid of asking this.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FOR CO-OPS IN
THE 21ST CENTURY?
Co-operatives have an absolutely massive role
to play in light of technological change, and the
changing nature of work and working life.
Interestingly, Labour’s recent discussion about the
doubling of the co-op sector implies a new, growing
co-operative workforce. The fundamentalist notions
of what work is changing: what role do co-operatives
play? Yes, we’re seeing technological changes, but
we also need to look at what we’re experiencing in
terms of liberation and what it means for identity.
One thing we’ve been looking at is the union
co-op model, thinking about how co-ops can
challenge precarity, and I’ll be hosting follow up
workshops bringing unions and co-ops together.
So a challenge is what skills we need for the
future. Do we need to be more agile and creative, do
we need more useful non-work life?
CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT THE CO-OPERATIVE
The College is facilitating the Co-operative
University Working Group (CUWG) whose aim is
to explore various models of co-operative higher
education, including a co-operative university, as a
result of the UK Higher Education Research Act 2017.
The Act gives us an extraordinary opportunity to
think about the co-op model.
My background is in alternative adult higher
education and there are many emerging education
groups that have diverse interests about education.
The idea of a co-op university has been well
received. No one wants to be in the level of debt
current universities model necessitates. So we need
to think creatively.
The CUWG has had meetings with Higher
Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and
the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education
(QAA), and has been conceptualising what a
co-op university could look like – from community
courses to accredited university qualifications. It’s
There’s a chance to look differently at the
federated model, at pedagogy, economic models,
ownership, and organisational structure.
There’s no reason we can’t have a co-operative
university - we can meet the quality assurance – but
the big issue is money. This year, for example, we
need to bring in expertise to look at the specialist
regulatory framework. So as a movement, one of the
next steps is to look at more creative ways of raising
money – will it be a co-op? Will people get a divvy?
WHAT DOES TODAY’S CO-OPERATOR LOOK LIKE?
A co-operator can look like anyone and everyone.
Every single person has the potential to be in a
co-op if they wish. Yes we need to work with people
already in the movement, but it’s about other
people as well – we need to work with whoever we
can. This is essential for survival. The more we can
open things up, the better.
46 | MARCH 2018
By buying Co-op Fairtrade products
members support communities locally
in the UK, and around the world
When you buy Co-op Fairtrade products, you support
producers and their communities. As a member, 1% of what
you spend goes to a local cause at home too * .
Find out more at coop.uk/fairtrade
* Applies when members buy Co-op branded products in Co-op Group Food stores. Members earn 1% for local causes. Offer not available in independent societies including
Midcounties, Central England, Southern or Chelmsford Star co-operatives. Exclusions and restrictions apply. See Membership T&Cs at www.coop.co.uk/membership.
MARCH 2018 | 49
Bankruption - How community banking can survive fintech
By John Waupsh,
Bankruption argues that the community banking
movement should reinvent itself to overcome
challenges from emerging market entrants.
John Waupsh, who has a background in fintech,
believes that community banking is broken.
He highlights some inefficiencies within the
credit union sector, describing it as “a model the
average consumer doesn’t know or care about,
with a belief system that outstrips capability”.
He also criticises credit union boards for lacking
people with experience in banking or technology.
And he makes the compelling case that, in
an increasingly competitive and regulated
market, community banks and credit unions will
have to work together with entrepreneurs and
fintech companies to provide the digital services
their members need.
But can credit unions learn from other
sectors? Waupsh thinks that when it comes
to omnichannel approaches, big retailers
have some useful lessons for community
banking. He provides tips for credit unions to
eliminate the worst practices, network and
From investing in new research and
technologies, to supporting with fintech startups
and partnering with other businesses,
community banks will have to be proactive as
well as find new niche markets not served by
the big banks.
So what does the fintech future hold for
credit unions? Bankruption says big changes are
needed, urging the movement to work harder for
a shift to a digital community. It is a change
that is coming whether the movement is ready or
not, warns Waupsh.
“The branch of the future is a mobile device,”
Lending Power: How Self-Help Credit Union turned small-time loans into
By Howard E
Rising inequality and the desire for alternative
economic models means co-ops and credit unions
are the subject of growing interest – which makes
this account of a small-non profit, created to tackle
poverty in Reagan’s America, a timely one.
It is the story not just of the rise of a radical credit
union but also of its role in the community that
shaped it, which saw it work with churches, civil
rights activists, maverick philanthropists and city
planners to deliver change.
Self-Help Credit Union traces its roots back to
North Carolina in 1980, with the formation of the
non-profit Center for Community Self Help to lend
money to community development projects and
worker buy-outs of struggling companies. From
these small beginnings – it established its first
credit union in 1983 with the $77 proceeds of a
bake sale – Self-Help has become the USA’s largest
lender to people on low-to-moderate incomes.
In this lively, absorbing look at the organisation,
historian Howard E Covington Jr notes: “The
credit union’s loan portfolio of 30-year, fixed-rate
mortgages to low- and moderate-income borrowers,
nearly half of them single mothers and people of
colour, proved to be as sound as institutions that
made loans to borrowers with established credit.”
Founders Martin Eakes and Bonnie Wright were
fired by radical notions and “a belief that the civil
rights movement is not over until everyone in
society enjoys economic justice”. But there were
also conservative values at work: borrowers are
expected to pay on time like everyone else, with
no giveaways – and “Self-Help uses the same
financial tools perfected... on Wall Street to benefit
Eakes is the key figure in the book, a tough,
tenacious individual who survived in his penniless
early years by sleeping on his desk and bathing
in the local river while hustling for grants to fund
projects that would “reconcile socialism and
capitalism”. It’s this doggedness that saw him raise
the funds for Self-Help to hire its first staff, and
helped him weather “a national campaign led by
mortgage bankers, payday lenders and the political
Right, who were bound to discredit the organisation
and, according to Eakes, destroy him personally”.
Against this opposition, Self-Help steadily grew,
organising worker-ownership conferences on
college campuses, and rescuing and incorporating
credit unions in California, Chicago and Florida.
Moving to national level, it became a federal credit
union in 2008.
Along the way it played crucial roles in vital
regeneration projects, such as the redevelopment
of a huge, derelict site once formerly owned by
the American Tobacco Company in Durham, the
North Carolina town where Self-Help was born.
When the project stalled in 2003, the credit union
worked with local authorities to arrange finance so
the regeneration could go ahead. The derelict site
48 | MARCH 2018
Women’s Periodicals and Print Culture in Britain 1918-1939
Women’s Periodicals and Print Culture in Britain
looks at various publications offered to women in
the interwar period and the different notions of the
modern woman they portrayed.
The book explores the role of women’s print media
in reshaping public discourses of gender by defining
women’s interests, activities, and identities in
The period was marked by women’s victory
in their campaign for the vote in 1917 as well as
mass unemployment following the Wall Street
Crash of 1929.
One of the publications analysed is Woman’s
Outlook, a magazine for women in the co-operative
movement, which was published between
1919 and 1967.
Written by Nathalie Bradbury, the Woman’s
Outlook chapter focuses on the role of the woman
in the co-operative movement and the wider society.
The Women’s Outlook developed out of a column
called Woman’s Corner, featured in Co-op News in
1883. The first editor of the column was Alice Aclan,
one of the founding members of the Co-operative
Unlike many women magazines at the times,
which were owned, written and edited by men,
Woman’s Outlook was written and edited by women
in the movement.
The chapter explains how readers were not
regarded as passive recipients, but were invited to
contribute content and take part in discussions. The
key message of the magazine was that women’s
involvement in the co-op movement should not
be limited to their role as consumers. In spite
of its relationship with the CWG and the wider
co-operative movement, the magazine had its
own identity, reflecting the challenges faced
by its readers.
Ed. by Catherine
Clay, Maria DiCenzo,
Barbara Green &
is now a thriving hub,
could provide nearly
It’s a vivid symbol
of how credit union
principles can make
a difference. More
evidence of this
difference can be seen
in Eakes’ battles with regulators and legislators to
stop predatory businesses turning non-profits into
regular, for-profit corporations. There’s a useful
account of Self-Help’s advocacy work, including
a campaign to keep health insurer NC Blue as a
non-profit; of Eakes’ attack on global banking giant
Citigroup over its move into the subprime market;
and his work with lawmakers to draft a responsible
This fighting spirit was much needed in the
poverty-stricken towns of North Carolina, where
Eakes once had to frisk workers for guns on their
way to a lawsuit against a bankrupt employer for lost
pay. He also had to challenge racial bias and a
financial industry where an African American
business owner would find that “a bank would easily
give him a loan for $20,000 Cadillac, but he could
not get $100 to buy an acre of dirt to expand his
Lending Power is an object lesson in how the
credit union movement can make a difference in
such situations. As Eakes said in 2014: “We did not
have to be geniuses. We just had to have enough
faith in simple things.”
Below: Self-Help Credit Union,
Fayetterville, North Carolina
(Photo: Allen Forrest).
Left: The credit union helped
to facilitate the funding of
the regeneration of the
district in Durham,
MARCH 2018 | 49
CLOCKWISE FROM FAR LEFT: CTRLshift
discusses a programme to shift power
away from central government and
multinationals in Wigan from 27-29
March; Claire McCarthy of the Co-op Party
is among contributors at platform co-op
event OPEN 2018 in London from 26-27
July; Community Energy Fortnight runs
from 23 June - 8 July; Ed Mayo, secretary
general of Co-operatives UK, which holds
its AGM in Manchester on 18 May
2 March: Co-op Party NI Winter School
Learn how the co-operative agenda could
transform the political economy, from
housing to agriculture.
WHERE: Adelphi, Portrush
9 March: Co-operative Retail Conference
With keynote presentations, best practice
examples and discussion of the co-op
WHERE: Chesford Grange, Kenilworth
27-29 March CTRLshift: An emergency
summit for change
Join activists, organisers, commoners,
and entrepreneurs to develop a shared
agenda for regaining power over our
democracy, economy and environment.
WHERE: The Edge, Riveredge, Wigan
11-13 May: Worker Co-op Weekend
The Worker Co-op Weekend, hosted by
Co-operatives UK, has practical sessions
covering a range of topics. Designed
and run by worker co-ops for worker
co-ops, with food sourced from co-ops
like Essential and Suma, with bread from
Infinity, beer from Bartlebys Brewery and
veg from Unicorn Grocery. Vegan-friendly
catering, camping and campfires.
WHERE: Foundry Adventure Centre,
Great Hucklow, Derbyshire
18 May: Co-operatives UK AGM
Open to all Co‐operatives UK members.
Issues discussed by delegates and the
priorities identified will be taken to
Co operatives UK’s strategic review group.
WHERE: Holyoake House, Manchester
23 June: Co-operative Congress
Annual conference for the co-op sector.
WHERE: etc Venues, Liverpool Street
London EC2M 3YD
23 June - 8 July: Community
Showcasing communities who are
sharing their resources and generating
renewable energy and wasting less. Run
by Community Energy England on behalf
of the Community Energy Coalition.
15 -18 July: World Credit Union
The World Credit Union Conference is
designed for high-level credit union
leaders from around the globe including
credit union staff, board of directors,
committee members and regulators.
26 - 27 July: OPEN 2018: Platform
OPEN 2018 will focus on three main
themes: The Platform co-op showcase,
The Collaborative and Peer to Peer
technology sessions and discussions
on the changing narrative. Contributors
include Natalia Lombardo of Loomio,
academic Nathan Schneider, Claire
McCarthy of the Co-operative Party, David
Boyle of the Community Shares Company,
and Arthur Brock from HOLO.
WHERE: Conway Hall, Holborn, London
August 31 - September 2 UK Society
for Co-operative Studies Conference
50 | MARCH 2018
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