The July edition of Co-op News: connecting, challenging and championing the global co-operative movement. This issue, as the UK celebrates Co-operatives Fortnight, we look at the ways co-ops make a difference at home and abroad – whether it’s fighting for a fairer economy and new ways of working, or delivering solutions in areas like Fairtrade, agriculture and social care
The July edition of Co-op News: connecting, challenging and championing the global co-operative movement. This issue, as the UK celebrates Co-operatives Fortnight, we look at the ways co-ops make a difference at home and abroad – whether it’s fighting for a fairer economy and new ways of working, or delivering solutions in areas like Fairtrade, agriculture and social care
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A note from the chair
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
Elaine Dean (chair), David Paterson
(vice-chair), Richard Bickle, Sofygil
Crew, Gavin Ewing, Tim Hartley,
Beverley Perkins and Barbara
Rainford. Secretary: Ray Henderson
Established in 1871, Co-operative
News is published by Co-operative
Press Ltd, a registered society under
the Co-operative 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 organisations.
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.
Co-operative News has a unique place in our co-operative movement, providing
independent coverage, championing its successes, and challenging it where
necessary. It is therefore with great pleasure that I introduce the new restructured
team steering this historic publication.
Rebecca Harvey has been appointed executive editor – the 15th named editor in the
organisation’s 147-year history, and only the second woman to hold the most senior
post. Rebecca first joined the News as deputy editor five years ago, and oversaw the
redesign of the publication into its current format. She has worked in magazines for
over a decade, has in-depth knowledge of co-operation and has great understanding
of our place in the co-operative movement.
Alongside Rebecca, Miles Hadfield brings 25 years of newspaper experience to the
role of digital editor and Anca Voinea brings four languages and a passion for global
politics to the role of international editor. The News is in fabulous hands with this
team in place.
I would also like to pay great tribute to our outgoing executive editor, Anthony
Murray, who has left the organisation to pursue other opportunities. He achieved
a tremendous amount over his 16 years at the News, and everyone at Co-op Press
wishes him all the very best for the future.
ELAINE DEAN - CHAIR, CO-OP PRESS
Co-operatives Fortnight: a time to
celebrate the co-op difference
The theme for this year’s Co-operative Fortnight (23 June - 7 July) is ‘the co‐operative
difference’. What makes co-ops different? How can this be celebrated?
One way is to share some of the stories of how co-operatives do things differently
– and how they make a difference to their members, customers and communities.
This issue we have done just that, looking at examples of great, change-making
co-operation from the UK and internationally.
Oliver Sylvester-Bradley from The Open Co-op introduces the concept of Hullcoin,
while the Co-op Group’s Brad Hill looks back on 20 years in Fairtrade. We have Q&As
with representatives of credit unions and the Co-op Party, too, and take a look at
Co-operatives UK’s Co-operative Economy Report 2018. Read about these, and more,
from page 26.
REBECCA HARVEY - EXECUTIVE EDITOR
JULY 2018 | 3
CLOCKWISE FROM FAR LEFT
Co-operatives Fortnight is celebrating the
co-operative difference; the Co-op
Group’s Brad Hill looks at the difference
co-operatives and Fairtrade have made
together; the pubs serving different sections
of their communities; and the co-ops
reclaiming cultural identity in Canada.
COVER: Co-operatives Fortnight
2018 is celebrating the
Read more: p26-47
22-23 MEET... SUE BALCOMB
Secretary of the Horton Women’s
24 MEET... REBECCA HARVEY
Newly appointed executive editor of
26 -47 CO-OPERATIVES FORTNIGHT
The theme for Co-operatives Fortnight
2018 (23 June - 7 July) is ‘the co-operative
difference’. To celebrate, we tell the
stories of some of the co-operatives and
co-operators making a difference in their
sectors and communities.
28-29 THE ECONOMY
Co-operatives UK’s Economy Report
2018 highlights how co-operatives are
a resilient form of business – but that
they need more support
How are co-ops helping freelancers plot
a course through the changing world
The co-ops keeping farming traditions
32-33 FAIR TAX
Should co-ops be leading on the issue
of fair tax?
The pubs being saved by community
Brad Hill looks over a career than has
witnessed first-hand the difference that
Riverford Organic Farmers has made
the transition to employee-ownership
42-43 INDIGENOUS PEOPLES
Reclaiming cultural identity in Canada
44-45 LOCAL CURRENCIES
Unlocking the hidden value in Hull’s
46 SOCIAL CARE
Co-operative Life is Australia’s first
worker-owned social care co-op
With the Co-op Party’s Claire McCarthy
and the Co-operative Credit Union’s
5-16 UK updates
17-21 Global updates
4 | JULY 2018
Debate over rail and
water in Labour and
Suggestions that an incoming Labour
government would favour a mutual
model for the water industry over full
nationalisation have been denied by a
But at the same time, Labour
/Co-op MP Luke Pollard has argued that
a mutual model for rail services would
offer an effective safeguard against future
In a blog post on the website of the
Co-op Party – Labour’s sister organisation
– Mr Pollard wrote: “Let’s create
shareholdings that turn our great public
utilities into truly great mutually owned
Mr Pollard’s comments came as Labour
denied suggestions from within the water
industry that it was privately considering
a mutual alternative.
Addressing the GMB Congress in
Brighton, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
backed the union’s water nationalisation
campaign, ‘Take Back the Tap’.
p Luke Pollard (c) Co-operative Party
/ Tehmoor Khalid / Krzysztof Kseba
He told delegates: “The privatisation
of water has been a failed and unpopular
experiment. It’s been bad for workers in
the industry and bad for bill payers.
“The only people it hasn’t been bad for
is the rich shareholders.”
But Susan Davy – chief financial officer
of Pennon Group, which owns South West
Water – had claimed in an interview with
Financial Director website that Labour
was considering a mutual option instead.
“Their preference seems to be moving
towards what we would call mutualisation,
where you have some sort of model that
allows customers to be owners,” she said.
“That’s where we can have a much more
Her remarks promoted a firm response
from Labour. A spokesperson told The
Guardian: “As we announced in the general
election, the next Labour government
will take public ownership of water by
issuing bonds in exchange for shares
in the companies.
“We are not considering mutualisation.”
But writing on the Co-op Party website,
Luke Pollard warned that straightforward
nationalisation was open to the
risk of reversal.
“Labour’s superb 2017 manifesto
advocated bringing the railways and
utilities back into public ownership,” he
said. “But then what? We’ve seen from
the antics of Tory prime ministers since
2010 that selling public goods off at below
market rate is a tactic they’ll use.”
Looking at the issue of transport,
he warned: “Labour needs to be very
cautious that in ending rail privatisation
we are not simply holding the assets on
ice for the Tories to re-privatise later.
“That is why co-operators need to
be loud in our advocacy for genuine
democratic public ownership. This means
once the railways have been nationalised,
let’s mutualise them. Let’s create
shareholdings that turn our great public
utilities into truly great mutually owned
He added: “Where the cost of upfront
nationalisation is too great, let’s create
co-operative insurgencies within the share
ownerships of those utilities. These co-op
share clubs would reinvest profits back
into expanding the mutual ownership
proportion over time.”
Mr Pollard said there was caution
about “old school socialism” as well as
mainstream capitalism, leaving room
for a co-op alternative, which would
be “a powerful tool for re-imagining
a fairer Britain.”
He said Mr Corbyn “has done much
to create an environment where these
policies could be welcomed”.
Mr Pollard’s fellow Labour/Co-op MP
Alex Sobel also posted a Co-op Party blog
in favour of mutual models.
He said: “I’m looking forward to
exploring democratic models of public
ownership in the water sector, building
on the ideas in the Co-operative Party’s
Ownership Matters report. For example,
I have spoken with members of the
shadow treasury team about ways we can
learn from Welsh Water’s mutual model,
which I have long admired.
“I like the idea that we can have a
different kind of economy, neither marketdriven
capitalism nor command and
control by the state. One where employees,
consumers and community are at the
heart of decision-making instead of profit.
“Mutual models in water companies
create democratic structures where bill
payers and workers set priorities for
investment in infrastructure and the
environment. They mean customers, not
shareholders, setting executive pay and
JULY 2018 | 5
Co-ops and inclusion: Report looks to a new kind of economy for Wales
p Jean John and Sheila Pratten, volunteers at The Boutique shop in Maerdy, Rhondda Cynon Taf. All profits go back into community projects
The social business sector plays a key
role in building an inclusive economy in
Wales, according to a new study.
Published by the Wales Co-operative
Centre and the Bevan Foundation,
Creating an Inclusive Economy in Wales
(s.coop/26hts) highlights six key steps.
It says an inclusive economy gives
people a say in economic decisions,
ensures their needs are taken into
account, and benefits more people.
It identifies four separate, but linked,
dimensions of an inclusive economy:
diverse and resilient businesses to create
wealth and provide goods and services;
decent work for everyone; knowledge and
skills so people can secure a livelihood;
and a say in economic decisions.
The study notes that worker
representation can be achieved through
employee-ownership or unions and
Victoria Winckler, director of the Bevan
Foundation and author of the report,
said: “There is growing evidence that the
most resilient places across Europe have
strong networks between public, private
and social sectors. Yet most economic
development decisions, like the existing
Welsh City Deals, are taken by public
sector leaders and big businesses that are
far removed from civil society and focus
on traditional economic objectives such
as boosting the Gross Value Added.
“For example, how do we ensure places
such as the south Wales valleys and
groups such as disabled people or black
and minority ethnic communities actually
benefit from growth? Our report looks at
practical proposals that can help achieve
an inclusive economy. It provides a vision
for what an inclusive economy might look
like, and sets an agenda for action that
economic actors of all kinds can adopt.”
Derek Walker, chief executive of the
Wales Co-operative Centre, added:
“Creating an inclusive economy goes
much further than getting a citizen voice
around the City deal table. It is about
changing the way we connect with
people and do business with one another.
It means making equality an integral part
of the process of creating prosperity. It is
in effect a new economic model.
“The vote to leave the EU was a strong
signal that the current economic system
is not working for everyone. The Welsh
government’s recognition within its
latest economic action plan of spreading
opportunity and promoting wellbeing,
is a welcome first step. However, there
is a great deal more to do to ensure that
commitment is translated into action.
“Both the Wales Co-operative Centre
and the Bevan Foundation will be playing
an active part in turning the vision of
prosperity for all into a reality. We hope
that Welsh government and its agencies,
local authorities, City Deals, trade unions
and many other economic actors will
play their part too.”
Meanwhile, applications are open
for the Social Business Wales Awards
2018. This year there are three headline
categories – Wales Social Enterprise of
the Year; Wales One to Watch and Wales
Employee-Owned Business of the Year.
Social enterprises can also enter five
other categories – Health and Social
Care; Consumer Facing; Environmental;
Education, Training and Employment;
and Tech for Good.
Nominations close on 13 July and can
be made at s.coop/26hv2.
6 | JULY 2018
Austerity bites as a quarter of community groups say their future is at stake
A quarter of local causes in the UK
fear for their survival, according to the
Causes and Effect report published by the
During the past 18 months, the Group
has distributed more than £20m to over
12,000 local causes through its Local
Community Fund. But a new survey of
1,500 of the supported organisations
highlights that a quarter are either worried
or very worried about the future.
“The report is clear that an
overwhelming number of causes are
seeing a marked increase in the demand
for their services, with a significant
number concerned about the future,” said
Rebecca Birkbeck, director of community
engagement at the Group.
“Our research suggests that many of
the causes we’ve been working with
are already feeling the impact of local
authority funding cuts. When asked about
their concerns for what lies ahead more
than half (56%) said they were witnessing
a growing demand for their service, which
isn’t being matched by increased funding
or resources. 44% are concerned about
rising costs and 30% have had public
The survey also highlighted the
increasing importance of communities
working together co-operatively, with
pChildren’s groups are among those affected
68% of those surveyed saying they
would like greater support locally and
43% saying closer links with other
community and charitable organisations
would be helpful.
“With cutbacks in local authority
spending we’re seeing the need to relearn
the values and skills of community-based
self-help that became common place in
the 19th century,” said Ms Birkbeck. “It is
increasingly important that we all support
the crucial work of community groups,
co-ops and local charities.”
The report coincides with the launch
of a campaign to encourage Co-op Group
members to select the local organisations
they wish to support. Members receive 5%
back on own-brand product purchases,
while an additional 1% goes towards the
Community Fund; members can then log
in to their member account and choose
which local cause to back. If a member
doesn’t choose a cause, their 1% is shared
out between their most local causes.
“The Co-op’s Local Community Fund
is an example of how business can help
to drive these connections and offers
our 4.6 million members the chance
to decide which local organisations
they would like to support,” said Ms
Birkbeck. “There’s £5m just waiting to
be allocated to local causes, so I would
urge our members to visit our website and
have their say.”
Government policy is
still hurting community
energy, says report
Last year was a difficult one for the
community energy sector marked by a
slowdown in growth, a report warns.
The State of the Sector Report 2018,
the second annual review of community
energy in England, Wales and Northern
Ireland, says only one new community
organisation was constituted in 2017, with
30 fewer successful projects and 31% less
generation capacity installed or acquired
in comparison to 2016.
Cuts to subsidies and tax incentives
are still hitting profits, it says, but the
sector has stayed resilent thanks to
successes in large-scale generation,
increased collaboration, new business
approaches, innovative financing and
new technologies, such as battery storage.
The report, a survey of more than 200
organisations by Community Energy
England (CEE), Community Energy Wales
(CEW) and Scene Connect (Scene), calls on
local and national government to create
clearer strategies, including early stage
funding, financing support and subsidy
review. Without this, the problems hitting
the sector will continue, it says.
Communities across England, Wales and
Northern Ireland own 168 MW of electrical
generation capacity and generated 202
GWh in 2017, enough to meet the annual
demand of 65,000 homes, according to
the report, released on 23 June to mark
the start of Community Energy Fortnight
and the Community Energy Conference in
Another survey, from Co-op Energy,
has found that Almost four fifths (79%) of
Britons want the government to do more
to help local communities generate their
Nearly three quarters (71%) of people
said they would support communityowned
renewable energy projects, up from
67% two years ago. Just 6% said they would
be unlikely to support such a scheme.
JULY 2018 | 7
FCA wants new rules to
tackle expensive lenders
and boost credit unions
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)
has published a review of high-cost credit,
with proposals that could save borrowers
up to £140m a year.
The regulator looked at the rent-to-own
sector, overdrafts, home-collected credit,
catalogue credit and store cards. It wants
to promote alternatives such as credit
unions and community development
financial institutions (CDFIs).
According to the regulator, in 2016
lenders earned £2.3bn from overdrafts,
30% of which came from unarranged
overdrafts. In certain cases, it said,
people ended up paying over £1,500 for
essentials like an electric cooker, which
could be bought on the high street for less
than £300. It is considering introducing a
cap on rent-to-own prices.
The FCA also plans new requirements
to raise standards in disclosure and sales
practices in the home-collected credit
sector. It estimates these changes could
save consumers up to £34m a year.
Catalogue credit and store card firms will
be required to do more to help customers
avoid persistent debt. The FCA believes
the move could enable consumers to save
up to £27.5m a year.
The regulator has prepared guidance to
help social landlords, including housing
co-ops, refer their tenants to alternatives
such as credit unions and CDFIs.
The FCA will also be looking at how
CDFIs and credit unions access credit
reference agency data and the terms on
which this is done, as well as the range
of products credit unions are allowed to
offer consumers by law.
The Association of British Credit
Unions (Abcul) welcomed the proposed
changes. Its head of policy and
communications, Matt Bland, said:
“Credit unions up and down the country
are actively mopping up the mess caused
by these lenders and seeking to offer a
responsible alternative and any moves
to clamp down on their worst excesses
“We are also very pleased to see the
section on FCA action to support the
expansion of alternatives such as credit
unions. The measures proposed will make
a difference to credit unions doing the
hard work of offering a reasonably priced
alternative to those with limited options.
“We’re particularly excited by the
discussions, which the FCA is taking
part in, around new investment in
financial inclusion initiatives, and by
the prospect of FCA supporting a review
of credit union legislation which we
believe could unlock significant growth in
Co-op Credit Union rebrands with international co-op marque logo
The Co-operative Credit Union has adopted the global
co-operative marque as part of its new brand and colour
scheme. The credit union, which also uses the .coop domain,
launched the new look at the Co-operative Group’s AGM in
Manchester on 19 May.
Set up in 1998, the credit union has lent £30m to its 8,000
members across a number of different co-operatives across Great
Britain. It has seven permanent staff members and 25 volunteers,
who manage over £5m of members’ savings and outstanding
loans of £2.5m. Over the past five years, the credit union has
experienced a 64% increase in membership, and a doubling
Operations manager Andrew Davey said: “Our new look
and feel reflects the credit union’s close relationship with the
co-operative sector in its widest sense.
“It signals the latest in a series of updates and improvements to
our member service, including new and improved online account
access where our members can check balances, make self-serve
withdrawals and send secure messages, with a speedier online
loan application to be added soon.”
The credit union is open to current and retired employees
of co-operative organisations.
The co-operative marque was developed by the International
Co-operative Alliance as a global identity for the co-operative
movement. The logo was designed by Calverts, a London based
uRead our Q&A with Andrew Davey on p47
8 | JULY 2018
Northern Ireland’s first community-run sports academy kicks off share offer
p Tiziana O’Hara of Co-operative Alternatives,
Ballymacash directors Chris Finlay and Laura
Turner, and Nigel McKinney from the Building
Change Trust launch the share offer
The first community-run sports academy
in Northern Ireland has launched a
community share offer for a £1.5m facility.
Ballymacash Sports Academy, born
out of Ballymacash Rangers FC, wants
to raise between £50,000 and £200,000
with the share offer, which will finance
the first phase of a five-phase plan.
The share offer was launched with
the help of the Building Change Trust’s
Community Shares Ready! programme
run by Co-operative Alternatives.
The state-of-the-art sports facility in
Lisburn, which has been granted planning
permission, will include a new clubhouse,
function room, gym, floodlit seven-a-side
3G artificial grass pitch, a 250-seat stand
and a cryospa (recovery ice bath).
Academy director Philip Trimble said
there would be a focus on encouraging the
young, the elderly and the economically
disadvantaged to participate more in
healthy activities, alongside a bursary
scheme for young sports stars.
Nigel McKinney, director of the Building
Change Trust, said that despite Northern
Ireland’s long history of producer and
consumer co-operatives, the communityowned
co-op model is a novel one in the
region but added: “It’s a brilliant model
for our times ... I want to commend
Ballymacash Rangers for their vision
and Co-operative Alternatives for their
Tiziana O’Hara of Co-operative
Alternatives said: “Many people want a
say in how leisure and sports facilities
operating in their area are run for the
benefit of everyone.
“Ballymacash has a proud history
of working on community-based projects
and we would appeal to everyone who
has an interest in a better future for
all to become involved in the running
of this incredible organisation.”
The share offer can be found at
s.coop/26hwh and closes on 19 July.
Jane Hutt AM joins Michael Sheen as patron of Credit Unions of Wales
Actor and activist Michael Sheen has
a new collaborator on the political stage
in the form of Welsh assembly member
The AM for Vale of Glamorgan has
joined the Hollywood star as patron
of Credit Unions of Wales, with a vision
of creating a ‘credit union nation’.
This vision has won the backing of first
minister Carwyn Jones, who said the Welsh
government recognises “the valuable role
credit unions play in providing ethical
Ms Hutt said: “The fact that credit
unions offer an ethical and affordable way
of saving and borrowing for all of us is key.
But they are also a way we can contribute
to the whole community – including those
who are experiencing hardship, debt
“It is universal; we can all take part,
we can all benefit and we can all help
underpin this ethical borrowing and
saving service for those who need it as an
alternative to payday loans.”
She added that she would “work
tirelessly to support the movement
to make Wales a credit union nation”.
p Leanne Herberg, CEO of Cardiff and Vale Credit Union; Jane Hutt; Nicola Field, manager of
Bridgend Lifesavers Credit Union; and Michael Sheen
The appointment will see Ms Hutt and
Mr Sheen collaborate to raise awareness
and membership of the country’s 18
not-for-profit, community savings and
affordable loans providers across Wales.
Credit Unions of Wales has forged
strong links with more than 140
employers. Organisations involved in
the Payroll Partner scheme work to
improve the financial wellbeing of staff
by offering the opportunity to save or
repay a loan with a credit union directly
from their salary.
Mr Sheen has also been active for the
credit union movement in Scotland,
where he opened the new Leith
branch of Castle Community Bank in
Edinburgh, giving a passionate speech
to a huge crowd including Scottish
government minister Angela Constance,
former Scottish Labour leader Kezia
Dugdale and Ben McPherson MSP.
JULY 2018 | 9
Central England to hand unsold food over to local charities
p Representatives from Central England Co-op and FareShare celebrate the roll-out
Central England Co-op is rolling out a
project to redirect unsold food to hundreds
of local charities.
Following a successful pilot, the retailer
has teamed up with FareShare East
Midlands to collect best-before food items
and non-food goods that cannot be sold
from all its food stores, across 16 counties.
They will be delivered to FareShare,
which will send them to over 250 charities
around the Midlands.
Organisers say the scheme will help
cut food waste by at least 40% and
provide over one million meals per year to
vulnerable people. The pilot scheme took
place in nine stores in Leicester and has
seen enough food redistributed to deliver
over 12,000 meals to people in need.
Hannah Gallimore, Central England’s
corporate responsibility manager, said:
“Food waste is a topic customers and
colleagues regularly talk to us about.
“We have been looking for a solution to
this issue for many years and are proud to
be able to reveal our plan to tackle food
waste in a manner that has a major impact
for our communities and our partners.
One of the main reasons we are so proud
of this project is the fact that it is unique
“The process behind it is all based
around ensuring that the food is sorted,
collected and sent out to partners as
quickly as possible to ensure that it gets
to the people who need it when they need
it – ranging from community kitchens to
breakfast clubs and hostels.”
She said the society was aiming for
an initial cut to waste of 40%, with the
ultimate goal of redistributing 100% of
best before goods that have not been sold,
Central England has also launched an
appeal to prevent children going hungry
over the summer period, when they do not
receive free school meals.
The society’s campaign will run for
three months from June to August, raising
food and toiletry items for children in
need. The initiative builds on the co-op’s
previous Christmas and Easter appeals,
which collected over 85,000 items for food
banks in its trading area.
Midcounties Co-op partners with OLIO to address food waste
The Midcounties Co-operative is teaming
up with food-sharing app OLIO to reduce
food waste. Through the app, individuals
and businesses can upload images
of leftover food, which can then be
collected by other users for free.
The retailer will be piloting the scheme
in Oxfordshire, and aims to roll it out
across its 225 food stores. Midcounties is
also working with food banks across its
trading area. Last year the society donated
over 73,000 products from colleagues,
members and customers.
OLIO was launched in 2015 by Tessa
Cook and Saasha Celestial-One, two
friends who wanted to tackle the issue
of food waste. The app was primarily
designed to enable people to give away
unwanted food to their neighbours or
those living nearby. The platform can
now be used for non-food household
items as well.
Phil Ponsonby, chief executive for
trading at Midcounties – who becomes
p The co-op has launched an app to help
people cut down on food waste
group CEO this month – said: “In the past
few years we’ve worked closely with local
foodbanks to donate food items to those in
need. The partnership with OLIO is a great
opportunity for us to donate on a larger
scale, and reduce our CO2 emissions by
reducing our food waste.
“Midcounties is committed to giving back
to local communities and to sustainability.
We look forward to seeing the impact
of the initiative in Banbury and are already
making plans to introduce it nationwide.”
Tessa Cook, co-founder at OLIO, added:
“Since we launched we’ve prevented
more than 250,000 meals from going
to waste and we look forward to seeing
this number continue to rise as we work
with Midcounties. The OLIO app makes
sharing food simple as individuals can
see food available near them and easily
“Our aim is to create a more sustainable
future by encouraging people to share
food with those who want or need
it, rather than letting it go to waste.
The food items that one individual is
prepared to throw in the bin could be the
ingredients for another family’s feast.”
10 | JULY 2018
Chelmsford Star wins
national award for
pSociety president Pauline Dodd and head
of membership and marketing Kevin Bennett
receive the award
Chelmsford Star Co-operative has
won ‘Best For Community Impact’ at
the National Business Charity Awards
The Essex-based independent society,
which has 50 branches in Essex,
including travel agents, food shops and
funeral homes, alongside its Quadrant
department stores in Chelmsford and
Braintree, beat international competition
from the likes of Aldi and Prudential.
Judges recognised the sheer volume
of charity work and community initiatives
that Chelmsford Star has run over its
150-year history, in particular its Charity
of the Year programme.
They also noted that a third of all its
turnover is reinvested into the Essex
economy in some way.
Head of membership and marketing,
Kevin Bennett, said, “Thirty-three pence
in every pound people spend in our
shops supports Essex in some way. As a
co-op, this is what we do, it’s our whole
point for existing, it is in our DNA.
“That being said, it is fantastic to
be recognised for the fact we punch
above our weight. It felt a bit like David
and Goliath tonight, as some of those
businesses operate in more counties than
we have stores!”
Heart of England to move its HQ to Coventry
Heart of England Co-op is looking to move
its head office from Nuneaton to Coventry.
The society is selling the Nuneaton site
and could not find a suitable replacement
in the town. The department store near
the HQ closed in June 2016 as part of the
society’s decision to close loss-making
non-food stores across its trading area.
Since then, the building in Abbey Street
has been empty.
New group CEO of Midcounties named as Ben Reid retires
The Midcounties Co-operative has
announced that Phil Ponsonby will be
its new group chief executive, following
the retirement of Ben Reid at the end of
July. Mr Reid, who has spent more than
40 years in the co-operative movement,
led Midcounties as it grew into the UK’s
largest independent co-operative, with
Scotmid wins award for favourite food-to-go retailer
Scotmid has been crowned consumers’
favourite food-to-go convenience retailer
at the HIM Awards. The co-op, which
reported a £4.8m trading profit earlier this
year, was one of 15 convenience retailers
and suppliers presented with awards. The
awards are based on more than 20,000
face-to-face shopper interviews.
Lincolnshire Co-op makes new drive to cut carrier bag use
Lincolnshire Co-op has announced a
new campaign to tackle plastic waste
after it emerged that growing numbers of
shoppers are choosing to buy a single-use
5p carrier bag instead of reusing a bag.
When the carrier bag levy was introduced
in October 2015, the number of single
-use carrier-bags issued dropped from 2.4
million in 2014 to 48.8 million in 2015
Southern Co-op hosts charity football tournament
In the run-up to the World Cup, the
Southern Co-op raised over £3,800
for local hospice, Naomi House and
Jacksplace. The retailer hosted a
charity football tournament on 12 June,
with the tournament taking place at
Goals, a five-a-side football centre
JULY 2018 | 11
Co-op Group joins government campaign to fight loneliness
The government has pledged £20m of
new funding for charities and community
groups fighting loneliness – £2m of which
will be delivered by the Co-op Group’s
charity, the Co-op Foundation.
The Building Connections Fund, a
response to the Jo Cox Commission on
Loneliness, will include £5m allocated by
the government, an additional £5m from
the Big Lottery Fund and £1m from the
Prime minister Theresa May said:
“This will build on work already going
on, including through the second
Great Get Together this weekend,
which will see people up and down
the country celebrating the strength
of their communities.”
The Co-op Foundation will focus on
youth projects, building on the Group’s
own campaign to address loneliness,
launched 18 months ago. The Group’s
Trapped in a Bubble research with the Red
Cross revealed that one in three young
people felt lonely “often” or “always”.
Group chair Allan Leighton said:
“Loneliness is not the preserve of the
elderly – it can affect people at different
life stages. Through my involvement with
the Co-op Foundation I’ve seen how it has
brought attention to the widespread, but
long-overlooked issue of youth loneliness.
“I’m delighted the Co-op Foundation
is partnering with the government
on the Building Connections Fund to
invest £2m in projects that bring young
people together, develop their skills
and help them get more involved in
Grants are available for community
groups and charities until March 2021.
Jamie Ward-Smith, chair of the Coop
Foundation, added: “The Co-op
Foundation is working to connect and
empower 5,000 young people to tackle
loneliness in their communities. Our
new match-funding partnership with the
government will help us build on this,
Trapped in a bubble
An investigation into triggers
for loneliness in the UK
p The Group’s Trapped in a Bubble report
extending our network of partners and
reaching even more young people. We
believe youth loneliness is best tackled at
community level, by working with young
people to overcome the stigma around
this issue and helping them shape their
Jewish community in North London
plans to boycott new Co-op shop
The opening of a new Co-op Group store in Hampstead, North
London, has stirred debate in the local community.
The Jewish Chronicle said some Jewish residents intend to
boycott the store because of the Group’s decision not to source
products from Israeli settlements in the Palestinian Occupied
Territories. Two Jewish locals said they perceived the Group’s
policy as an anti-Israel boycott.
Since 2009, the Co-op Group has operated a Human Rights and
Trade Policy which sets out the exceptional circumstances under
which it will withdraw trade from a state, area or settlement.
One such circumstance is where there is a broad international
consensus that the status of a designated region or state is illegal.
A Group spokesman said the boycott – which has won support
on social media – should not
be perceived as one against
all Israeli enterprises, just
those operating in the Israeli
settlements in the Palestinian
Occupied Territories. He
said: “We remain committed
to trading with Israeli
suppliers that do not source
from the settlements.”
the winners of
the Grocer Gold
The Co-op Group and the East of England Co-op both scooped
accolades at the 2018 Grocer Gold Awards.
The Co-op Group took home the Green Initiative of the
Year Award for Project Closed Loop, a campaign to replace
unrecyclable packaging with sustainable alternatives.
Cathryn Higgs, the Group’s head of policy (pictured above
receiving the award with environment manager Iain Ferguson),
said: “We have been working relentlessly for over three decades
to minimise the environmental impact of our products. In the last
12 months we have taken great strides to meet our plan to make
100% of our packaging recyclable and we are delighted to get
endorsement from our industry peers at the very highest level.”
East of England Co-op picked up the Waste Not Want Not
Award, in recognition of its food waste reduction initiative
to sell products past their Best Before date.
Joint chief executive Roger Grosvenor said: “We were extremely
proud to accept this award. Receiving recognition from our
industry is the latest in a string of successes for this scheme,
which continues to flourish in stores.”
12 | JULY 2018
New fund and advice service opens for community businesses
p Volunteers at PermaFuture, one of the groups to benefit from funding
Community businesses across the UK
are being invited to apply for one-toone
advice, peer learning and small
development grants through the Bright
The initiative is run by Power to
Change, an independent trust supporting
community businesses in England,
which announced it would award up
to £700,000 through the project.
The fund has awarded almost £1.3m
to 89 new community businesses across
England since its launch in October 2016.
Examples include Permafuture
Agroecology, a co-op working to support
and promote restorative and urban
farming. The programme enabled it to set
up as a co-op and launch Bentley Urban
Farm, an up-cycled market garden in
Bentley, Yorkshire. The farm is tackling
food poverty by teaching people how to
save money by growing their own food.
It also helps create wildlife habitats at
Bentley’s local parks and builds wildlife
areas with the help of children from a
local Primary Learning Centre. Through
a Veg Box Scheme, the co-op enables
people to buy locally produced food and
offers subsidised boxes to poorer families.
Power to Change expects to award
£200,000 in business development
support and £500,000 in grants. Those
accepted onto the programme can also
apply for a grant of up to £15,000 to fund
development and start-up costs.
Sara Buchanan, programme manager
of Bright Ideas, said: “This is a chance
for communities to take back control. Any
business can be a community business
and there are almost 7,000 in England
alone right now with a combined market
income of £1.2bn. How they differ is that
any profits flow back into the immediate
community to deliver positive social
impact for local people.”
The programme is run by Locality,
the national network for community
organisations. Stephen Rolph, head of
Assets and Enterprise at Locality, said:
“Every day we see the impact of local
communities coming together to meet
local needs and tackle challenges in their
area. This new funding will enable many
more organisations to unlock the power
in their communities so that local people
can shape their own futures, filling gaps
in much needed services.”
The Bright Ideas Fund is open
for applications until 31 July. More
information at s.coop/26khe
Opening time announced for community pubs support network
A network is being created to help put
more pubs in community hands – and
leaders from the growing sector are being
invited to help run it.
The Plunkett Foundation, which has
been supporting rural communities since
1919, is creating the network, which will
be funded by Power to Change.
It will offer bespoke support, advice
and resources to help community pubs
set up, run sustainably, and increase their
local social impact. And it will create more
formal opportunities for shared learning
on top of Plunkett’s existing advisory
services and raise national awareness
of the community-owned pub model.
“18 pubs are closing a week, according
to the Campaign for Real Ale, leaving big
gaps at the heart of communities,” said
Harriet English, head of engagement at
Plunkett. “In comparison, community
pubs have a 100% survival rate. We need
to put more into community ownership.”
In collaboration with other leading
experts in the pubs sector including
CAMRA, the British Institute of
Innkeeping, the Beer and Pub Association
and Co-operative and Community
Finance, a suite of specialist resources
and training modules will be created to
make it easier for
communities to buy
and run their local.
will become the
‘go to’ place for
pub needs, says
will play a key
role in helping to
inspire and enable
community pubs to work together to
improve their sustainability and viability.
The organisation is looking for
community pub representatives to join the
network’s steering group to help shape
the design of the network and the support
it delivers. Email membership@plunkett.
co.uk for more information.
uSee more on community pubs, p34-35
p Oxfordshire’s Abingdon Arms became a community pub in 2017
JULY 2018 | 13
everyday participation reshape the way co-operatives work?
A toolkit for the co-operative movement
Social innovation lab the New
Citizenship Project has been holding
of bootcamps to show how “everyday
participation” can help reshape the
The workshops use case studies,
practical tools and tips on building
member loyalty and engagement
and harness the participation and
contributions of members.
“We help organisations think
of people as citizens, not consumers,”
said programme manager Iris Schönherr.
She believes this is an important shift
to make, because customers only choose
between options, while a citizen shapes
The Project has worked with nongovernmental
and governments to encourage this shift –
which requires fundamental change,
said Ms Schönherr, not just in terms
of marketing and communications, but to
an organisation’s structure and purpose.
The team decided to look at how
these principles would work for
co-ops, which have the right structure
for everyday participation. Ms Schönherr
believes it is equally suited to worker
co-ops – where it is “a golden ticket
to involving members and building
loyalty” – and consumer co-ops, where
a participatory culture can create a safe
space for collaboration.
Last year, the Project worked with the
Co-op Group, Lincolnshire Co-op, the
Phone Co-op and Nationwide Building
Society on an eight-month programme.
The businesses were partnered up to
learn from each other and workshops
and coaching sessions were organised to
see how co-ops could work with staff and
customers to achieve more, in commercial
terms as well as in terms of social impact.
The Project wants to share these findings
with other co ops and has created a toolkit
on everyday participation.
“It really is about finding the small but
meaningful ways to involve people in
what you do and to harness the ideas and
energy of members,” said Ms Schönherr.
The project found the four co-ops
engaged with members in two different
ways: economic participation – trading,
choosing products and delivering
feedback; and governance participation –
voting for representatives and involvement
in a democratic structures.
“The problem is that economic
participation is used by lots of people
... but people don’t realise co-ops are
different and interesting,” said Ms
Schönherr. Meanwhile, governance runs
the risk of only involving a small group
of people – “the usual suspects”, begging
the question: “How do you bring a more
Everyday participation offers a “middle
territory” where “people don’t just buy
from you, they buy into you”.
She warned that “there’s a bit of a lack
in the co-op movement in how to have a
meaningful relationship,” but believes coops
can fix this using the new methods of
engagement offered via the internet.
“There are organisations out there who
are involving people in what they are
doing but don’t have the co-op structure
... It’s in the co-op DNA, but other
organisations are stealing your clothes. So
there’s an opportunity there.
“When you offer more opportunities
to participate you get more meaningful
engagement – members stay longer,
contribute more value, spend more
money. You get better innovation as an
organisation because you harness more
ideas from more people, and because
they are closer to the problem that co-ops
are looking to solve, there’s more
Co-ops are on board with this idea, she
says, but need practical tools – which is
why the project developed seven points
for everyday participation:
Tell stories: giving people
a framework and structure to share their
Gather data: asking people to collect
information as part of some exercise. Ms
Schönherr gives the example of the RSPB
Big Garden Birdwatch, which asks people
to count the birds in their garden on a
certain date: the organisation gets data,
the member gets a sense of ownership.
Share connections: giving people
a way of talking to each other. Activities
like the Ice Bucket Challenge tap into
people’s connections and offer a structure
to discuss an issue, she says (in this case
ALS, or motor neurone disease).
Contribute ideas: sharing a project you
are working on and asking for people’s
ideas, for instance through suggestion
boxes or asking on Twitter.
Give time: offering people the chance
to do short but meaningful tasks to
help your organisation, perhaps by
testing a product.
Learning tools: learning opportunities
to do with your business.
Crowdfunding innovation: ask people
to fund new innovations or additions to
The New Citizenship Project worked
with apex body Co-operatives UK to print
the toolkit and send it to 100 co-ops;
co-ops attending the bootcamps will learn
to use the tools in everyday life.
Iris Schönherr is speaking at the Open
2018: Platform Cooperatives conference
on 26-27 July. Register at 2018.open.coop.
The next bootcamp is held in London
on 3 October; tickets (£200 plus VAT),
are available at s.coop/open2018.
14 | JULY 2018
Co-operators recognised in Queen’s
Birthday Honours list
General Manager - Food
Salary £100,000+ and executive car
p Margaret Casely-Hayford has been made an CBE
Three co-operators have been named in this year’s
Queen’s Birthday Honours list for services to their sectors
Jim McCrum, manager and secretary for more than 30 years at
the Rathfriland Farmer’s Co-op Society in County Down, NI, has
been awarded an MBE for services to his co-op and the farming
community. “This is a very well-deserved accolade for a man
who has dedicated his life to nurturing Rathfriland Co-op from
its inauguration some 30-odd years ago until now. Well done Jim
from all the staff and shareholders,” said the co-op.
Energy4All’s Annette Heslop also received an MBE for her
services to the community energy sector. Ms Heslop has been
involved in community energy for more than 20 years and played
an important role in the creation of the 23 renewable energy coops
that are part of Energy4All. She has been a finance director
of Energy4All since 2004.
She said: “I was thrilled to receive the MBE. When the envelope
arrived through my door I didn’t quite believe it, what a lovely
but totally unexpected surprise ... I would like to thank my fellow
directors and staff past and present at Energy4All for all their
hard work and dedication. We have a number of exciting projects
in the pipeline and are continually working hard to increase the
community energy sector in the UK despite the many barriers.”
Co-op Group member-nominated director Margaret Casely-
Hayford received a CBE for charitable services in the UK and
abroad. In addition to sitting on the Group’s board, she is
chancellor at Coventry University and chair of ActionAid UK,
Carnegie and Kate Greenaway children’s book awards diversity
review, and the Globe Theatre. She was the director of Legal
Services for the John Lewis Partnership for nine years.
Ms Casely-Hayford sent congratulations to others named in
the honours list and thanked the organisations she represented.
“Thank you to you and all those with whom I’ve had the pleasure
of working. It’s an award for all of us,” she wrote on Twitter.
Allan Leighton, chair of the Co-op Group, said: “We’re
delighted that Margaret has been recognised for her services to
charity both here in the UK and overseas, along with her work
to create diversity on boards. The commercial insight she brings
combined with her passion for diversity makes her a valuable
asset in our boardroom and an inspiration to work with.”
Operating throughout Coventry, Warwickshire,
South Leicestershire and Northamptonshire,
the Heart of England Co-operative Society is one of
the most profitable independent retail Co-operative
Societies in the UK with a turnover of £77 million
and employing around 700 people throughout our
32 Food Stores and 13 Funeral Homes.
Due to the relocation in autumn to Coventry, we are looking to
appoint a General Manager for our Food Division who would be
working at our current Head Office in Nuneaton, Warwickshire
prior to moving permanently to the Coventry office.
Reporting directly to the Chief Executive, the successful candidate
must have experience in such a role and would be expected to:-
• Have a thorough knowledge and sound understanding of food
retailing in the Convenience Sector.
• Must have experience with ‘Multi Site’ retail Management.
• Have a proven track record in delivering profitability.
• Work within the Buying Group and implementing policies
of this Group regarding ranging and promotional activities.
• Manage margins and leakage controls.
• Manage a tight budget.
• Develop the food business further.
Energy, enthusiasm and a flexible attitude will be essential in
all candidates as is an aptitude to understanding our aims and
objectives as a member owned co-operative business.
Benefits also include a staff discount scheme and a
defined contributory pension scheme.
Please apply in writing with a full CV and current
Salary details or by email to:
Maureen Emms - Personnel Manager, Heart of England
Co-operative Society Limited, 22 Abbey Street, Nuneaton,
Warwickshire CV11 5BU
Telephone: 024 7638 2331
Closing Date: 13th July 2018 www.heartofengland.coop
JULY 2018 | 15
Co-ops pledge to promote sustainability on World Environment Day
To mark World Environment Day (5 June)
UK co-op retailers have highlighted how
they are making a difference by tackling
The Co-op Group published a statement
in which it explained what it was doing
to encourage customers to recycle
more. The retailer says it is also working
with local authorities and waste
management companies to make recycling
easier for consumers.
Earlier in 2018 the mutual asked its
members to join in its #TheCoopWay
campaign by suggesting practical
ways to reduce waste and improve
recycling. The initiative resulted in 800
ideas submitted by members, some
of which were chosen for pilot projects.
Members attending the group’s AGM in
Manchester also voted to make 100% of its
packaging “easy to recycle”.
Changes recently made by the
Group include switching all Co-opbranded
water bottles to 50% recycled
plastic, developing Co-op Fairtrade
99 Blend Tea without polypropylene,
replacing polystyrene with corrugated
cardboard pizza discs, switching its
black sushi boxes to clear plastic and
black card, changing from black to widely
recycled blue plastic for mushroom
packaging and moving from plastic to
card packaging for tomatoes and oranges.
In addition, the Group is trialling a plastic
bottle deposit and return scheme
at music festivals.
“Only half a million of the 1.5 million
tonnes of recyclable plastic waste created
every year in the UK is being reused.
It’s shocking that such a small
percentage of plastic packaging is being
recycled, especially materials that
are already easy to recycle like plastic
bottles,” said environment manager
“We believe part of the problem lies
with a lack of knowledge about which
packaging can be recycled along with
local authorities lacking the facilities
to deal with it. We’re working hard to
engage local authorities and waste
management companies to make
Midcounties Co-operative has been
teaching local schools about plastics
and how small changes can have a big
impact on the environment as part of its
Sustainable Communities Programme.
The scheme was initially launched in
2017, aiming to educate the next generation
around sustainability, renewable energy,
and social responsibility. In collaboration
with schools, colleges and universities in
the area, the business is linking sessions
to the curriculum. Its employees
volunteer to go to schools to talk about
sustainability, Fairtrade or local products.
The co-op also runs a Green Pioneers
programme in partnership with the
Outward Bound Trust, enabling teenagers
to take part in outdoor activities as well
as develop a sustainable project in their
Beating plastic pollution was the key
theme adopted by the International
Labour Organization (ILO) for the day.
The UN body highlights that plastic is
now found in all aspects of modern life,
with over 32% of packaging escaping
collection systems. The ILO suggests
transforming the “make-use-dispose”
plastics’ economy into a circular one
based on recycling.
The approach would not only be
beneficial for the environment, but
also create new jobs. According to the
World Employment and Social Outlook:
Greening with Jobs 2018 report, a
sustained 5% annual increase in recycling
rates for plastics, glass, wood pulp,
metals and minerals can generate around
6 million additional jobs across
The ILO also points out that waste
pickers in countries like Brazil and
Bangladesh have used co-operative
models as an alternative to operating in
the informal economy, often on low wages
and with no social security.
16 | JULY 2018
Cyprus Cooperative Bank’s woes end with sale to Hellenic Bank
Cyprus’ government has approved a multibillion
euro deal which will see Hellenic
Bank take over the country’s crisis-stricken
Cooperative Bank, it has been reported.
The Cyprus Cooperative Bank – which
is 77% state-owned following a financial
crisis and bailout in 2013 – put itself up for
sale in March.
Finance Minister Harris Georgiades said
the deal would see Hellenic Bank, also
based in Cyprus, manage €9.7bn (£8.5bn)
worth of client deposits.
Hellenic will absorb €10.3bn (£9bn) in
assets, including loans, bonds and cash,
operate 72 Cooperative Bank branches and
employ 1,100 of its 2,600 workers.
Mr Georgiades said another €8.3bn
(£7.3bn) of the Cooperative Bank’s assets
will be taken over by the state, including
€600m ($£527m) in bank-owned
real estate and €7bn (£6.2bn) worth
of bad loans.
Meanwhile, EU competition regulators
have approved a plan by the Cypriot
government to inject around €3.5bn (£3bn)
in state aid to the Cooperative Bank.
The commission said the state-aid
measures include a counter-guarantee to
the guarantees provided by CCB to Hellenic
Bank related to the sale, including an asset
The liquidation of the Cooperative
Bank is part of a strategy by the Cypriot
government to speed up the reduction of
non-performing loans in Cypriot banks.
There is also a programme to help cooperative
borrowers affected by the
crisis and the strengthening of Cyprus’
foreclosure and the sale-of-loans law.
In Cyprus, the news prompted criticism
of the bank in the Cyprus Mail, which
claimed its downfall was because
of “problems accumulated over decades
of mismanagement”. It accused the bank
of “giving out loans that would never be
repaid, often at low interest rates and
secured by grossly overvalued collateral”,
with the backing of politicians who had
made foreclosure law “toothless”.
to deliver food with
Swedish retailer Coop plans to start
delivering food with electric trucks
produced by Volvo, in a bid to reduce its
As part of the pilot, the electric trucks
will deliver food to 13 Coop stores
Launched in April, the 10-metre truck
was designed for temperature-sensitive
food transports and holds 18 pallets.
“Co-operation with Volvo means a
lot for Coop. I see it as a starting point
for electrifying parts of our transport
by road, which in the long term will be
an important part of reducing Coop’s
environmental impact,” said Örjan
Grandin, vice president of Coop Sweden
and chief executive of its subsidiary
Coop Logistik AB.
Since 2009, Coop has run its own
train between southern Sweden and
Mälardalen, which annually replaces
12,000 truck journeys. The retailer
is also part of the DenCity project,
which brings together academics and
industry experts to develop sustainable
The Volvo trucks are a result of
collaboration between Coop and DB
Schenker and enable a reduction in
emissions and noise.
“We’re immensely proud to present
the first in a range of fully electrically
p A pilot project will see electric trucks deliver to 13 Coop stores
powered Volvo trucks ready for regular
traffic. With this model we are making it
possible for cities that aim for sustainable
urban development to benefit from
the advantages of electrified truck
transports,” said Claes Nilsson, president
of Volvo Trucks.
Coop Sweden’s trucks currently run
primarily on HVO100, a fossil-free
diesel fuel that reduces carbon dioxide
emissions by about 92% compared
to fossil diesel.
JULY 2018 | 17
Danilo Salerno appointed regional director of Cooperatives of the Americas
The regional organisation of the
International Co-operative Alliance,
Cooperatives of the Americas,
has appointed Danilo Salerno as
The appointment was announced
after the regular meeting of the
regional board of directors in Colombia
on 17-18 May.
An Italian national, Mr Salerno took office
on 15 June. At the time of the appointment
he was director of Coopermondo, an
Italian NGO which has implemented 100
co-operative development projects in
more than 40 countries. Coopermondo
was set up by Confcooperative, the
largest apex organisation of the Italian
Mr Salerno also chairs the working
group on private sector engagement of
the National Council for Development
Cooperation, under the Italian Ministry of
Foreign Affairs. Since 2011 he has served
as the Confcooperative representative for
international development co-operation
at Cooperatives Europe’s working
group on International Development
Mr Salerno has been involved in a
number of co-operative and solidarity
economy organisations. As parliamentary
assistant, he was part of the working
group on the last reform plan of the
Law 47/1987, which regulates Italian
Cooperation for Development.
He also headed a research mission on
cross-border co-operation carried out by
the Center for Studies in International
Politics (CESPI) on behalf of the Central
American Integration System (SICA), and
served as consultant for Latin-American
networking in the European Research
Institute on Cooperative and Social
Enterprises (EURICSE). He has a degree
in political science from the University of
Bologna; master’s degrees in non-profit
p Danilo Salerno
organisations and European PM (ASVI,
Rome), and in European and international
relations (La Sapienza University,
Rome); and a diploma in Latin American
Studies from the Italian-Latin American
Take me to the river: REI joins bid to protect 5,000 miles of wild water
Outdoor retailer REI is joining a project to
celebrate the 50th anniversary of the USA’s
Wild and Scenic Rivers Act by protecting
another 5,000 miles of rivers.
The Seattle-based co-op, which sells
outdoor sports and camping equipment,
joins a coalition of brands, NGOs,
individuals and businesses for the
5,000 Miles of Wild project. This aims to
designate and help protect 5,000 new
miles of rivers as part of the National Wild
and Scenic River System by 2020.
REI wants members to:
u Share their personal river story.
“Whether in urban or rural environments,
big rivers or small creeks, everyone has
a river story. The 5,000 Miles of Wild
campaign will share these stories with
legislators. Use the #MyRiverStory hashtag
u Sign the petition. “Ask Congress to
protect 5,000 miles of wild and scenic rivers
and one million acres of riverside lands.
Make your voice heard by lawmakers.”
u Shop the collection. “REI will donate
five percent of the purchase price of each
item from the collection to support the
5,000 Miles of Wild campaign.”
REI’s chief executive Jerry Stritzke
has shared his own story, recalling his
formative years exploring the Arkansas
River in Colorado, and his discovery of a
tributary stream in its headwaters.
“My family grew up on that stream –
swimming, rafting, and wading for miles
through snowmelt in beat-up tennis
shoes,” he wrote.
“Just recently, I helped my five-year-old
grandson build a shelter of aspen sticks
on the banks of ‘our’ stream – it’s been
incredibly powerful to watch him forge his
own connection to this place that means so
much to me.”
He added: “You can’t deny the
restorative power of being outdoors.
There’s a marked change when you move
into the presence of a river. The foliage, the
sounds, and even the air changes as you
feel the cool breeze blowing off the water.
It’s a physical, moving experience, and for
me embodies the very best of what a life
outside is all about.
“Ensuring that future generations have
access to these places will help create
better stewards of the planet as well as
more fulfilled, complete people.”
The National Wild and Scenic Rivers
Act was created by Congress in 1968 to
preserve certain rivers with outstanding
natural, cultural and recreational values in
a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment
of present and future generations. The
designation prohibits construction of new
dams or projects that would impede the
river’s free-flowing state, water quality or
It also protects a quarter-mile buffer of
land along the river and encourages the
development of locally driven management
plans for each river. The designation does
not change existing river uses, such as
fishing, ranching or recreation.
18 | JULY 2018
Co-ops working with refugees face
funding cuts under new populist government
Italy’s new government could lower the
financial support allocated to social
co-ops that help refugees integrate.
The coalition between two populist
parties, Lega and the Five Star Movement
(M5S), also wants an overhaul of the
Dublin Regulation, which requires
refugees to claim asylum in the first EU
country they set foot on. Around 64%
of refugees crossing the Mediterranean
arrived in Italy last year, with
400,000 applying for asylum there
over the past four years.
Incoming prime minister Giuseppe
Conte said in a speech to the senate on 5
June that he wanted “a fair distribution
of responsibilities and to achieve
an automatic system of compulsory
distribution of asylum seekers”.
Speaking at a recent rally in the
north of Italy, deputy prime minister,
interior minister and leader of Italy’s
far right League, Matteo Salvini, vowed
to speed up deportations, make it
harder for vessels to bring refugees to
Italian shores, and press for change
to the Dublin Regulation.
He wants an Australian-type
of immigration based on points and
qualifications and argues that larger
numbers are harder to integrate.
The country has seen a 75% fall
in arrivals since the summer of 2017
following a controversial agreement
between Italy and Libya to put in place
measures to stop refugees and migrants
from travelling to Europe.
The former government produced
a plan to deal with the crisis back in
2017, allocating a budget of €4.2bn: 18%
for rescues at sea, 13% for health care,
and 65% for migrant reception
centres, which host some
The centres are run by co-operatives
or NGOs, which can receive between
€25-€35 per day for each person they
provide with lodging, clothes and other
services, such as legal aid, psychological
support or language classes.
Mr Salvini said he aimed to lower
the amount allocated to social
co-operatives working to integrate
refugees. These social co-ops provide
services to 18,000 refugees, asylum
seekers and migrants across 220 welcome
centres and 170 housing structures. It is
feared this shift in government policy
could endanger the existence of the
co-operatives and the services
Currently, less than 1% of all American
rivers are protected; 208 rivers (12,734
miles in total) make up the National Wild
and Scenic River System.
Of the additional 5,000 miles that the
coalition plans to designate, protections
are already under way for over 1,100
river miles. The remaining river miles
have been identified by local
community groups and river advocates
across the nation or currently run
on public lands that are due for land
“The outdoor community is essential
in helping to add and preserve additional
river miles,” said Thomas O’Keefe,
p REI’s chief executive Jerry Stritzke
Pacific Northwest stewardship director of
American Whitewater. “By joining 5,000
miles of Wild, REI helps bring awareness
to the programme and provides people
an easy way to share stories, voice
their opinions and meet our goal of
designating and protecting additional
JULY 2018 | 19
USA credit unions welcome regulatory relief bill
p President Trump signs the new act, which rolls back regulations from the Obama administration
With President Trump signing the
Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief
and Consumer Protection Act on 24 May,
credit unions can expect a reduction in
regulatory requirements for the sector.
A rollback from the Dodd-Frank reform
passed by the Obama Administration in
2010 in response to the 2008 financial
crisis, the legislation will primarily affect
small and medium sized banks based
in the USA.
The Credit Union National Association
(CUNA) welcomed the legislation, which
it described as a “monumental win
for credit unions”.
The bill increases the threshold from
$50bn to $100bn in assets for banks due
to face higher regulatory scrutiny, stress
tests and capital requirements. The
threshold is due to increase further to
$250bn after 18 months.
As a result, the number of banks under
close scrutiny will fall from 38 to 12, with
nearly all regional banks exempt from
stricter regulatory oversight. Banking
giants such as Goldman Sachs, Morgan
Stanley, Citigroup or Bank of America will
not benefit from this change due to their
diversified global business models.
For credit unions, the bill will remove
regulatory burdens affecting the sector.
For example, small banks and credit
unions will be able to expand the types
of mortgages they offer, benefiting from
increased legal protection and exemption
from certain disclosure rules and
“From the moment a group of bipartisan
senators unveiled this bill, credit unions
told them loud and clear that this is
an essential piece of regulatory relief
legislation that will improve access to
mortgage lending, real estate loans and
other products and services, while putting
focus on senior abuse and cyberthreats,”
said CUNA president/CEO Jim Nussle.
The bill means residential mortgage
loans held by credit unions that have
assets of $10bn or less, and have
originated 1,000 or fewer mortgages in the
preceding year, will be exempt from
certain escrow requirements.
The act also amends the Federal Credit
Union Act to require the National Credit
Union Administration to hold public
hearings on its draft annual budget. In
addition, the bill spares small banks with
assets of under $10bn from the Volcker
rule ban on proprietary trading.
While the US has over 5,000 banks, the
13 largest account for 50% of the sector
in terms of assets and deposits. The bill
passed in the Senate with 67 to 31 votes,
with support from Republicans and
Mr Nussle added: “In mid-2009, at the
peak of the crisis, just 2% of credit union
loans were delinquent. That’s less than
one fourth as many bad loans as the
banks had on their books. Regulations are
eating up one of every six dollars credit
unions spend on operations each year –
or $6.1bn in total. Some smaller financial
institutions have been unable to shoulder
these additional costs.”
President Trump said: “The legislation
I’m signing today rolls back the crippling
Dodd-Frank regulations that are crushing
community banks and credit unions
nationwide. They were in such trouble.
One-size-fits-all – those rules just don’t
work. And community banks and credit
unions should be regulated the same way.
“And you have to really look at this.
They should be regulated the same way
with provision for safety, as in the past,
when they were vibrant and strong.
“But they shouldn’t be regulated
the same way as the large, complex
financial institutions. And that’s
what happened. And they were
being put out of business one by one.
And they weren’t lending.”
20 | JULY 2018
on board with global
platform co-op project
p Melina Morrison, chief executive of BCCM
Australia’s Business Council of
Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM) has
joined a project to create open-source
technology for platform co-ops.
The Platform Cooperativism Consortium
is an international initiative to develop
a Platform Co-op Development Kit. The
consortium – which has just been given
a US$1m grant from Google – wants to
provide software templates and best legal
practices for workers in the gig economy
looking to create their own platforms.
The first stage of development starts
next month, before the consortium
looks at data services, job training, legal
templates and consultancy services.
Melina Morrison, CEO of BCCM, said:
“Co-operatively owned platforms are
needed urgently to address the power
imbalance between the people who do
the work on platforms and the owners
of the platforms. Employee ownership
and community ownership gives workers
and communities the chance to harness
technological changes to the local economy
as players, not passive participants.”
She added: “In areas like social care,
platform co-ops deliver agency and
empowerment for workers and highquality
and consistent services for
consumers of disability and aged care. But
their potential use is much more varied.
“By embedding the traditional co-op
principles of fairness and community
in digital technology, the Platform
Co-op Development Kit will seriously
challenge the established players in
the sharing economy. It will make it
easier for Australian workers to become
our newest entrepreneurs and start
their own labour-sharing platforms.”
uCase study, Co-operative Life, p46
IFFCO launches iMandi, a new app for farmer owners
A new mobile app from the Indian
Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative (IFFCO)
gives farmer members an e-commerce
platform where they can buy the things
they need. Launched in April, iMandi was
created to offer farmers working in remote
rural areas better deals over a five-year
period. iMandi is now available to IFFCO’s
55 million members.
Movement makes plans for co-op entrepreneurship
A two-day conference will bring together
academics, teachers, practitioners
and students from across Europe to
discuss co-operative entrepreneurship.
The event, in Santander, Spain, ends a
series of activities carried out through
the Co-operative Entrepreneurship
Experience (ECOOPE) project. More
information on the conference
is available at youth.ecoope.eu/event/
Eroski ushers new workers into the co-operative fold
Worker-owned supermarket Eroski ended
the year 2017 with 377 new employees.
Around 77% of the new members were
women, which, says the Spanish retailer,
is a reflection of its gender equality policy.
Around 95% of the new members work in
the stores, particularly in the fresh food
section, with the remaining employees
working within the travel department.
A fairer route home for stranded night workers
A worker co-op in the USA is working to
plug the gaps in local public transport
provision which have left night workers
stranded. Set up in 2017 in Pittsfield,
Massachusetts, Rose and Cole Co-op
Transport is a ride-sharing business
helping people without cars to get to work,
focusing on customers with off-hour jobs.
Co-op model is helping young people create secure jobs
Young people are using co-operative
business models to start their own
business and generate employment, says
a new report by CICOPA, the international
organisation of industrial and service
co-ops. The Global Study on Youth Co-op
Entrepreneurship is based on theoretical
research and an online survey.
JULY 2018 | 21
... Sue Balcomb,
secretary of the Horton
Women’s Holiday Centre
Horton Women’s Holiday Centre is based in Horton-in-Ribblesdale, Yorkshire
and is the only co-operatively run holiday centre for women and children in
the UK. It was set up in 1980. Since then, it has been making a difference
to the lives of thousands of women and children from all over the country,
providing affordable holidays with a sliding scale for payments according
to income. Bradford-based Sue Balcomb is volunteer secretary of the
co-operative and has been involved since its early days.
HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED?
Many years ago, in 1984/85, someone told me
about the centre. I went for a weekend and it was
interesting and eye-opening just to be in a womenonly
space. I met all these women I would never
have met ordinarily who were doing stuff like
working as roofers and joiners. I brought my
daughter here for her naming day. She is 24 now!
Then someone who had been on the management
committee said ‘why don’t you come onto it?’.
They were really good about things like childcare
so gradually I got more involved. Then the former
secretary left to live in Spain, so I took it on and have
been doing it for about 15 years.
WHAT DOES YOUR ROLE ENTAIL?
I spend about a day a week on Horton-related
things – management committee meetings
and taking minutes, as well as staff policy and
development and maintenance issues. We have 24
members at the moment. Like any other business
we discuss income and expenditure and strategy.
We are open to new ideas. When we get new
co-op members we try to find out what their skills
and interests are. We are mostly self-sufficient,
but there is fund-raising for building work and
supporting volunteers. There are five of us on
the management committee based all over the
country so we meet by Skype every six weeks
and quarterly at the house. The co-op elects the
committee at its AGM and there are mid-year
meetings. We have two paid workers and the rest
of us are volunteers.
WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT THE CO-OP?
Being able to spend time with interesting women
from all walks of life and keeping it as a women
only space that is affordable. The key thing
about Horton is that because it works on a sliding
scale, women can come here when they are on a
very low income. We also have an emergency
fund now for asylum seekers.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT THE JOB?
It’s quite a big time-commitment running a
business as a volunteer and trying to get enough
members to take on less interesting roles, such as
I AM PROUD OF THE FACT WE HAVE EXISTED FOR
NEARLY 40 YEARS AS A VOLUNTEER-RUN CENTRE.
THINK THAT IS PRETTY AMAZING. IT’S LOVELY WHEN
YOU SEE THREE GENERATIONS OF WOMEN HERE
22 | JULY 2018
9 770009 982010
HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE
So far it has been a bit limited. We are a member
of Co-operatives UK and try to use co-op
businesses when we can for leaflets and food
buying. We want to expand our relationship so
we are going to do a review, working with a co-op
development advisor. I would like us to meet more
co-ops and share skills with other co-ops
encouraging them to use this space. What
we show is co-operation in action. Women
often share childcare and cooking. It is a
very organic place – there is a real exchange
of knowledge and experience.
WHAT ACHIEVEMENT ARE YOU PROUDEST OF?
I am proud of the fact we have existed for nearly
40 years as a volunteer-run centre. I think that is
pretty amazing. It’s lovely when you see three
generations of women here – it is much more than a
holiday centre. There have been times when I have
thought we have run out of steam and then I read
the visitors book and realise how much it has meant
to people. Visitors’ learn new things every time,
sharing things like childcare and cooking. It’s a
chance to meet women from all over the country
across the class and money divide.
WHERE DO YOU SEE THE HOLIDAY CENTRE IN FIVE
We have got a coach house which has had some
basic work done on it but our aim is to make it
properly accessible for women with disabilities.
It would be good to have more funding to spend on
development and training for volunteers, giving
them a chance to get together and learn new skills.
I would also like to see more women of colour
and more young women coming here as I did all
those years ago.
news Issue #7294 APRIL 2018
Connecting, championing, challenging
Plus ... 150 years
of East of England ...
and updates from the
Co-op Retail and Abcul
JULY 2018 | 23
... Rebecca Harvey,
who has recently been
appointed executive editor
of Co-operative News
WHY DID YOU JOIN CO-OP NEWS?
After working in the charity and private sectors, I wanted to join
a media outlet that had values and ethics at its core, and a sense
of responsibility to the people whose stories it told. I was aware
of co-ops through retailers such as Unicorn Grocery Workers
Co-operative in Chorlton, and the radical bookshop News From
Nowhere in Liverpool, as well as the Co-op Group’s food stores,
funeral homes and pharmacies. When I joined, my role combined
researching, writing, editing and designing – but also going
out to meet the people and organisations we write about, and
hearing their stories. It was – and still is – a real privilege to do
that, and see how co-operatives impact people and communities
for the better.
WHAT IS YOUR PROUDEST ACHIEVEMENT SO FAR?
Overseeing the redesign of Co-op News to its current format. For
most of the 20th century, Co-op News was in a larger format.
At one point it was weekly, with different regional editions
– and it was still fortnightly to the end of 2016. After a lot of
research and development with members, and friends and
colleagues throughout the movement, we relaunched in 2014
with a smaller size and new logo. Last year we transitioned
to monthly publication and tweaked the logo to incorporate
the COOP marque. The feedback has been remarkable.
The print and digital content work much better in terms of
curating news stories alongside case studies, analysis,
Q&As, investigations and pieces of best practice from a
uniquely co-operative angle.
I am also proud of how our digital agenda has developed in
conjunction with this, including a strong social media presence
and digital membership option. [Outgoing executive editor]
Anthony Murray led on this and I would like to pay tribute
to the fantastic work he achieved over his 16 years with
CO-OP NEWS IS PUBLISHED BY A CO-OPERATIVE – THE CO-OP
PRESS. WHAT IS YOUR CO-OPERATIVE DIFFERENCE?
Co-op News has been going for nearly 150 years. As a result
of this longevity and the tireless work of my 15 predecessors,
the organisation has a deep awareness of what co-ops are to
different people and communities, and how they fit together
– both with other co-operatives and outside the movement.
We are uniquely placed to celebrate successes and champion
co-op causes. But we can also challenge co-ops when needed;
our difference is that we are wholly independent, and can
therefore be critical. We would be a bad friend to the movement
if it was perceived that a co-operative – or co-operator – was
doing something in an unco-operative way and we did not call
Our relationship with the international movement is also a point
of difference, and one of the reasons we have focused so much
on digital. Globally, one in every six people is a member of a
co-op. That’s a lot of stories to tell – but we have the knowledge,
support and contacts to do that, and do it well.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES AHEAD?
There are over 3 million co-ops globally – that’s a lot of news
to cover! So the biggest challenges for us are around curating
the right balance of content in print and online for a hugely
diverse audience, from retail executives to worker co-op
activists, from colleagues to interested parties. This is one of
the reasons we have restructured the team here. Our
international journalist Anca Voinea will be taking on more
responsibility as international editor, while Miles Hadfield,
who has over 25 years of experience in journalism, will be
Another challenge is the news industry itself. Printing a
magazine, not to mention the huge amount of activity behind
producing the content, is expensive. The majority of our income
is through a combination of advertising and subscriptions,
and we are working on strategies to develop these and look
WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THE CO-OP NEWS IN THE NEXT
Co-operatives are becoming more mainstream, not just seen as
an alternative – I would like Co-op News to follow this trajectory
too. We have a unique offering which many in the movement
are not aware of. Part of this will be extending our digital and
international work, and part will be taking more opportunities to
go out and visit the people and the co-operatives whose stories
it is our privilege to tell.
24 | JULY 2018
‘NATURAL JUSTICE AND DUE PROCESS’
NEEDED TO ROOT OUT ANTISEMITISM,
SAY JEWISH CO-OP PARTY MEMBERS
The Guardian reported on 10 May that
“Labour [Co-op] MPs back antisemitism
measures rejected by Corbyn”.
We urge the Co-op Party National
Executive Committee to reject such divisive
factionalism as it did in August 2016,
when it said: “We are not a vehicle to be
used by one political faction or another to
advance their own agenda”.
It is awful that some Labour/Co-op MPs
have faced antisemitic attacks. We have
heard no allegation, never mind evidence,
that such attacks are from members of the
As Jewish members of the Co-operative
Party, we know antisemitism is always
wrong. There are competing views about
how antisemitism should be addressed.
To root out all forms of antisemitism,
racism and prejudice against any group
of people, we urge the Co-op Party to
adopt procedures that are consistent with
those proposed by Shami Chakrabarti
for the Labour Party, based on the
principles of natural justice and due
process for all.
Unlike the Board of Deputies and Jewish
Leadership Council, the Co-op Party
should not adopt examples of
antisemitism that are about criticism
Jo Bird, Rica Bird
and John Goodman
Have your say
Add your comments to our stories
online at www.thenews.coop, get
in touch via social media, or send
us a letter. If sending a letter, please
include your address and contact
number. Letters may be edited
and no longer than 350 words.
Co-operative News, Holyoake
House, Hanover Street,
Manchester M60 0AS
p Elizabeth Atkinson (centre) with Gill Gardner (secretary of the Co-operative Group Members’
Council) and ,Allan Leighton, Co-op Group chair.
LONG-TIME CO-OPERATOR RECOGNISED
AT CO-OP GROUP AGM
At the Co-op Group’s AGM in May, National
Members Council secretary, Gill Gardner,
presented a special long service award to
a 90 year-old members. Elizabeth Atkinson
has served the Co-op for over 75 years:
in 1942, aged
only 14, she
for the Co-op
in the Check
Office in Rugby,
of purchase. At
the time, the
store was part
of a whole street
She was involved in the Woodcraft Folk
from that age too, which led to participation
in Co-op Youth Clubs. She attended the
first International Co-op Youth Centre in
Bexhill in 1946 and formed a group of the
British Federation of Co-operative Youth in
Rugby, and later in Harrow.
Taking advantage of the Co-op’s principle
of education and training, Elizabeth took
Co-op-run night classes in bookkeeping
and co-operation. She served on cooperative
committee and on the York Coop
Board, and for a time was secretary of the
York Co-op Education Committee.
Education was a theme throughout
her life: she helped form study groups in
German, Russian, Art and Embroidery, and
herself completed a full-time course at the
Co-op College in Loughborough in 1983.
A highlight was a trip to Japan in 1986;
invited by the Japanese co-operative
movement, Elizabeth addressed Japanese
co-operators on the UK movement.
It wouldn’t happen now, but Elizabeth
was required to retire at age 70 – but she
has continued as a passionate co-operator
by regularly attending regional meetings
and our AGMs.
Never ceasing in her enthusiasm, she
was the founder and secretary of the York
Co-op Members Group, even organising
events after funding was stopped in 2014.
To this day Elizabeth still attends lunches
and events organised by York Cooperators.
In 2016, aged 88 Elizabeth even
completed a parachute jump for charity.
National Members’ Council
JULY 2018 | 25
23.06.18 — 07.07.18
The Economy, 28
Freelancers, 30 Agriculture, 31
Fair Tax, 32 Community
Pubs, 34 Fairtrade, 36
Employee ownership, 40
Indigenous Peoples, 42
Local currencies, 44
care, 46 Credit Unions, 47
and Politics 47
Every year hundreds of co‐ops and organisations
across the UK work together to promote
co‐ops during Co‐operatives Fortnight. In
2018, the Fortnight began on 23 June – and
runs for the two weeks leading up to the
International Day of Co-operatives (7 July).
Co‐ops make a difference to people’s lives right
around the world – and that is the theme of this
year’s Fortnight. So as part of the celebrations,
Co-op News is highlighting some of the ways
that co-operatives make a difference in the many
sectors in which they operate – from agriculture
and Fairtrade, to communities saving pubs and
local economies working together.
We will be sharing these stories, and more, online
– as will other organisations – using the hashtag
On 26 June, Co-operatives UK, which coordinates
the Fortnight, launched the Economy
Report 2018 – which highlights the resilience of
co-operatives as a business model – but also the
need for more support for co-operatives.
As Ed Mayo, secretary general of the apex body,
says: “If we want to see a more successful
economy, where people have a say in decision
-making and receive a fair share then we need
JULY 2018 | 27
Making a difference:
Newly formed co-operative businesses
are twice as likely as other business types
to survive their first five years, according
to a new report by Co-operatives UK. The
sector body’s Co-operative Economy 2018 report
reveals that new co-ops have an 80% survival
rate, compared to 44% in the case of other
While 93% of enterprises remain in existence
after their first year, the percentage drops to
76% after the second year followed by another
significant fall to 61% after year three. In contrast,
co-ops have a survival rate of 96%, 91% and
87% after the first, second and third years
of existence respectively.
Co-operatives UK secretary general, Ed Mayo,
said: “We know co-operatives are resilient and
sustainable businesses and these incredible stats
reinforce that view. It begs the question ‘why are
there not more co-operatives?’”
Mr Mayo thinks a bigger co-operative sector
would help to grow the UK’s economy as well.
He added: “It’s no surprise there’s a prevalence
of empty offices and boarded up shops in
high streets across the UK’s towns and cities
when more than half of all companies fail in
their early years.”
Alongside the report, Co-operatives UK has
announced that the Hive – its specialist business
support programme for new and existing co-ops –
has been extended until the end of 2020.
Funded by the Co-op Bank, the scheme is a
£1m programme spread over three years and was
launched in 2016. Through the Hive, over 500
organisations have received specialist support
Co-operatives UK, which delivers the
programme, expects that by 2020 the Hive will
have supported 1,200 groups and co-ops with
services worth £1.3m. The programme also
works to enable communities to take control of
valued local assets. It is projected that through
the Hive co-ops will have raised £6.5m of finance
through community shares by 2020.
Ryan Etchells, head of Business Banking at the
Co-op Bank, also said: “We’re proud to continue
to fund the Hive programme and support cooperative
businesses as they develop and grow
into successful and sustainable businesses in the
current economic climate.
“The Hive is a great initiative and one that
we hope will encourage more individuals and
groups to set out on the path of starting up
their own co-operative business.”
Mr Mayo welcomed the additional funding ,
which will extend the “vital support” for co-ops in
the “crucial early years” of operation.
“Here’s an option that gives businesses twice
as much chance of succeeding and in today’s
climate, this is precisely what the economy
needs,” he said. “But where is the wider support?
“We want to see the co-op business model
promoted by government and professional
services, in the education sector and even more
vocally by co-operatives themselves.
“If we want to see a more successful
economy, where people have a say in decisionmaking
and receive a fair share then we need
Figures from Co-op Economy 2018, which
provides an overview of the UK’s co-operative
economy, show that in 2018 the UK’s 7,226
independent co-ops turned over £36.1bn,
contributing 1.9% to the UK’s GDP.
This represents an increase from the £35.2bn in
turnover in the previous year.
Co-ops also employ 235,000 people, compared
to 226,000 in 2017. Their membership has grown
from 12 million in 2017 to 13 million in 2018.
The largest co-operatives by turnover remain
John Lewis Partnership with £10.2bn, the
Co-op Group with £9.47bn and Arla Milk Link
with £2.61bn. They are followed by the National
Merchant Buying Society Limited (£1.53bn),
Midcounties Co-operative (£1.09bn), and Central
England Co-operative (£848m).
Steve Murrells, chief executive of the
Co-op Group, said: “It’s clear that co-ops are a
sustainable way of doing business and a model
that clearly resonates today as we face economic
and political uncertainty. We’ve seen this
28 | JULY 2018
evidenced in our own active membership which
has grown by 15% to 4.6 million in the last year
as we’ve invested in building stronger businesses
and stronger communities through things like
our Co-op Academy schools.”
To accompany the report, Co-operatives UK
has released a series of case studies of some
of its members, showcasing how individual
co-operatives are making a difference in various
sectors of the economy.
One of the co-ops featured, the Organic Milk
Suppliers Cooperative (OMSCo), was set
up in 1994 by five innovative farmers. It
currently has 270 members from Cornwall
to Inverness. With a turnover of almost
£100m, the co-op is the largest organic dairy
co-operative in the UK.
“Becoming an OMSCo member was an
easy decision for us,” says Graham Vallis,
board member and organic farmer managing
200 cows on his family farm on the outskirts
of Exeter, Devon.
“We had a young family to provide for and
therefore sought a milk partner that could
provide on-going support and certainty,” he
adds. “OMSCo’s dedication to the organic dairy
sector was clear from the beginning and gave
us the confidence we needed to develop our
He explains that OMSCo has developed
a variety of added-value and specialist organic
dairy products for international markets,
including premium organic cheeses and infant
“These opportunities are fantastic for the
members, as being a part of a co-operative means
that we all share the benefits. The more money the
co-operative makes, the greater the return to its
farmers and this provides us with greater certainty
for the future,” says Mr Vallis.
“Being a member on the board, I also see
first hand the practical input that our members
have into the decision-making process, which
then facilitates the implementation of these
The co-op has boosted exports by 58% to
approximately 20% of total revenue in 2017 and
wants to continue this growth.
“OMSCo’s achievements have been
underpinned by shared values that champion
British organic dairying. I look forward to us
continuing to work together as a co-operative
finding new and innovative ways to secure our
future success,” adds Mr Vallis.
In Glasgow, the Greencity Wholefoods
co-operative is trying to change people’s diets by
promoting healthy eating. The co-op was formed
in 1978 by a group of activists; 40 years later it
maintains its co-operative ethos while running
a successful business with a £6m turnover.
“There’s a disconnect between people and
food, and you see people here living on ready
meals,” explains member Babs Macgregor.
“So we work at grass roots level, giving talks
and cookery demonstrations to reconnect people
with food. And it’s really satisfying seeing
people getting excited about food and ways
of feeding themselves that are healthy
Greencity has a flat management structure,
with worker owners taking turns in completing
“It’s a level playing field,” says member Craig
McCormack. “Because it’s your own business, you
think about long-term plans and about developing
the business. And if you want to do something,
you have to get buy-in from the majority
of the members.”
To compete with other businesses, the co-op
has recently started engaging on social media and
had a major IT upgrade.
“It was a significant change internally to how our
system operates, so getting to grips with it was a
real challenge,” says Ms Macgregor. “But being
part of a co-operative means there’s a greater
sense of facing challenges together.”
p The Organic Milk
(OMSCo), was set up
in 1994 by five farmers
–it now has 270
Graham Vallis in Exeter
Greencity Wholefoods is
trying to change people’s
diets by promoting
JULY 2018 | 29
Making a difference:
The following case studies
on Open Data Services
and Openfield – both
members of Co-operatives
UK – originally appeared
in the 2018 Co-operative
Economy Report. Find out
p Members of Open Data
Services at one of their
Open Data Services formed when four freelancers
came together to find a new way of working. How
is the co-op helping to plot a course through the
changing world of work?
Each day begins with a stand-up conference call. A
team of analysts and IT professionals based around
the UK discuss their work to tackle corruption and
tax evasion – and create transparency around the
awarding of multi-million pound (and dollar, euro,
Mexican peso, and more) government contracts.
These 15 people, who make up Open Data
Services, are just one part of this process.
Operating from Stroud, Edinburgh, Manchester,
Newcastle and more, their area of expertise is
around open data. By enabling organisations and
governments to build, publish and use – as well as
standardise – open data, the groundwork is being
done for a seismic change.
Open Data Services has no office, no base, no
hierarchy… but this is no problem. It is a co-op
of workers and in just three years the number
of owners has almost quadrupled in size while
annual turnover has leapt from £250,000 to
more than £800,000. Its four founders set
out as equal owners, with an equal say and
an equal share of profits. And as the co-op has
grown it has remained true to its values and ethos.
Co-founder Steven Flower says: “It was always
in our minds to grow and we needed people to
make that happen. Programmers need to work
with other programmers. And we wanted to use
being a co-op as a way to attract people who share
It began with an opportunity for like-minded
professionals, largely freelancers, to work
together on open data contracts. All had expertise,
contacts and know-how, but no working structure.
“We said ‘if we do this we must do it as a
co-op’,” says Mr Flower, who is based in
Manchester. “We had some work, knew what we
wanted to do and knew we wanted to be a coop.
We shared a commitment to be a co-op. We
wanted to do this together – in the truest meaning
of the word.
“The nature of our work is very much towards
co-operation. The alternative was that we’d
have to decide who was the boss and we weren’t
interested in a ‘you have to do this’ approach.”
Open Data Services has already worked with an
enviable list of organisations including the World
Bank, Sport England, the Big Lottery Fund and a
range of governments.
Its work supporting the ProZorro platform
in Ukraine as it adopted the Open Contracting
Data Standard has helped save hundreds of
thousands of dollars of public money through
minimising corruption and inefficiency associated
with the awarding of government contracts. In
Mexico, corruption is also being tackled as the
30 | JULY 2018
government moves to publish and use open
data about contracts relating to the building of a
In the UK, through work on data standards
for open registers of company ownership, the
co-operative is working to close secrecy loopholes
that enable tax evasion and money laundering.
And it is working to improve transparency
around the awarding of grants to charities
and social enterprises through its partnership
Mr Flower is keen to stress that Open Data
Services’ role is very much at the nuts and bolts
end, ensuring that data is collated in a consistent
standard for ease of use, as well as on the opening
up of data. “Open data has to be useful,” he adds.
“It needs to serve a purpose.”
Kadie Armstrong, from Newcastle upon Tyne,
joined the co-op this year. Like many of her
colleagues, the switch was from a freelance role.
She says: “I never thought I would work for
a company or any organisation again. I valued
my autonomy too much. But I have always
philosophically and publicly supported co-ops.
“It feels like I’ve got the best of both worlds. I
still have a degree of autonomy – I can shape how
my work goes and equally we’re all in it together.”
As outlined by Co-operatives UK in its
Co-operative Economy 2018 report, 7.1 million UK
workers – including freelancers, part-time workers
and those in zero hour contracts – are engaged in
‘precarious’ employment. Ms Armstrong believes
the co-op model offers a better, more secure way
of working for the UK’s growing army of freelancers.
Benefits include shared resources, knowledge,
contacts and back-up support, she says. “There’s
challenges scaling up and maintaining member
involvement – but other co-ops have shown this
is possible. There’s a good work-life balance here
and a generosity of support.”
Although the organisation exists with no base
and a scattered workforce, the loneliness factor
experienced by many freelancers is something Ms
Armstrong feels she has left behind. Open Data
Services’ owners do meet on a quarterly basis
at general meetings. But it is their shared cooperative
values, their shared ownership status
and their shared data mission that transcend
the distances. At a recent meeting in Stroud, Ms
Armstrong bumped into one of her colleagues on
the last leg of their journey.
She says: “We were well into our conversation
before we realised it was the first time we’d
actually met face to face!”
Making a difference:
For 400 years the Casswell family has farmed
land in Sleaford, Lincolnshire. But without farmerowned
co-operatives the prospect of future
generations continuing those farming traditions
would be slim.
James Casswell is both a tenant and contract
farmer, with more than 3,000 acres of land,
primarily used to harvest grain. He is one of 4,000
farmer owners of Openfield, the UK’s only national
farming grain co-operative.
“Margins are pretty tight,” says James. “I’d see us
really struggling [as a standalone farmer]. Having
Openfield working for me can be the difference
between making a profit and making a loss. I
always believed that we, the UK’s farmers, need to
come together and that we’re stronger as a result of
Openfield markets approximately four million
tonnes of grain a year and supplies some of the
biggest and best-known names in the British
food and drink manufacturing industry, including
Warburtons. It provides its members with seed,
fertiliser and grain storage, and offers expert
advice on marketing with complete transparency in
“In the past grain would change hands lots
and lots of times before getting to the end user.”
“Having someone like Openfield maximise
the working for my benefit, rather than someone
angling to pay the lowest price... I can’t really see
why anyone does anything else.”
James Dallas, CEO of Openfield, adds: “The
reason Openfield exists is to be a marketing
expert for our farmer. Farmers have numerous
balls to juggle every day. For them to have expert
marketing knowledge and ensure the best return is
“We provide expert market advice. We protect our
farmers against risk and ensure they’re not exposed
to the volatility of the market place. We’ll give them
best possible return and keep them profitable.”
JULY 2018 | 31
ANCA VOINEA AND
q Delegates gather for
the Fair Tax Conference
Making a difference:
Corporation tax is often presented as a burden,
even though it helps fund a myriad of public
services, counter financial inequalities and
rebalance distorted economies.
But stories of tax evasion and evasion and
aggressive avoidance emerge almost daily. It is
estimated that €600bn of corporate profits are
annually shifted to tax havens, with corporate
tax revenue losses globally of €200bn per year –
which equates to approximately £7bn of missing
revenues in the UK.
The Fair Tax Mark is one organisation trying to
combat this, by raising awareness of tax justice
and celebrating the organisations who pay the
right amount of tax in the right place at the right
time. The campaign has been supported by coops
from the outset, with Midcounties, the Phone
Co-op and Unity Trust Bank being early recipients
of the Mark. Now nearly 40 organisations have
received the Fair Tax Mark, including high street
names such as Lush Cosmetics, Timpsons and
SSE (the first FTSE100 business to achieve the
Mark) and co-ops such as the Co-operative Group,
Co-operatives UK, Scotmid, Radstock, East of
England, Revolver, Unicorn Grocery, the Eighth
Day, Ethical Consumer and the Co-operative Party.
This year the Fair Tax Mark organised the very
first fair Tax Fortnight from 9–24 June, with a
conference in London on 7 June/ The aim was to
celebrate the companies and organisations that
are seeking to pay their fair share of corporation
tax and who overtly shun the artificial use of tax
havens and contrived tax avoidance practices
– and also celebrate and explore the positive
contribution that corporation tax makes.
Research released by the Fair Tax Mark at the
start of the fortnight showed that most of the
public would back state intervention to encourage
responsible tax planning by business – while 74%
would support a call for all companies, whatever
their size, to publicly disclose the taxes that they
do or don’t pay in the UK.
The research also showed that six in ten people
(59%) believe the government and local councils
should consider a company’s ethics and how
they pay their tax alongside value for money and
quality of service when commissioning contracts.
Paul Monaghan, chief executive of Fair Tax
Mark, believes the UK public wants “radical
change in the area of tax reporting and auditing”,
and responsible tax planning taken into account
during procurement. “Following the collapse of
Carillion, two parliamentary committees called
on the government to carry out an ambitious and
wide-ranging set of reforms to reset our systems
of corporate accountability, and urged them to
refer the statutory audit market to the Competition
and Markets Authority,” he said.
32 | JULY 2018
“Our research indicates that the public would
be strongly in favour of this, but would also like to
see companies of all sizes reporting on the profits
made and taxes paid. Moreover, they would like
to see public procurement leveraged to encourage
responsible tax planning.”
At the conference, Barry Clavin, ethics,
sustainability and campaigns lead at the Co-op
Group, led a workshop on embedding fair tax
issues into corporate responsibility.
He told participants: “As a member-led, ethical
business, the Co-op wants to do progressive
things and there is no better way of doing
that than ensuring we pay our taxes as good
corporate citizens. What’s more, any business
that wants to build a credible corporate social
responsibility programme that does not include
a commitment to responsible tax will not be
Speaking ahead of the conference, Margaret
Hodge MP, chair of the all-party parliamentary
group on responsible tax, said the Fair Tax Mark
research shows that tax avoidance and evasion
are still “major concerns” for the public, despite
recent moves to crack down on them.
She said: “The government is now committed
to introducing public registers of beneficial
ownership in the British Overseas Territories; this
is a small but powerful provision that marks a
significant change in how tax havens operate and
it will shatter secrecy and uphold fair competition
“The APPG on Responsible Tax is delighted to
support Fair Tax Fortnight, which celebrates all the
companies and organisations that are working to
make responsible tax common practice. ”
The issue was also raised in Westminster by
Co-op Party chair, Gareth Thomas MP,
who highlighted in PMQs that the top five
co-operatives in the UK paid more than four times
the corporation tax of Amazon, Facebook, eBay,
Starbucks and E.on.
“I am sure the prime minister will want to praise
the patriotism of those who have signed up to the
Fair Tax Mark campaign,” he said. “Might this not
be an opportunity to encourage the Department
for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
and the Treasury to take a more proactive and
supportive interest in the growth of co-operative
and mutual businesses?”
But Ms May only responded that “HMRC had
been requiring some of the large companies that
he referenced to pay more tax and has ensured
we get that tax from them. It looks fairly across all
types of institution that operate in this country.”
During the fortnight, the issue of fair tax was
discussed at a roundtable in Manchester, hosted
by the Co-op Group. Chaired by Rob Harrison of
Ethical Consumer, the event included contributions
from Lisa O’Hare (head of tax at the Co-op Group)
and Alex Maitland (policy officer at Oxfam), with
attendees from Midcounties, Eighth Day, Unicorn
Grocery and Third Sector accountancy.
“More businesses need to be open, honest and
pro-active in positioning themselves, and showing
that ethics is part of who they are,” said Richard
Livings of the Fair Tax Mark. He gave the example
of Timpsons, whose achievement of the Fair Tax
Mark was driven at board level by the owner “who
new it was the right thing to do.”
At the Co-op Group, the issue of Fair Tax has
been driven by members and customers, and at
Unicorn and Eighth Day by worker members.
The Group’s Lisa O’Hare said that although the
Fair Tax Mark features on the website alongside
the tax policy and on relevant infographics on
social media, it is not yet used at store level.
At Unicorn, a worker co-op in Manchester,
members actively tell the public about it. “However
some members think we shouldn’t be doing this
as paying tax is the right thing, and something
we should be doing anyway,” said Debbie Clarke,
worker member at Unicorn. “Some members
question why we should get rewarded for that
when it’s in our principles and our psyche.”
But Mr Livings said the ready availability of
artificial structures made it easier for many
organisations to avoid paying tax– so declaring
your position is in itself a brave thing to do.
JULY 2018 | 33
Making a difference:
PUBS & COMMUNITIES
q The historic Duke
of Marlborough, in Suffolk,
was saved for posterity
and helps tackle
The UK is now home to 60 community-owned
pubs, with extra support for the sector arriving in
the form of a new network offering advice, support
and resources to help businesses set up. The
network will be run by the Plunkett Foundation,
which supports rural community businesses, and
funded by Power To Change, an independent trust
for community business in England.
The sector hosts its More Than A Pub conference
in Sheffield on 26 June. Meanwhile it has been
announced that the £3.85m More Than a Pub
programme, launched in March 2016 to support
the sector, has been extended.
Plunkett has carried out a series of case studies
to show the social impact of the sector.
It says: “Co‐operative pubs are a great
leveller – they bring people together of all ages,
backgrounds, interests ... This can benefit new
residents who want to meet their neighbours,
young parents who feel isolated at home,
teenagers seeking work and life experience, the
retired seeking opportunities to remain active,
and those who live alone or are carers and have no
other way of meeting people.”
Pubs in the sector promote health and wellbeing
in their communities, for instance by installing
defibrillators, becoming fully accessible venues,
running Pilates and fitness classes, or holding
dementia and Alzheimer’s cafes.
Others offer discounted luncheon clubs, put
on coach trips for people from sheltered housing
schemes, and fund unemployed volunteers
through hospitality qualifications.
One such pub is the Gardeners Rest in
Neepsend, Sheffield – which dates back to 1898
and was saved by a community share offer in 2016.
As well as providing the traditional social meeting
place, it supports artists as a music venue and
exhibition space. It also offers a space in the
daytime for community groups.
Plunkett says: “The Gardeners Rest is a place
where individuals can come on their own and find
safe company – business is steady but the pub
rarely attracts crowds ... People with learning
disabilities and mental health issues use the
It adds: “Employment and training opportunities
will be offered to people who may never meet the
person specification for any conventional job, but
are desperate to play a meaningful part in the
world of work ... It is often unhelpful to put labels
on people – their barriers to fulfilment increase
when they don’t quite match up to the label – but
the beneficiaries will include people with mild
and moderate learning disabilities, people with
mental health issues (such as depression, anxiety
and bi-polar conditions), people with an autistic
spectrum disorder, and essentially people who
just don’t fit anywhere else.”
These work sessions are tailored to the
individual, for instance with short, 2-3 hour shifts,
training programmes and accreditation.
34 | JULY 2018
t Working in the cellar at
the Gardeners Rest (left)
and welcoming customers
at the Craufurd Arms
“Additionally, self-expression groups, led by
artists, sport professionals, local historians and
faith leaders, will meet in the daytime when the
pub is closed and sometimes in the evenings
Another case study looks at the Duke of
Marlborough, a 500-year-old, Grade II-listed pub
in Somersham, Suffolk, saved from developers by
the community pub movement last year.
Plunkett says the pub helps combat loneliness
and isolation – important in a rural village where
some people live alone.
Alongside the social benefits of the traditional
pub – a sense of community and access to a range
of activities, clubs and events – the Marlborough
Arms runs a luncheon club for the elderly and
disadvantaged, which “decreases isolation and
ensures older people in the village are not lonely
The pub also provides Wi-Fi, free notice board
advertising, book exchanges and information on
local trusted traders and support groups.
The Centurion – the only pub in Vicar’s Cross,
Chester – was saved by campaigners after its
owner Admiral Taverns submitted plans in 2016 to
demolish it and construct a care home.
The pub now works with the local tourist
information centre to broaden the town’s appeal
to visitors, walkers and cyclists and provides
a venue for birthdays and christening parties,
funeral wakes, coffee mornings, car boot sales,
group training sessions and IT courses.
A number of local charities and associations,
such as Age UK, the Scouts, football clubs and
school PTAs use the pub on a regular basis for
meetings and a small Spanish language group has
Trevor Jones, a member of the management
committee, said: “We always put on a huge number
of monthly events including charity fundraisers,
community bingo, Age UK Brightlife meetings
(organised to tackle social isolation in the over
50s), parties for kids and family fun days.”
The Craufurd Arms in Maidenhead, bought out
by the community after it was put on the market
in 2016, also offers added social value. The team
works with the Campaign to End Loneliness and
delivers activities to reduce social isolation.
“An impact survey confirmed that it is not just
the events that take place in the pub itself, but
there are extra things that come out of having
somewhere safe as well as sociable to meet, such
as lasting friendships and romantic relationships,
all of which make a big difference to local people,”
There are regular coffee mornings and social
evenings for parents and carers of autistic
children and young adults. The ‘Maidenhead
Memories’ group also holds regular meetings
to bring together any isolated members of the
community, and there are volunteering and work
saved the Centurion,
the only pub in Vicar’s
JULY 2018 | 35
Making a difference:
Brad Hill has worked at the Co-op Group for almost 40 years and in Fairtrade for 20. Ahead of his
retirement as Fairtrade strategy development manager this summer, he looks back over a career that
has witnessed first-hand the difference Fairtrade makes.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO FAIRTRADE?
I joined the Co-op Group (then CWS) from
school at 16, and continued studying part time.
In 1986 I became the Group’s first internally
appointed ‘graduate trainee’ and over the
next few years gained experience in marketing
from various angles. In the 90s the Group
created a new corporate marketing team in
food which was charged with challenging
convention and leading on ethical matters.
This really appealed, and meant I was involved in
the first real re-engagement of doing business
in a co-op way. This included everything from
animal welfare and Braille on packaging,
to honest labelling and developing our first
national charity campaign with NSPCC. In 1998
I began working on Fairtrade and trying to find
ways of making it commercially viable. Of all the
work I was involved in, I naturally gravitated to
the people agendas – charity and Fairtrade.
HOW DID YOUR INTEREST IN FAIRTRADE
My first few years in Fairtrade were spent
behind a desk in Manchester, trying to engage
the business in the concept and convince
decision makers to give it a chance. It was a very
co-operative concept – and if any business was
going to make Fairtrade mainstream, then it was
the Co-op. In 2003 I went on my first overseas
visit to see Fairtrade in action in Ghana. That
was my real ‘Fairtrade moment’, seeing not just
real poverty in agricultural communities, but
genuine life-changing improvements as a result of
some of our early successes.
Part of the visit was to Kuapa Kokoo (the cocoa
co-op which owns 44% of Divine Chocolate).
Joining its AGM and talking to members, it felt like
looking in a mirror from a co-op perspective. But
36 | JULY 2018
despite Fairtrade, these people – the suppliers of
the products we were selling – had so little. I got
talking to a man at a village drawing water from
a Fairtrade-funded pump who really connected
the benefits of that pump to the support that I
had been fighting for. It was a strange feeling: on
the one hand the importance of Co-op’s Fairtrade
strategy hit home and became a reality. On the
other hand, I couldn’t help but feel that if a person
was celebrating something as basic as clean water,
then the need for Fairtrade and our accelerated
support was critical. That day Fairtrade became
less of a job and more of a calling. I was the
person given the opportunity to lead on changing
lives through Fairtrade on behalf of impoverished
people. It was a big responsibility and one that,
morally, I had to throw my all into.
WHY DO THE CO-OPERATIVE MODEL AND
FAIRTRADE HAVE SUCH SYNERGY?
When Fairtrade launched in the UK in 1994, the
Co-op Group recognised the synergies derived
from the values that underpin both movements.
Essentially, co-operatives and Fairtrade are
democratic and people-based movements.
Fairtrade is designed to support small producer
organisations and requires equity and equality
as well as promoting education and specific
elements such as gender balance. Fairtrade
Premium committees, for example, which decide
how to invest the Fairtrade Premium, are created
in a way which is representative of the wider
business and communities that the individual
Fairtrade impacts are so obvious across both
the hired labour model (where workers in larger
scale organisations are supported) and in the
small producer model (where developing co-op
structures have allowed individuals to access
markets and improve their lives). I have witnessed
positive changes repeatedly in both cases.
Perhaps the best example is that of Fintea tea
co-op in Kenya – a group of 15,000 farmers who, as
individuals competing in the tea-growing regions,
had little chance of ever accessing international
markets. As part of our work, and supported by
the Co-operative College, we helped create Fintea
co-operative and offered training in Fairtrade
requirements and co-operative ways of working.
One farmer, Mercy Maritim, dreamed one day
of moving out of her small mud house and hoped
that better prices may allow her to buy a cow and
sell milk locally. Within 18 months, Mercy had
not one but two cows, and was living in a much
larger brick house with electricity and running
water – an incredible
in a short space
of time. And really
thanks not just to
Fairtrade but to being a
DO YOU THINK
Fairtrade itself has
been focusing much
more on small producers and their co-operatives
and, given the structure of the supply base,
co-operatives will always remain a cornerstone
of the Fairtrade movement. Fairtrade as a brand
continues to have a responsibility to give those
co-ops a voice, and partner licensees also
need to take that responsibility seriously. In
the case of the Co-op Group, I can see both
Fairtrade and the co-op model becoming
even more significant to the business as we
continue to look for ways to demonstrate
our own co-op difference in an increasingly
HOW HAS THE CO-OP GROUP MADE A
DIFFERENCE THROUGH FAIRTRADE?
Lots of small steps have been the key to making
Fairtrade a real success story – as well as
unrelenting championing of Fairtrade.
In 2002, when we switched all of our own-brand
chocolate to Fairtrade, we campaigned for other
retailers to invest in Fairtrade too, and challenged
the big brands to wake up to the exploitation that
was rife in the cocoa industry. Over the following
years, Fairtrade became widely available and we
have seen all three of the UK’s biggest chocolate
brands engage with Fairtrade. There is no doubt
t Clockwise from
left: Brad Hill’s career
has seen him visit co-ops
such as the Sugar Cane
Farmers Association in
Belize, which has seen
a Fairtrade premium of
around £500K returned
via Co-op Group sales
annually since 2016;
harvesting coffee cherries
with the Aguadas coffee
co-op in Colombia; with
coffee farmer members
of Todosanterita co-op (a
member of Fedecocagua,
the Co-op Group’s
Guatemalan supplier for
over 15 years); students
at Amankwatia School,
Kenya, which was opened
with Co-op Group funding
through Kuapa Kokoo and
JULY 2018 | 37
q Brad Hill with Ecookim
members who had
taken part in a women’s
training session. Ecookim
is a union of 23 primary
co-ops in rural Côte
cocoa and coffee
that the Co-op’s pioneering action and leadership
has been a catalyst and derived significant
indirect benefits across the industry.
In 2012 we switched all bananas to Fairtrade –
this was a difficult one to secure commercially.
The detail behind the plan went much further
than we had gone on previous category
conversions but we were able to create a
sourcing model which focused on at least
50% of the fruit coming in from smallholders
– mainly co-ops. And on top of that I worked on
some co-op collaborations – most notably with
Coobana co-op in Panama and Banelino Co-op in
Dominican Republic – where the Group invested
in additional ‘beyond Fairtrade’ projects, helping
to strengthen fellow co-ops in terms of capacity
building, training and education.
In the last couple of years, with focus on delivering
more impacts in key areas through our Fairtrade
ingredients policy, we have continued to
innovate and find ways to keep momentum.
We work with other co-ops to demonstrate
that the Co-op Group does Fairtrade differently
– with a depth of commitment like no other retailer.
In terms of leadership, it’s clear that the
Co-op dominates the market; we have over 80%
of UK convenience Fairtrade sales and are the
world’s largest seller of Fairtrade wines.
WHY DO YOU BELIEVE NOW IS THE RIGHT TIME
TO MOVE ON? WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS?
This job will never be finished but I believe
it has reached a point where there needs to
be a step change directionally. For 20 years I
have been supporting the values of Fairtrade
and the people behind the Fairtrade Mark, as well
as building a co-op difference to the approach.
Fairtrade has reached levels of sales and impact
that nobody could have dreamed – but as a brand
there is growing evidence that the ‘ethical market’
Fairtrade has reached the mainstream in so many
ways and has successfully challenged businesses
to look at themselves. We will not see the same
significant levels of growth in the Fairtrade food
sector as we have in the past – so the Group
needs to look at how to build on its success to
drive a more co-op-focused agenda for producers.
Fairtrade policies are robust and embedded now
within the business. And we have a brilliant young
Food Policy Team to take us forward with Fairtrade
and a wider co-op fair trade approach. So it feels
as if I can leave the legacy in very safe hands
and give someone else the opportunity to
So many people tell me it must be the best job
in the world. I honestly think it is – which is why
I have been here for so long. I am so fortunate,
but at the same time want someone else to have
at least some of the experiences and rewards that
I have had over two decades.
I still feel a responsibility to the producers and
I will be continuing my support for Fairtrade
once I have moved on. After a short break I will
see what options may exist where I believe my
experience can add value; I am especially keen
on getting back into classrooms and sharing my
stories with children to hopefully help inspire the
next generation of Fairtrade and ethical shoppers
38 | JULY 2018
artistry activism belief
WITH SPECIAL GUESTS
EXCLUSIVE FESTIVAL RESIDENCY WITH RIOT DAYS
WE ARE SCIENTISTS × OZOMATLI × I’M WITH HER
IBIBIO SOUND MACHINE × LOWKEY × LEE BAINS III & THE GLORY FIRES
REV. PEYTON’S BIG DAMN BAND × DUKE SPECIAL × GRACE PETRIE
WORDS & IDEAS
JACK MONROE ON POVERTY × MICHAEL EAVIS ON FESTIVALS
KATE RAWORTH ON REDISTRIBUTION × JUNE SARPONG ON DIVERSITY
CAROL ANN DUFFY × SIMON MAYO × HARRY BAKER × VICKY BEECHING
JON MCGREGOR × JOANNA BLYTHMAN × REBECCA STOTT
THEATRE & COMEDY
BRYONY KIMMIMGS × HYENA ALULA CYR × BOURGEOIS & MAURICE
MAE MARTIN × FLO & JOAN × TONY LAW × HARRY & CHRIS
CELESTIAL SOUND CLOUD BY PIF-PAF × LIMBIC CINEMA
MALAK MATTAR × GEORGINA BARNEY × ART SCHOOL
CHILDREN & FAMILIES
MORGAN & WEST’S UTTERLY SPIFFING MAGIC SHOW
PROFESSOR PUMPERNICKEL × SPACE REBEL PRINCESS
BELIEF & SPIRITUALITY × YOUTH SPACES AND PROGRAMME × OUTDOOR PERFORMANCE
FOOD, FUTURES AND RED TENT VENUES × SPORTS × WORKSHOPS × SILENT DISCO
DEBATES × ACTIVISM × INFLATABLES × CLASSICAL CONCERTS AT THE HOUSE
CRAFTS × WORLD CUISINE × BOUGHTON HOUSE ART COLLECTION × CAMPING IN
THE BEAUTIFUL PARKLAND OF BOUGHTON HOUSE IN THE HEART OF ENGLAND
PLUS MUCH, MUCH MORE
TIER 2 TICKET
Making a difference:
q Guy Singh-Watson
and his fellow workerowners
Riverford Organic Farmers, which delivers food
from regional farms to homes around the UK, has
made the transition to employee-ownership.
Supported by the Employee Ownership
Association, the move means Riverford is now
74% owned by its workforce. It was made official
on 8 June, marked by a celebration party.
Founder Guy Singh-Watson retains a 26%
share of the business and stays on as trustee,
board member, shareholder and brand guardian.
Riverford will now be governed by a board, staff
council and trust, with the current day-to-day
management team remaining in place.
The 650 new worker-owners own most of the
land and all the buildings and infrastructure,
under a £6m deal which is being funded by Triodos
bank. Mr Singh-Watson can only sell his remaining
share to the trust but said he has no plans to do
so and “is excited about staying involved for the
Workers will continue to share a minimum 10%
of all profits and, because they are not purchasing
shares, will not be exposed to any losses.
Riverford, which began organic farming in
Devon in 1987 and six years later became one of
the first organic veg box delivery schemes direct
from farm to customers, said there would be no
difference to the produce boxes sold.
Writing on his blog, Mr Singh-Watson said:
“Amongst all the signings, meetings and legal
documentation, I am tearful, grumpy and awash
with churning emotions – but doubt is not
one of them.
“I am convinced most people are kinder, less
greedy, more creative, more thoughtful and can
contribute more and be more productive than our
institutions allow them to demonstrate. The best
indication of business efficiency (and most valid
prediction of future success) is getting the best
out of people while giving the most back; return
on capital is a poor, short-term proxy.
“I want to be part of an organisation that helps us
be the best version of ourselves – that facilitates
and grows people, rather than undermining their
humanity by appealing to ignoble sentiments, as
capitalism too often does.”
Riverford, which now distributes nearly 50,000
boxes of produce a week and has a £60m turnover,
is worth more than £20m. Mr Singh-Watson said
he could have sold the firm to the highest bidder
and put the money to good causes but favoured
employee ownership. “I have nagging doubts
about charity,” he explained, “and would prefer to
embed the changes I want to see in everyday life.”
He added: “Time might prove me hopelessly
idealistic, but I don’t think so; over the last year
we have been working towards a more inclusive,
human style of management, and the signs
are so good that even our more militaristically
minded managers are embracing the change.
“It feels as if an oppressive cloud is already
lifting and a new dawn, full of exciting possibility,
is revealing itself. In the end, the most critical
factor is confidence: in each other and in our
shared humanity; the confidence to be our whole
selves, and not to wait for others to lead the way.”
40 | JULY 2018
WHY THE CHANGE TO EMPLOYEE OWNERSHIP?
Our decision to be employee‐owned (EO) is a
natural step for a company committed to showing a
more enlightened way. At a time when no one was
focused on organic, we farmed and sold organic
produce. And now at a point when we might have
opted to sell, we have chosen another less‐trodden
path that we hope in time will become the norm.
We are excited about demonstrating, along with
other EO businesses, how this model can deliver
dividends on engagement and motivation; and how
these in turn translate into commercial success
allied with enduring values. What the employee
ownership trust model offers is the opportunity
to lock in the values of the business for the long
term in a way that is fair to all. In practice, for
franchisees, customers and suppliers, little will
change day to day.
ARE ALL STAFF BEHIND THE DECISION?
A good proportion are highly engaged and excited,
but, as with most change, there are a good
number who are taking a while to engage with and
understand the change. We are working hard to
communicate what the change will mean. On the
whole, staff are supportive of the decision once
they understand what it means, but there is some
concern about its impact. We will continue to have
conversations with staff at all levels.
WHAT CHANGES WILL STAFF NOTICE?
The biggest shift will be one of mindset. Those
businesses we have seen thrive are the ones
where, over time, every single person in the
company acts like, and feels like, an owner. The
big change is that everyone is in a position to hold
each other to account every single day. So it’s less
about top‐down management, and more about
each individual taking responsibility for their part
in making the business succeed.
While it is not a magic pill, and it can’t happen in
a single day, our hope is that everyone at Riverford
feels listened to, feels that they can challenge
us and that they are in this thing together. For
the staff, one thing they will see much more of
is communication – not just of the good bits like
the profit share, but also of the tougher decisions
a business has to make to move forward. With
everyone owning part of the company, that involves
a level of transparency and responsibility that was
not previously required.
WHAT BUSINESSES INSPIRED YOU TO CONSIDER
My starting point was the Quaker movement – I
have a lot of respect for the way they run business
collaboratively. There are lots of forms of EO ... My
favourite example is probably Tiptree – they have
a lovely long‐term approach to business with an
absolute determination to do things well – they
still grow fruit themselves and are innovative in
their growing techniques. They have a good level
of staff engagement and are a lovely company in it
for the long term, owned by the original family who
share same views as me which are, essentially: if
you already have £5m, what on earth are you going
to do with another £5m?
HOW INVOLVED WILL YOU BE IN THE BUSINESS?
I love it and want to be involved in it as long as
possible, as long as the staff will have me; they
will have the power to fire me once we become
employee‐owned. My involvement with the
business stands at 80% of my time and may fall to
60% with EO transition, but I am a big character in
the business and need to make room for others. I
can’t be the face of the business (or the grumpy old
man of the business) forever. Right now I regularly
walk around the business until I find something
to fix. I am trying to celebrate more and get our
managers to do the same. Improvement is not
always about going from really good to excellent,
it can be about going from crap to average.
WHAT WORRIES YOU MOST ABOUT RIVERFORD
It’s not about the business going off in a direction
I wouldn’t support or making bigger mistakes;
my biggest fear is actually that nothing changes,
and we stand still just doing the same as what
we are doing today. In a values‐driven business,
competence is even more important. You have to
be better at what you do, and more innovative in
order to do that. Being a values‐driven business
does not give you an excuse not to be exceedingly
good at everything you do.
HOW LONG WILL YOU STAY WITH RIVERFORD?
One of the reasons this model appealed was that
it enabled me to stay involved in the business,
primarily from a guardianship and ideas point of
view. My aim is to be part of Riverford until my dying
day. If that changes and I can’t be involved, then
the business will continue to thrive without me.
JULY 2018 | 41
Making a difference:
p The First Nations
attended the BCTECH
Summit, a conference for
western Canada’s tech
sector (Photo: First Nation
Co-operative values are being put into practice
to help the indigenous peoples of Canada
reclaim their cultural identities and develop the
economies of their communities.
Much of the focus is on issues surrounding food
security, with the co-operative model seen as
useful for promoting indigenous food sovereignty.
Canada has a population of around 1.7 million
indigenous people, who are grouped into three
categories: First Nations – indigenous people from
south of the Arctic Circle, Métis (who trace their
descent to First Nations peoples and European
settlers), and Inuit communities.
Census figures say nearly half of First Nations
people (49.3%) live on reserves, while more than
half of indigenous people overall (56%) live in
Social issues include access to health services,
quality housing and emergency services. These
problems were made tragically clear in 2015, when
two children on a First Nations reserve in northern
Saskatchewan died in a fire. A dispute over unpaid
bills meant emergency volunteer services did not
attend and, although the reserve had its own fire
truck, it lacked a trained crew and equipment.
The incident sparked moves to create the
Saskatchewan First Nations Technical Services
Co-operative, to provide technical services such
as water engineering and housing inspections to
First Nation communities across Saskatchewan.
And, in 2016, Co-operatives First, a co-op
development organisation for rural and Indigenous
communities across western Canada, was formed.
Communications officer Merle Massie says:
“One of the strengths of co-operatives for First
Nations communities is that it has a familiar
decision-making style while offering a communitybased
ownership model that can take some of the
pressure off of already-busy band councils [the
basic unit of government for indigenous people].
“There may be all kinds of small, local needs
that community members can solve, leveraging
band council help and support, but using the
co-op model to drive their own energy to design
and create something new.
“The co-op model can also be used at the
multi-band or tribal council level. It can draw
multiple bands or tribal councils together to solve
joint needs, while maintaining the identity and
jurisdiction of each.”
Initiatives include moves to set up broadband
co-ops. The Canadian government has
committed C$500m through its Connect to
Innovate programme to connect rural and remote
communities – and many First Nations people will
receive high speed internet for the first time.
Rob McMahon, a co-ordinator at First Mile
Connectivity Consortium, a national association
of First Nations community-based telecoms, says:
“Everything should flow from the communities.
The business case, the uses, the policies that are
created to support it, all of these things, you need
to start with that community engagement.”
Efforts to promote new co-ops for indigenous
people include a collaboration between the
Saskatchewan Co-operative Association and
the Saskatchewan First Nations Economic
Development Network to build on “synergies
between First Nations culture and worldview, and
the co-operative model”.
In 2015, they produced Local People, Local
Solutions, a handbook on co-op development for
First Nation peoples in the province. They want
to encourage First Nation people to circulate
money within their own communities rather
than spending it on external businesses – and
notes that “for thousands of years, Aboriginal
collaborative societies prospered” in the region.
The handbook says 133 of Canada’s 8,500
co-ops are run by indigenous people. First Nations
and Métis-controlled co-ops employ 1,400 people
with an average of 18 people per co-op.
Retail co-operatives under First Nations and
Métis control represent 71% of indigenous cooperatives,
and account for 93% of annual sales
The average income for First Nations and Métis
co-ops is $230m for retail co-ops (mainly grocery
stores), $5.5m for fishing and $4.5m for forestry.
In 2001, indigenous consumer co-ops were
42 | JULY 2018
growing at a rate almost twice that of the retail
sector or other consumer co-ops, the handbook
adds. And it says the co-op model makes a
vital difference as “a way for First Nations
communities to improve economic conditions
while keeping decision-making powers and
“Each co-operative is designed to meet the
needs of the community it serves, so each co-op
has a unique and locally focused way of working.”
Examples given include the Muskoday Workers
Organic Co-op. Launched in 2005 to produce
organic vegetables for local and regional markets,
it uses the co-op structure to give “a sense of
ownership and decision-making power that
reflected the collectivity of First Nations culture”.
It has since started planting fruit trees, interplanting
crops to avoid monoculture, and has
planted 200km of shelterbelts to encourage
biodiversity. Participants can gain a Green
Certificate through Saskatchewan’s on-farm
training programme in agricultural production and
management. In one year, it trained 11 families in
indigenous organic gardening, agro-ecology and
organic food entrepreneurship.
The handbook also looks to the neighbouring
province of Manitoba, where Neechi Foods
Co-operative, formed in 1990 in Winnipeg,
operates a grocery store, restaurant, fruit and
vegetable courtyard, and arts market.
“Neechi, meaning ‘sister, brother, or friend’ in
Cree and Ojibwa, was created to address food
and employment security as well as communitybuilding,”
says the report. It has helped to open
a new business complex to promote Aboriginal
artisans and musicians, a farmers’ market, a
bakery, and specialty boutiques.
The worker co-op has won the Green Globes
certification for the design of the new building,
which includes geo-thermal heating and cooling,
and the Excellence in Aboriginal Leadership Award.
It is a purchasing partner of the Local Investment
Toward Employment programme, and is a supply
partner with Winnipeg’s Social Purchasing Portal.
Also in Manitoba, Ka Ni Kanichihk Inc, a nonprofit
which facilitates projects to improve health
and wellbeing for indigenous peoples, is working
to build indigenous co-operative capacity.
The project offers advice on co-operative law,
fundraising, development and governance.
It says: “The idea of a co-operative is nothing
new to indigenous people who exercised
entrepreneurship and co-operative development
long before the co-operative business structure
became popular in Canada and elsewhere. In
many ways, indigenous people were the first
co-operators. Indigenous people have worked
together in achieving common goals to sustain
livelihoods and develop communities.
“The co-operative model aligns with indigenous
values, social expectations and fits into the
perspective of how Indigenous peoples view the
world: an understanding of connectedness and
interdependence of all elements of being.”
p Members of the First
Nations of Canada open
the World Social Forum
march in Montreal in 2016
JULY 2018 | 43
Making a difference:
The Open Co-op
The Open Co-op is hosting
OPEN:2018 (26-27 July),
a conference exploring
for the co-operative
economy. Lisa Bovill,
co-founder of Hull Coin,
will be there, discussing
‘the nature of money’.
u How the Hullcoin
will work its way through
the local economy
It’s long been the butt of unfair jokes, but Hull
could be having the last laugh in the form of a truly
The city – whose reputation saw it come in at
number one in the 2003 book Crap Towns – is
defying the naysayers with signs of a turnaround.
London topped the same roll call in 2013 while
Hull dropped out of the top 50 – and in 2017 was
the UK City of Culture.
But it still has some major needs: a 2015
survey by the city council found that over half
the population lived in the most deprived areas
of the country.
“Most deprived areas” don’t normally spawn
innovation and the city council’s main solution
was to throw £100m of its capital reserves into
civic improvements to overhaul Hull’s image, and
to cosy up to Siemens in an attempt to secure
And while other people poke fun at
#CityofCulture2017, a small group of truly
community‐minded “hactivists” have set to work
at the real cutting edge of social development to
“unlock the hidden value in Hull’s economy”.
Enter David Shepherdson and Lisa Bovill, from
Kaini Industries, an initiative which sprang out
of research, funded by Hull City Council in 2014,
that explored how the disruptive technology
underpinning bitcoin could facilitate a local
currency to support communities in Hull affected
by poverty. After a few years of development and
community outreach they launched Hullcoin,
which enables people who engage with charities
and community groups across the city to earn
digital coins by volunteering and undertaking
activities that benefit themselves. Hullcoins
can then be redeemed as discounts at over 140
participating retailers across the city.
Hull City Council and the NHS are both
supporting the project, as is the University,
Hull College group and the Department
of Work & Pensions.
HOW DOES THE HULLCOIN ECONOMY WORK?
Kaini Industries “mined” 10 million Hullcoins –
a quick non‐energy‐intensive process that took
about 30 minutes (because it did not require the
competitive “proof of work” process associated
with Bitcoin). Kaini then runs due diligence on
any local community groups that wish to issue
coins, to ensure they promote activities which
“create a better community”, and allocate them
“bundles” of coins – normally in batches of 500.
These community organisations, health and
employment services then issue individual coins
to people for volunteering or helping themselves
or others to “create a better community”.
People with Hullcoins can then redeem them at
participating retailers across the city in return for
discounts on goods and services of between 5 and
50%. The retailers can choose what to do with the
coins, either re‐issuing them as employee rewards,
giving them to loyal customers as discounts on
future purchases, or donating them back to a
community group or charity to further stimulate
the local economy. Kaini monitors the amount of
coins in circulation and has an agreement with the
council to take some offline, if required, to help
manage supply and demand.
It’s a truly novel idea which uses blockchain
to empower Hull’s real assets – its people – by
placing a direct and tangible value on community
support, self betterment and volunteering. These
are the key aspects of mutual aid which are so
critical to community development but so often
ignored or undervalued in modern society.
Hullcoin is the first initiative of its kind to utilise
blockchain in this way. The project is still in private
beta at the moment and its developers are keen to
44 | JULY 2018
iron out the glitches which will prevent the system
from scaling. But if their crowdfunder is a success
they have plans to white‐label the system for other
cities – at which point it could potentially provide
a pathway out of poverty for millions of people.
The concept of Hullcoin has many similarities
to ‘Covestment’, a term coined by Jordan
Bober and Michael Linton to describe a
means of “financing the future and creating
economic resilience by weaving innovations
in network currencies, crowdfunding and
In Covestment, companies issue currency (or
discount vouchers, if you like) to a Community
Covestment Fund from which members of the
community can buy the local currency with
regular money. The Covestment fund uses the
cash to provide loans to local entrepreneurs
and businesses, and people use their local
currency to obtain discounts when they shop at
the businesses which backed the currency at the
start. In exactly the same way as Hullcoin, the
result is a stimulation of the money supply and
hence local economy.
The recent surge of interest in new forms of
money makes experiments like Hullcoin and
ideas like Covestment highly topical – and what’s
most exciting is that we don’t need to wait for
the government to wake up to the possibilities.
These are ideas which we can start experimenting
with right now – to take control of our local
economies and make them work for the benefit
Lisa Bovill, one of the developers at Hullcoin,
will be speaking at the OPEN:2018 conference in
London in July. It will be fascinating to hear how
the project is progressing and the impact it is
having for the people of Hull. If our hunch is right,
it has probably already had a more direct impact
on less privileged people’s lives than a single
cent of the £100m the city council “invested” in
beautifying the city.
Co-op News has two free tickets
to give away for OPEN:2018!
26 —27 July, Conway Hall, London | 2018.open.coop
p The tides of new tech
are bringing opportunities
for cities like Hull to shape
their own futures
To enter the draw, send your name and contact number by email to
email@example.com – or by post to OPEN:2018 Contest, Co‐op
News, Holyoake House, Hanover Street, Manchester, M16 9LD.
Two winners will be drawn at random and notified on Thursday, 19 July.
We will never store your details or pass them on without your consent. If you win this
competition, we will contact you for permission to pass on your details to OPEN:2018,
who will give you a unique 100% discount code. See thenews.coop/privacy for details.
q Co-operative Life
founder Robyn Kaczmarek
and (bottom) a client and
carer from the co-op
Making a difference:
Co-operative Life is Australia’s first worker-owned
social care co-op – and it is making a vital difference
to its sector by empowering employees.
There are over 2,000 aged care service providers
in Australia, but Co-operative Life is very different,
says managing director Robyn Kaczmarek.
She founded the venture in 2013, because she
felt a different approach to aged care was needed.
She had worked in the sector since 2007, after
getting divorced and needing flexible work to look
after her children. A naturopath by profession, she
went on to obtain an aged care certificate and got
a job with an agency. She found the experience
“disheartening”, with support workers unable to
choose their shifts. Once contracts ended, the
support worker would no longer be able to provide
services to clients who depended on them.
She did a diploma in coordination of community
services and started to get private clients as a
case manager. “I wasn’t happy with the agency
model,” she says, “and discovered Sunderland
Home Care Associates in the UK and Cooperative
Home Care Associates in New York and decided to
start the same here.”
Over the next 18 months Ms Kaczmarek and some
colleagues worked on a business plan for the coop.
Setting up a co-op was difficult, she says, due
to the lack of a co-operative apex body at the time.
The Australian Business Council of Co-operatives
and Mutuals (BCCM) can now provide support and
guidance to groups wishing to learn more about the
co-operative business model.
“There was a lack of experience here at the
time. Since then BCCM have done a great job in
promoting co-ops and educating people, it is much
easier now,” she added.
The worker co-op now has 75 staff members,
with an additional 30 members on probation. They
must be employed for at least six months before
becoming full members.
“We are really trying to push employee
engagement, being involved in decision making,
sharing information, financials, operation plans,
financial models. Employees have not experienced
that before so we have high retention rate,” says
Ms Kaczmarek. “We are following a self-managed
team model – all decision making is down to staff
members closest to the customer. Generally they
can run most of their shifts without involvement
from upper levels.”
The co-op, which serves the Sydney Metro and
New England areas of New South Wales, wants
to extend across the whole country, with a model
particularly suited to rural and remote communities.
The co-op is also a pilot case in the Platform
Co-op Development Kit programme developed by
BCCM. The project gives aspiring groups like care
workers access to software templates and best legal
practices to create their own sharing economies.
The initiative is the result of a partnership
between global Platform Coop Consortia and
BCCM, and is funded through a US$1m Google
grant devoted to creating open-source platform
technology for worker-owners.
“In areas like social care, platform co-ops deliver
agency and empowerment for workers and high
quality and consistent services,” said Melina
Morrison, chief executive of BCCM. “But their
potential use is much more varied and wide.”
WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING IN AUSTRALIA?
More than three million Australians have chosen a
co-op or mutual health insurance option.
Meanwhile, co-op and mutual models have been
receiving attention from the federal government.
For instance, the South Australian government has
set up a public service employee-led mutual to
deliver Early Childhood Early Intervention services
for the National Disability Insurance Agency.
A 2016 book, The Third Sector Solution, looks at
the role of co-operative and mutual enterprises in
delivering public services. It includes contributions
from Cliff Mills, consultant at Anthony Collins
solicitors, and Melina Morrison.
They recommend shifting from a top-down to a
community approach and involving service users
and care professionals working together.
46 | JULY 2018
Making a difference:
Co-op Credit Union
HOW DO CREDIT UNIONS MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
I feel credit unions are one of the better examples
of co-operation: we encourage members to save –
without these savers we would not have funds to
lend to those who have a borrowing requirement.
Those who have a borrowing requirement can
apply for a loan and receive a competitive rate of
interest. All loans are subject to approval, they
are reviewed on an individual basis with the credit
union ensuring the repayments are affordable.
Any surplus made by the credit union is returned
to its members in the form of a dividend (apart
from any regulatory requirements we have to
strengthen the reserves). Occasionally the
board may choose to transfer more than the
regulatory minimum to reserves to strengthen
the business for the future. This is all agreed by
the members present at the AGM. The directors are
all volunteers, approved by the members present
at the AGM. We have several relationships with
other co-operatives and in turn we promote their
products and services. It’s people helping people.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE EXAMPLE OF THIS?
Approximately five years ago, we started to work
and promote Co-op Energy. Our members, and their
family and friends. could use a link on our website
to Co-op Energy to compare the costs they are
paying for energy prices. Not only did this expose
the credit union to others but we managed to save
our members and their families over £10,000 on
the cost of their energy bills.
HOW CAN WE FIND OUT MORE?
Like all credit unions, we are governed by a
common bond, and so only those listed within this
can become members. It includes the employees
and members of many of the UK’s co-operatives.
If there is sufficient desire, we can request further
additions to the common bond by seeking approval
from the Financial Conduct Authority. For a list of
those within the common bond please check our
More details: co-operativecreditunion.coop/join
of the Co-op Party
Making a difference:
HOW DO CO-OPERATIVES MAKE A DIFFERENCE
The bold and decisive step that the co-op movement
made 100 years ago to ensure that it had a voice in
the rooms where decisions are made by creating its
own political party – the Co-operative Party – has
made a huge difference to politics. Co-operators
from AV Alexander and Ted Graham to Cathy
Jamieson and Pauline Green have been elected to
all levels of government and been able to create
opportunities for co-operative action to flourish.
That co-operative voice in Westminster, Holyrood,
Cardiff Bay and town halls across Britain brings a
much-needed mix of radicalism and practicality.
We are a movement restless for change, that makes
the passionate case for a better way of doing things,
where wealth and power are shared. But we also
offer the practical models for making it happen –
drawing on the work of our co-operative movement
that daily demonstrates the change we want to see
in the world. At their best, co-ops provide a vision
of how business can be done better.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE EXAMPLE OF THIS?
Overall the difference co-ops make through their
engagement in politics has been the creation of
an environment in which co-operative activity has
been able to diversify from its original roots and
spread across a huge range of sectors from football
and energy to transport, hospitality and culture.
There is still more to do but our models and ideas
are increasingly recognised as an option within
mainstream political discourse.
More details: party.coop
JULY 2018 | 47
A new overview of the history of co-operation
A Global History
This valuable new history of the global co-operative
movement charts its rise and its evolution – and
crucially outlines the way it has been shaped by
For instance, new forms of co-operation were
born from the hardships of industrialisation in the
19th century, with the rise of the first retail co-ops;
the ideals of the counterculture of the 1970s led
to a proliferation of worker co-ops; and now a new
movement, platform co-operativism, has arrived to
meet the needs of those left adrift by the financial
crash of 2018 and the growth of insecure work in the
digital gig economy.
With this broader global and historical context,
Greg Patmore (emeritus professor of business
and labour history and chair of the Co-operatives
Research Group at the University of Sydney) and
Nikola Balnave (senior lecturer in the department
of marketing and management and president of the
Australian Society for the Study of Labour History)
add welcome depth to a familiar story.
There’s a chapter surveying the precursors to
the Rochdale Pioneers, looking at the influence
of the UK’s Industrial Revolution and the political
philosophies of the era on the rise of early
co-ops, with 46 flour and bread societies formed
between 1759 and 1820 to sell at below-market
prices. It places such efforts alongside the
co-operative ideas of social reformers like
Robert Owen and Dr William King and the
growth of linked movements such as Chartism
and trade unionism. Meanwhile, early financial
co-ops were appearing in the USA and worker
co-ops were being formed in France, despite
official restrictions on popular associations.
After the modern consumer co-op movement was
birthed by the Rochdale Pioneers in 1844, it faced
a series of problems related to capitalisation and
supply chains - which would eventually see the rise
of co-operative wholesaling. But a period economic
growth saw improved wages and conditions for
skilled workers, allowing them to supply the working
capital needed by co-ops to proliferate and diversify.
Again, Patmore and Belnave see this growth in
the context of wider ideological developments,
in particular the religious Redemption
movement in the north of England and Christian
Socialism in the south.
The book takes in the parallel stories of the
rise of financial co-ops in Europe, with the rise
of the Schulze-Delitzsch and Raiffeisen models;
of interest in co-operative communities as new areas
of the USA were settled and – just 15 years after
the Rochdale Pioneers set up shop – Australia’s
first consumer co-op. By 1861, Australia even had a
short-lived coalminers’ co-op, created in the wake
of a labour dispute.
From there, Patmore and Balnave chart the
spread of the movement as it globalised and
diversifiedin the years before the First World War,
facilitated by faster world transport by sea and rail,
increased migration levels and improvements in
telecommunications. It’s a period which saw the
movement square off against its enemies, with the
CWS fighting legal battles against capitalist rival
William Lever, and growing differences in style
and outlook within the movement. The authors
note party-political neutrality in British and Swiss
consumer co-ops, in contrast with a socialist outlook
in France and Belgium – and how, in 1902, different
attitudes to social democracy split the German
movement in two.
This was a crucial period in shaping the
movement, with landmarks such as the foundation
of the International Co-operative Alliance in 1895,
but there were tough times ahead in the 20th
century. The book shows how the movement would
continue to be shaped by wider historical forces
beyond its control – such as the Great Depression,
the rise of totalitarian systems and World War II.
It’s a situation which has continued in the form
of the postwar boom, and the financial crises
which have followed it since the 1970s, through to
the rise of neo-liberalism in the present day. There
has also been a growing of internationalism in the
movement which has seen the emphasis move away
from Europe. Patmore and Balnave note the opening
of African and Asian offices by the International
Co-operative Alliance, and the growth of the
US-based World Council of Credit Unions.
As they take us through these shifting eras, the
authors provide vivid snapshots of key moments,
such as clampdowns on worker organisations
by statist Nazi and Soviet regimes; the spread
of co-operativism to India and Africa via British
colonialism; the birth of the Latin American
credit union at the hands of a Catholic priest in
Peru, in 1955; the rise of finance co-ops to serve
prosperous blue-collar workers in the US’s postwar
boom; and the crisis which tore through the
Australian and New Zealand co-op movements in
the late 1970s.
With this thorough overview of the co-operative
story, the book shows how the movement has
responded to challenges and opportunities in the
past, not always successfully. It makes valuable
reading for co-operators plotting a course through
an ever-more turbulent world.
48 | JULY 2018
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CLOCKWISE FROM FAR LEFT: Manchester
Central Library showcases the ‘Working
Together’ project in July; Community
Energy Fortnight runs until 8 July; Dr
Cilla Ross gives the UK Society for Cooperative
Studies annual lecture in
Manchester on 5 July; and Preston
considers its co-operative future on 25 July
23 June - 8 July: Community Energy
The annual Community Energy Fortnight
is a platform to showcase inspiring
examples of communities who are
sharing their resources, generating
renewable energy and wasting less.
23 June - 8 July: Co-operatives Fortnight
The annual fortnight when co‐ops and
organisations across the UK work together
to promote co‐operatives.
2 - 28 July: Workers’ Co-operative
Exhibition (Manchester Central Library)
The HLF-supported ‘Working Together’
project was set up to identify and make
accessible for the first time records and
oral histories from some of the major UK
workers’ co-operatives of the 1970s-90s.
This exhibition showcases some of the
findings of the project and includes case
studies and personal recollections of
WHERE: Manchester Central Library
5 July: UK Society for Co-operative
Studies – Annual Lecture 2018
Dr Cilla Ross, vice-principal of the
Co-operative College, will be giving the
annual lecture this year on the topic of:
Rethinking co-operative education in new
times. Gill Gardner, council secretary at
the Co-op Group, will introduce the topic.
WHERE: Federation House, Manchester
7 July: International Day of Co-operatives
The theme for the 2018 International
Day is: “sustainable consumption and
production of goods and services”.
21 July: A Co-operative Region
– ‘co-operation in action’
A day celebrating and exploring
co-operative solutions, with speakers
sharing local co-operative stories and
talking about community-run co-ops,
community housing, the Co-op Party
vision for co-operative communities, and
how we can all be more ‘co-operative’.
WHERE: Arbury Community Centre,
25 July: Preston meets Mondragon
The Preston Co-operative Development
Network, UCLan and Preston City Council
are holding a symposium to develop
a plan and strategies towards a vision
of Preston as a place for democratic
employment and social citizenship.
WHERE: UCLan, Preston
31 Aug - 2 Sep: UK Society for Co-op
Studies – Conference 2018
The co-operative movement has always
wrestled with the diversity of people,
places and organisational variations
that have emerged under the banner
of co-operation. This creates a specific
challenge as the global movement
attracts new advocates in the wake of
the 2008 crisis.
WHERE: Sheffield Hallam University
12-14 October: Co-operative Party Annual
22 November: Practitioners Forum
50 | JULY 2018
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Coffee producer, Costa Rica. Photography: Cafédirect
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