The October 2018 edition of Co-op News is all about politics: Can cop-operatives steer a course through troubled times? Plus... breaking the association with Communism in eastern Europe / co-ops and the civil rights movement in the USA / the UKSCS conference / MEET... Co-op Party stalwart, Lord Graham of Edmonton

The October 2018 edition of Co-op News is all about politics: Can cop-operatives steer a course through troubled times? Plus... breaking the association with Communism in eastern Europe / co-ops and the civil rights movement in the USA / the UKSCS conference / MEET... Co-op Party stalwart, Lord Graham of Edmonton


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<strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong><br />


Can co-ops steer<br />

a course through<br />

troubled times?<br />

Plus ... Breaking the<br />

association with communism<br />

in eastern Europe ... the<br />

UKSCS annual conference ...<br />

Black Lives Matter ... Brexit<br />

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news<br />

Is the future of the world<br />

a co-operative one?<br />




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Elaine Dean (chair), David Paterson<br />

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Perkins and Barbara Rainford.<br />

Secretary: Richard Bickle<br />

Established in 1871, Co-operative<br />

News is published by Co-operative<br />

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cooperativenews<br />

With far right parties making electoral gains in Europe, the Trump<br />

administration widening divisions in the USA and the Brexit process<br />

in stalemate (p46-47), there seems no end in sight to the political<br />

fallout from the global financial crisis of 2008.<br />

It’s a worrying and uncertain situation – but arguably, it is one which<br />

opens up space for new, more progressive ideas to flourish and replace<br />

the prevailing neoliberal economics. If so, that makes it the perfect<br />

time to make the case for the democratic ownership models offered<br />

by the co-op movement.<br />

In the UK, these ideas are gaining traction with grassroots movements<br />

and thinktank reports looking at applying co-op and mutual ideas<br />

to energy, housing, transport and employment (p44-45). The<br />

Co-operative Party, formed to represent the movement 100 years ago,<br />

will be presenting its own ideas for the UK economy at its annual<br />

conference in Bristol, from 12-14 October (p42-43).<br />

The co-op movement is being revitalised elsewhere in the world,<br />

too – whether it is being harnessed to the Civil Rights movement in the<br />

USA (p40-41), working with government to improve living standards in<br />

Malawi (p36-37) or shaking off associations with discredited regimes<br />

in eastern Europe to build new enterprises (p34-35).<br />

But does this mean co-op models can build a convincing argument<br />

to counter the reactionary politics offered by right wing populists?<br />

We speak to Ariel Guarco, president of the International Co-operative<br />

Alliance, and US grassroots organiser John Duda – who makes the<br />

case for a more progressive populist tradition which has existed in the<br />

USA, and calls for a pluralist system of ownership models to create a<br />

more inclusive economy (p38-39).<br />

Hopefully these ideas can grow and offer more democratic solutions<br />

to the economic and environmental problems facing the world.<br />


Co-operative News is printed using vegetable oil-based<br />

inks on 80% recycled paper (with 60% from post-consumer<br />

waste) with the remaining 20% produced from FSC or PEFC<br />

certified sources. It is made in a totally chlorine free process.<br />

<strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong> | 3

association with communism<br />

in eastern Europe ... the<br />

UKSCS annual conference ...<br />

Black Lives Matter ... Brexit<br />

ISSN 0009-9821<br />

01<br />

9 770009 982010<br />



Claire McCarthy, general secretary of the Co-op<br />

Party, looks ahead to its annual conference<br />

(p42-43); the month’s news includes a strong<br />

half-year for the Co-op Group (p6); we speak<br />

to veteran co-operator Lord Graham (p26-27);<br />

and the late Chokwe Lumumba, a leading light<br />

of African-American co-operation (p40-41)<br />

news Issue #7300 <strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong><br />

Connecting, championing, challenging<br />

<strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong><br />


Can co-ops steer<br />

a course through<br />

troubled times?<br />

Plus ... Breaking the<br />

£4.20<br />

www.thenews.coop<br />

COVER: There’s a wave<br />

of reactionary populism<br />

dominating world politics<br />

– but can co-ops work with<br />

people in a more<br />

meaningful way?<br />

Read more: p32-47<br />


A final update on the Working Together<br />

project to build an archive of UK worker<br />

co-op history<br />

26-27 MEET ... LORD GRAHAM<br />


The stalwart of the Co-op Party and<br />

movement, now 93, looks back on his<br />

career and the state of co-operation<br />

28-31 THE UK SOCIETY FOR<br />


Full reports from the UKSCS annual<br />

conference in Sheffield, including the<br />

society’s annual report<br />


32-33 POPULISM AND THE<br />


The financial crisis has broken the<br />

neoliberal consensus – but which ideas<br />

will fill the gap it has left?<br />

34-35 EASTERN EUROPE<br />

After the fall of communism, co-ops<br />

suffered from their association with the<br />

old regimes – but now there are signs of a<br />

revival for the movement<br />

36-37 MALAWI<br />

The co-op movement has close ties to<br />

the government as efforts are made to<br />

drive development. And the Co-operative<br />

College is working with co-ops there, too<br />

38-39 Q&A: A CO-OP RESPONSE<br />

Ariel Guarco from the International<br />

Co-operative Alliance and US activist John<br />

Duda discuss the ways co-ops can offer a<br />

way forward through difficult times<br />

40-41 CIVIL RIGHTS<br />

The African American community has a<br />

proud co-operative heritage. It is now<br />

building a path to economic selfdetermination<br />

amid renewed activism<br />


Preview of this year’s event, where the<br />

Party will discuss Brexit and its plans to<br />

reshape the economy and double the size<br />

of the co-op sector. We speak to Party chair<br />

Gareth Thomas MP and general secretary<br />

Claire McCarthy<br />


The Institute for Public Policy Research has<br />

issued a report on the UK economy, which<br />

calls for more worker representation.<br />

46-47 BREXIT<br />

As the UK’s departure from the EU<br />

continues to dominate the landscape, just<br />

how well prepared are co-op businesses?<br />


6-14 UK updates<br />

15-22 Global updates<br />

24 Letters<br />

48-49 Books<br />

<strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong> | 5

NEWS<br />


Co-op Group returns to pharmacy sector as half-year profits rise by £12m<br />

The Co-op Group’s has reported pre-tax<br />

profits of £26m (2017: £14m) in its interim<br />

results for the six months to 7 July.<br />

Revenues rose 10% from £4.5bn to<br />

£5bn, underlying profit before tax was up<br />

from £3m to £10m, and net debt fell from<br />

£775m to £707m.<br />

The Group said a strong sales<br />

performance and the purchase of Nisa had<br />

driven the figures. Food like-for-like sales<br />

were up 4.4% and the Group, which noted<br />

positive trading factors such as the World<br />

Cup and the summer heatwave, has now<br />

enjoyed 18 consecutive quarters of likefor-like<br />

sales growth.<br />

CEO Steve Murrells confirmed the<br />

purchase of prescriptions app Dimec,<br />

which allows the management of repeat<br />

NHS prescriptions.<br />

The deal marks a return to the<br />

healthcare sector for the Group, which<br />

sold its pharmacies in 2014 as it recovered<br />

from its financial crisis. Mr Murrells said<br />

it would allow the Group “to accelerate<br />

the development of our healthcare<br />

proposition, and provides the digital<br />

platform to help customers conveniently<br />

access and link their healthcare needs,<br />

including interacting with their NHS GP”.<br />

This emphasis on health and wellness<br />

ties in to the Group’s Food business, with<br />

healthy-eating and free-from ranges.<br />

Mr Murrells told a press conference call<br />

he hoped this would “nudge” people to<br />

healthier lifestyles and reduce future<br />

pressure on the NHS.<br />

The Group said it had delivered £35m<br />

of member value through the “5+1”<br />

membership scheme, alongside price<br />

offers on home insurance and funerals.<br />

It added: “Our Co-op presence is<br />

p The World Cup and summer heatwave helped boost sales<br />

strengthened through the acquisition of<br />

Nisa and the Co-op now supplies food to<br />

over 7,700 stores. By the end of <strong>2018</strong> we<br />

will supply 850 Co-op own-brand product<br />

lines to our Nisa partners.<br />

“Co-op continues to lead the way in the<br />

Funeral sector via numerous measures<br />

to tackle funeral affordability ... Our<br />

Co-op social impact also increases with<br />

over 12,000 local community projects<br />

having now benefited from our member<br />

reward scheme and over a dozen business<br />

partners having joined our Bright Future<br />

programme to tackle modern slavery.”<br />

Asked about the Group’s contingency<br />

plans for a no-deal Brexit, Mr Murrells<br />

said the Group was “in good shape” to<br />

meet the challenges of Brexit but “we<br />

want certainty and no surprises”, adding<br />

that he wanted assurances on migrant<br />

labour to protect colleagues working at<br />

the Group.<br />

Jo Whitfield, chief executive of the Food<br />

business, said the Group’s commitment<br />

to British suppliers offered it some<br />

protection, but called for “certainty” from<br />

the government on its supply chains.<br />

“It’s tough because people are working<br />

in uncertain conditions,” she said, adding<br />

that there was still not enough information<br />

to draw up contingency plans.<br />

Asked if there plans to store food, Mr<br />

Murrells said the Group had the capacity<br />

to stockpile longer shelf-life products but<br />

warned that the real area of need would<br />

be on fresh produce, affecting its imports<br />

of fruit and other short-life products.<br />

“Even if we were to quadruple our<br />

chilled storage at docks for fresh food, it<br />

would not be enough,” he said.<br />

“We are nimble and agile enough to do<br />

the right thing to protect availability, but<br />

we are keen that the government hears<br />

our concerns.”<br />

Beefed up ethical policy sees an end to single-use plastic bags<br />

The Co-op Group has announced an end<br />

to single-use plastic, with the removal of<br />

60 million plastic carrier bags in a phased<br />

rollout of an environmentally friendly<br />

alternative.<br />

The move is part of a radical new ethical<br />

strategy at the Group, which will also<br />

tackle food waste, healthy eating, saving<br />

energy and trading fairly. It sets out how<br />

the retailer will ban single-use own-brand<br />

plastic products and reduce its overall<br />

use of plastic packaging within five years,<br />

and cut out hard to recycle materials, like<br />

black plastic.<br />

Lightweight compostable carrier bags,<br />

which can be used to carry shopping home<br />

and re-used as waste bags, will be rolled<br />

out to almost 1,400 Co-op food stores<br />

across England, Scotland and Wales.<br />

The Group’s pledge on plastic will see<br />

all its own-brand packaging become easy<br />

to recycle by 2023. It has promised to use<br />

a minimum of 50% recycled plastic in<br />

bottles, pots, trays and punnets by 2021.<br />

6 | <strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong>

Co-op Group staff<br />

protest against<br />

‘dangerous’ one-on-one<br />

food store shifts<br />

A group of Co-op Group workers have<br />

handed a petition to the retailer’s head<br />

office in Manchester to complain about<br />

one-on-one shifts, where just two staff are<br />

on duty in a store.<br />

The petition, addressed to chief<br />

executive Steve Murrells, calls on the<br />

Group to: “Put an end to one-on-one<br />

shifts and have at least three staff for all<br />

shifts. Having just two staff is not enough<br />

to do all the work required whilst keeping<br />

customers happy.”<br />

It adds: “It’s unsafe to have just one<br />

member of staff on the shop floor and one<br />

in the back in case of an accident. Please<br />

put an end to one-on-one shifts and replace<br />

them with something safer, better for the<br />

customer and manageable for your staff.”<br />

The staff members – working with<br />

workplace campaign group Organise –<br />

met the Group’s head of retail PR Craig<br />

Noonan to discuss the issue, and handed<br />

out a booklet to staff in the lobby, which<br />

contained accounts of incidents including<br />

armed robberies at Co-op stores, a lack<br />

of security, and too much work being<br />

expected of staff, the petition says.<br />

The petition, which has attracted<br />

5,904 signatures, adds: “We frequently<br />

have customers complaining about<br />

having to queue, about the lack of stock<br />

on the shelves and the fact that there<br />

are never staff members on the shop<br />

floor to help customers. This not only<br />

puts stress on the manager but also on<br />

the rest of the staff, which leads to low<br />

staff morale and staff members going<br />

off sick. It also means good staff leaving<br />

the company.<br />

p Staff present the petition at the Group’s Manchester head office<br />

“One-on-one shifts also cause problems<br />

for health and safety as often there is<br />

only one member of staff on shop floor,<br />

leaving them vulnerable. The staff<br />

member at the back of the store could also<br />

have an accident; by the time the other<br />

staff member realises, it might be too<br />

late to help.”<br />

A Group colleague at a store in<br />

Maidstone, Kent, wrote: “I have been<br />

held up at gun point before, and also a<br />

machete. I’ve had altercations with plenty<br />

of thieves and drunken people.”<br />

From Wokingham, a colleague wrote:<br />

“We have robbers come in to check out<br />

how many people are on the shop floor<br />

and then we get robbed! We regularly<br />

have shoplifters but we are able to stop<br />

them if we are not one-on-one.”<br />

And in Greater Manchester, a worker<br />

with type-1 diabetes wrote: “I have had<br />

hypos due to not being able to have<br />

a break being one-on-one. The fear<br />

comes into play because of the dangers<br />

if I pass out while in the warehouse and<br />

the other member of staff is unaware.”<br />

Other store colleagues complained of<br />

customers being kept waiting because of<br />

the short staffing, and said tasks had not<br />

been completed efficiently.<br />

A team member from Great Yarmouth<br />

wrote: “If both myself and a team leader<br />

are on the till, the shop floor itself is<br />

not being correctly supervised and<br />

monitored ... Staff are always going home<br />

later than their shift.”<br />

A Co-op Group spokesperson said:<br />

“Safety of colleagues is our number one<br />

priority and our policy is not to have lone<br />

workers in any store.”<br />

They added that the Group works<br />

closely with police and other crime<br />

prevention bodies to implement a range<br />

of measures designed to deter and disrupt<br />

criminal activity, while increasing the<br />

likelihood of convictions.<br />

All own-brand black and dark plastic<br />

packaging, including black ready meal<br />

trays, will be eliminated by 2020.<br />

Jo Whitfield, head of Co-op Food,, said:<br />

“The Co-op was founded on righting<br />

wrongs, and we first campaigned to stop<br />

food fraud. Now we face huge global<br />

challenges and have created a recipe<br />

for sustainability to source responsibly,<br />

treat people with fairness and produce<br />

products which have minimal impact on<br />

the planet.<br />

“We can’t do it alone, which is why<br />

partnerships are key to our plan.”<br />

The Future of Food report will be<br />

unveiled at a supplier conference on 27<br />

September. It has been developed to meet<br />

the UN’s sustainable development goals<br />

to end poverty, protect the planet and<br />

ensure prosperity for all by 2030.<br />

The Group already sources 100%<br />

renewable energy for its stores, but will<br />

go on to tackle greenhouse emissions at<br />

its logistics operation and reduce energy,<br />

water and waste in its supply chain.<br />

It will continue to campaign for the<br />

rights of workers in its supply chain,<br />

having raised the issue of modern slavery,<br />

and will raise funds to bring clean water<br />

to communities in developing countries.<br />

<strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong> | 7

RETAIL<br />

Profits at John Lewis<br />

drop 99% amid tough<br />

times on the high street<br />

Profits at worker-owned retailer John<br />

Lewis Partnership have fallen 99% before<br />

tax and exceptional items in its half-year<br />

results to 27 July, with chair Sir Charlie<br />

Mayfield warning: “These are challenging<br />

times in retail.”<br />

The figure slumped to £1.2m from<br />

£83m a year earlier. Gross sales were up<br />

1.6% to £5,486.6m, revenue rose 1.5% to<br />

£4,856.7m and profit before tax fell 80.5%<br />

to £6m, with the results in line with a<br />

warning made by the company in its<br />

strategy update in June.<br />

Profits for the full-year would be<br />

“substantially lower”, it added, pointing<br />

to uncertainty over Brexit negotiations.<br />

The news comes a week after the<br />

retailer launched a rebrand, accompanied<br />

by a glossy TV ad, to emphasise its<br />

partnership model. This saw the words “&<br />

Partners” added to the Waitrose and John<br />

Lewis brands.<br />

But the Partnership also announced<br />

around 200 job cuts to its back office,<br />

with reports claiming that IT, finance and<br />

store security staff will be affected. It also<br />

revealed that 1,838 people had been made<br />

redundant in the past year, 289% more<br />

than in the previous 12 months.<br />

New jobs have been created – including<br />

600 staff hired when it opened its new<br />

Westfield store in White City, London,<br />

and grew its own-label design and<br />

buying teams. In total, there are 700 fewer<br />

employees across the group than a year<br />

ago, and it has just over 83,000 staff.<br />

The Partnership said: “Profits before<br />

exceptionals are always lower and more<br />

volatile in the first<br />

half than the second<br />

half. It is especially so<br />

this half year, driven<br />

mainly by John Lewis<br />

& Partners where<br />

gross margin has been<br />

squeezed.<br />

“The pressure on<br />

gross margin has<br />

predominantly been<br />

from our commitment<br />

to maintain price<br />

competitiveness.<br />

“We have seen an<br />

unprecedented level<br />

of price matching as<br />

other retailers have<br />

discounted heavily.<br />

“Gross margin was<br />

also affected by a sales<br />

mix shift towards<br />

electronics rather<br />

than big ticket items<br />

in Home. In addition,<br />

John Lewis & Partners<br />

profits were impacted<br />

by the costs of new<br />

shops and higher IT<br />

costs as we continued to invest for future<br />

growth, and from lower property profits<br />

compared to last year.”<br />

At Waitrose & Partners, profits were<br />

down on last year, but the report added:<br />

“From Q1 to Q2 there has been marked<br />

improvement in like-for-like sales as<br />

well as good progress in rebuilding gross<br />

margin, and we are on track for profit<br />

growth for the full year.”<br />

With the “level of uncertainty facing<br />

consumers and the economy, in part<br />

due to ongoing Brexit negotiations”, the<br />

Partnership said it was hard to forecast<br />

the next six months, but that it expected<br />

profits to be down.<br />

Sir Charlie told BBC Radio 4’s Today<br />

programme that the weak pound<br />

following the Brexit vote had increased<br />

costs, and warned that a no-deal Brexit<br />

“would be a very bad outcome for the<br />

UK and the consequences are extremely<br />

unpredictable”.<br />

He added that Waitrose would not<br />

be able to stockpile goods in case food<br />

deliveries from the EU were interrupted,<br />

adding: “It rots, and you waste it.”<br />

The Partnership said there had been<br />

extra costs including investment in cyber<br />

security and data protection, but “total<br />

net debts are £700m less than last year<br />

and we continue to maintain a strong<br />

liquidity position.<br />

“This is all consistent with our plans to<br />

ensure a strong financial position in order<br />

to invest in our strategy of differentiation<br />

at a rate of £400m-£500m per year.”<br />

It added: “Our Partnership structure<br />

and our Partners are key differentiators for<br />

us in a highly competitive and changing<br />

retail market.<br />

“The launch last week of John Lewis &<br />

Partners and Waitrose & Partners reflects<br />

our ambition for the future.”<br />

8 | <strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong>


Standard bearer for community shares notches up a century<br />

p Eden-Rose Community Ltd, the 100th organisation to win the mark<br />

The Community Shares Standard Mark –<br />

the ‘rubber stamp’ for community shares<br />

– has issued its 100th certificate, to a<br />

charity set up to help people with lifelimiting<br />

conditions.<br />

Launched in 2015, the Standard<br />

Mark was developed by the Community<br />

Shares Unit, run by Co-operatives UK<br />

and Locality, with early support from the<br />

Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).<br />

The scheme assesses and certifies the<br />

quality and viability of share offers and is<br />

presented to community share offers that<br />

meet national standards of good practice.<br />

The 100th certificate was presented<br />

to Eden-Rose Community Ltd, a Suffolkbased<br />

charity, during Communities Week<br />

<strong>2018</strong> (10-17 September).<br />

The organisation aims to raise £80,000<br />

from the local community to support its<br />

mission to use woodlands and the natural<br />

environment as a way to provide support<br />

to children and adults with life-limiting<br />

illnesses such as cancer.<br />

“We’re thrilled to find out that our<br />

forthcoming share offer received the 100th<br />

Standard Mark,” said Jo Brookes from<br />

Eden-Rose.<br />

“Going through the Standard Mark<br />

process was crucial for our organisation<br />

as we develop our community business<br />

offer to actively complement the front-line<br />

work of our charity.”<br />

The charity is also receiving support<br />

from the Booster Programme, another<br />

scheme run by the Community Shares<br />

Unit and backed by Power to Change.<br />

The Booster Programme provides<br />

development grants of up to £10,000<br />

and invests equity of up to £100,000 to<br />

match community shares in societies that<br />

can demonstrate higher than average<br />

levels of community impact, innovation<br />

and engagement.<br />

In September, Co-operatives UK<br />

unveiled research showing that one in<br />

four people would invest money or time<br />

to help save a local community asset; 23%<br />

would be likely to invest to help save their<br />

local pub from closure, and they would<br />

give time and energy to help run other<br />

local assets such as a local park or public<br />

space (25%), historical site or building<br />

(24%) or cinema or theatre (16%).<br />

“It’s so inspiring to see communities<br />

responding in such a proactive way<br />

to the challenges they face, and using<br />

community share offers to achieve their<br />

dreams,” said Ed Mayo, secretary general<br />

of Co-operatives UK.<br />

“As well as helping to save and develop<br />

local assets, community shareholders<br />

become co-owners with an equal say in<br />

how the enterprise is run. We encourage<br />

other communities to be inspired by<br />

the likes of Eden-Community Ltd.<br />


Community shares are a way for<br />

communities to crowdfund to save,<br />

launch or develop enterprises,<br />

such as pubs or renewable energy<br />

projects, by investing often small<br />

sums of money and becoming<br />

co-owners in the process.<br />

Community shares are a type<br />

of withdrawable share capital<br />

unique to co-operative and<br />

community benefit societies; this<br />

type of share capital can only be<br />

issued by co-operative societies,<br />

community benefit societies and<br />

charitable community benefit<br />

societies.<br />

Since 2009, almost 120,000<br />

people across the UK have<br />

raised more than £100m through<br />

community shares to save or<br />

create 350 local assets.<br />

The support is out there – what can<br />

your community achieve together?”<br />

Communities wanting to find<br />

out more or who are considering<br />

community share offers should<br />

contact: communityshares@uk.coop<br />

<strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong> | 9


Two more credit<br />

unions awarded 5-star<br />

Fairbanking Mark<br />

Clockwise Credit Union and Transave<br />

Credit Union have received the 5-star<br />

Fairbanking Mark for their loan products.<br />

This means 17 credit unions across<br />

Britain have received the mark from<br />

the Fairbanking Foundation, which<br />

was established in 2008 to encourage<br />

and assist the development of banking<br />

products that improve the financial<br />

wellbeing of their users by enabling them<br />

to manage their money better.<br />

Clockwise’s general manager, Teresa<br />

Manning, said: “We are absolutely<br />

delighted. We are proud to be part of the<br />

credit union community and fostering<br />

the credit union ethos. We passionately<br />

believe in putting our members’ needs at<br />

the heart of all we do.<br />

“This award reflects our commitment<br />

to leading the way in improving the<br />

financial wellbeing of our community<br />

and its people with a quality loan product<br />

appropriate to their needs, and providing<br />

first class customer service.”<br />

Rachael Hardman-Jones, chief<br />

executive of Transave, said: “Everyone<br />

at Transave Credit Union is overjoyed.<br />

Obviously, this achievement reflects very<br />

well on those connected with the credit<br />

union, their hard work and dedication.<br />

But more importantly, it is recognition that<br />

the financial wellbeing of its members is<br />

hardwired into Transave’s DNA.”<br />

Aidene Walsh, chief executive of the<br />

Fairbanking Foundation, said: “We’re<br />

delighted to recognise the effectiveness<br />

of the personal loans of Clockwise and<br />

Transave Credit Unions.<br />

“We have now assessed the personal<br />

loan products of 17 credit unions and<br />

evidence shows that credit unions are<br />

playing an increasingly important role<br />

in people’s financial lives in the UK.<br />

Fairbanking looks forward to certifying<br />

more credit unions across all products<br />

in <strong>2018</strong>.”<br />

Central England’s new<br />

Food store in Ashby<br />

RETAIL<br />

Strong results<br />

for Central<br />

England<br />

Central England Co-operative<br />

has announced a strong<br />

financial performance for the<br />

first half of <strong>2018</strong>. The society’s<br />

interim results show sales<br />

grew by 3.6% to £476.9m<br />

compared with the same<br />

period last year, with trading<br />

profit rising by £1m (8%) to<br />

£12.9m.<br />

In the first six months, the business invested £12.4m in a<br />

growth strategy which includes the opening of six new Food<br />

Stores, one new Funeral Home and two New Funeral Booking<br />

Offices alongside the renovation of another 32 sites.<br />

Martyn Cheatle, Central England chief executive, said the<br />

results were “encouraging” and reflected the “hard work of our<br />

colleagues” and continued focus across the Society on providing<br />

great service and products to members and customers.<br />

“Our performance so far in <strong>2018</strong> has again demonstrated the<br />

Society’s resilience as a strong and successful independent cooperative<br />

business,” he said.<br />

RETAIL<br />

Co-op Group and Scotmid salute<br />

Scottish food and drink suppliers<br />

Scotland’s farmers, food and drink manufacturers and suppliers<br />

were honoured at the first ever Co-op Scottish Supplier Awards..<br />

The event was jointly organised by the Co-op Group and<br />

Scotmid Co-op as part of Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight<br />

(1-16 September). Between them, the retailers stock more than<br />

1,800 Scottish lines in their stores.<br />

The winners are:<br />

• Bakery of the Year – Stag Bakeries Ltd<br />

• Beers, Wines and Spirit Product of the Year – Rock Rose Gin<br />

by Dunnet Bay Distellers and Innis and Gunn’s Craft Brewed<br />

Lager<br />

• Best Agricultural Initiative – Rattlerow Scotland Ltd<br />

• Fresh Product of the Year – AVA Rosa Strawberries by Angus<br />

Soft Fruits<br />

• Grocery Product of the Year – Equi’s Isle of Skye Sea Salt and<br />

Caramel Ice Cream<br />

• Investor in Scottish Communities – Malcolm Allan Ltd Family<br />

Butcher and Tennent’s Lager<br />

• Local Supplier of the Year – Equi’s Ice Cream<br />

• Most Sustainable Supplier – We Hae Meat Ltd<br />

• New Product of the Year – Protein 22 by Graham’s Family Dairy<br />

• Own-label supplier of the Year – Angus Soft Fruits<br />

• Supplier of the Year (Judges’ Choice) – A. G Barr soft drinks<br />

10 | <strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong>

East of England scores with anti-social behaviour scheme<br />

MEDIA<br />

New Internationalist<br />

relaunches print mag<br />

The New Internationalist magazine will<br />

come in a new format from September, as<br />

a bimonthly publication of 84 pages.<br />

Based in Oxford, New Internationalist<br />

was set up 44 years ago as a worker co-op.<br />

Last year it changed its legal structure from<br />

a worker co-op registered as a company to a<br />

co-operative society.<br />

During the conversion, the New<br />

Internationalist received financial<br />

support from the Hive and the Community<br />

Shares Company, while around 3,400<br />

readers bought £700,000 worth<br />

of shares, becoming co-owners in the New<br />

Internationalist Co-operative. It is now the<br />

UK’s largest media co-op.<br />

The new-look New Internationalist<br />

includes more in-depth features and<br />

investigative articles as well as underreported<br />

stories from the Global South.<br />

The September edition is themed around<br />

peace and looks at the struggle against<br />

Boko Haram in Nigeria, Colombia’s<br />

fragile transition from conflict, the role<br />

of traditional diplomacy in the age of<br />

Twitter, and potential routes to peace.<br />

“This is a great time to relaunch,” said<br />

co-editor Hazel Healy. “People want a<br />

progressive, trusted publication to help<br />

make sense of the world. With more space<br />

and a sharper design, we can go further<br />

in-depth and appeal to new audiences<br />

who might not have heard of us.”<br />

Co-editor Dinyar Godrej added: “In the<br />

last few years, we have been focusing<br />

more than ever on the kind of coverage<br />

that our readers hold dear – out-of-thebox<br />

thinking, providing a platform for<br />

vital but often marginalised voices and<br />

grappling with the issues that matter<br />

rather than what’s currently trending.<br />

“Now, we feel, we have a form that fits.”<br />

Co-op Secure Response – part of the East<br />

of England Co-op – has run a programme<br />

of football games to help young people<br />

engage with local authorities. The<br />

project was the joint initiative of Co-op<br />

Secure Response, Suffolk Police, Chantry<br />

Academy and Suffolk County Council. It<br />

was designed to discourage anti-social<br />

behaviour by providing a positive activity<br />

for young people to take part in.<br />

Scotmid to mark 160th anniversary with new store<br />

Scotmid Co-op is building a state-of-theart<br />

convenience store in Drumnadrochit<br />

to celebrate its 160th anniversary. The<br />

4,500 sq ft store will open in the new year.<br />

The society wants to enhance customers’<br />

shopping experience at the store with<br />

a tailored architectural structure and<br />

spacious layout. It is also continuing the<br />

rollout of its remodelled stores.<br />

Midcounties Co-op Fun Day raises £20,000 for charity<br />

A fun day organised by Midcounties<br />

Co-op on 19 August raised £20,000 for<br />

local charities and community groups.<br />

The event featured a cast of popular<br />

characters – including Chewbacca<br />

and stormtroopers from Star Wars and<br />

children’s cartoon favourites Peppa Pig<br />

and Cat Boy from PJ Mask. Attractions<br />

included a fun fair, and BMX stunts.<br />

Anthony Collins Solicitors to give legal support to co-ops<br />

Anthony Collins Solicitors has won a threeyear<br />

contract to provide legal support<br />

to eligible members of Co-operatives<br />

UK. Their role will include advising<br />

co-ops from different sectors on a range<br />

of matters under a legal surgery service,<br />

including commercial advice, contract<br />

matters, property and co-op law.<br />

Central England Co-op acquires six travel shops<br />

Central England Co-op has agreed to take<br />

on six travel branches from Thomas Cook,<br />

bringing the number of travel branches<br />

operated by the society to 26. The six<br />

sites, which are already based in the<br />

society’s food stores in Atherstone,<br />

Oakham, Stirchley, Castle Donington,<br />

Glenfield and Ibstock.<br />

<strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong> | 11


Ambitious plan will see burnt-out pub rise from the ashes<br />

The people of a picturesque but deprived<br />

village in Cornwall are preparing to<br />

rebuild and reopen a derelict pub that<br />

burnt down five years ago.<br />

The Old Ship in Cawsand has been<br />

bought by a community benefit society<br />

with support from Co-operative &<br />

Community Finance, Plunkett Foundation,<br />

and the More Than a Pub programme. The<br />

society wants to rebuild the pub, create<br />

new community facilities and provide<br />

affordable rented accommodation.<br />

Cawsand is on the Rame Peninsula<br />

in the south-eastern corner of Cornwall<br />

near the Devon border; the rural area<br />

comprises seven village, and has suffered<br />

from the decline in dockyard employment<br />

in nearby Plymouth alongside a lack of<br />

affordable housing.<br />

In response, community organisation<br />

the Peninsula Trust has undertaken a<br />

number of initiatives to improve local<br />

prospects, and has become involved in the<br />

restoration of the Old Ship. Co-operative<br />

& Community Finance has helped fund<br />

three of the trust’s previous projects,<br />

including the buying and conversion of a<br />

disused bank building.<br />

p The society wants to restore the historic site as a community hub<br />

Simon Ryan, one of the founders of the<br />

community benefit society, said: “We will<br />

work closely with heritage specialists to<br />

retain and show as much of the original<br />

fabric as we can. There is a smuggler’s<br />

tunnel in there somewhere. The Old<br />

Ship was one of Cawsand’s oldest pubs.<br />

We want to bring it back to life under<br />

community ownership.<br />

“Housing is the biggest problem<br />

affecting our community. Unless<br />

something changes, the heart of the<br />

village will disappear because people,<br />

especially the young, can’t find anywhere<br />

to live at a price they can afford – so they<br />

leave and the village loses out. We want to<br />

build five flats on the upper floors, to be let<br />

at reasonable rents on secure tenancies.<br />

“On the ground floor, we want to<br />

recreate the bar area, using the memories<br />

and photos of the older local people. We<br />

will add a café with a large children’s area<br />

and also include a village information<br />

section for locals and visitors. At the rear,<br />

we’re hoping to build a small Heritage<br />

Centre, supported by local experts.”<br />

Over 300 people have bought shares<br />

in The Old Ship Inn Cawsand Ltd, raising<br />

over £137,500. The target date for<br />

reopening the pub is June 2019.<br />

MUSIC<br />

Community shares bid<br />

to keep a threatened<br />

gig venue rocking<br />

A Bristol music venue is selling shares to<br />

the public in a bid to secure its future as a<br />

community-owned co-operative.<br />

The Exchange, in the city’s Old Market,<br />

announced last month that it was facing<br />

financial difficulties and in response has<br />

put forward the community shares offer to<br />

protect its future.<br />

The 250-capacity venue hopes to raise<br />

£250,000 after putting shares on sale to<br />

the public 4 September – marked by a<br />

publicity event at the Exchange.<br />

Matt Otridge, one of the Exchange’s<br />

three directors, said: “We are in this<br />

industry because we are music fans. At the<br />

moment, we tick along and make a little<br />

bit of money but every year people like<br />

myself are required to give up our time for<br />

free and we just can’t carry on like that.<br />

“A venue is bigger than its directors<br />

and its future shouldn’t be tied to them.<br />

By doing this we can ensure that the<br />

Exchange continues to exist as a music<br />

venue and also bring new blood and ideas<br />

into the decision-making process.”<br />

If successful, the campaign will see<br />

the Exchange become the country’s first<br />

community-owned music-only venue. The<br />

project has already gained considerable<br />

backing, with messages of support<br />

and pledges coming in from singersongwriter<br />

Frank Turner and Geoff Barrow<br />

of Portishead.<br />

The minimum share price of £250<br />

entitles the shareholder to a vote at the<br />

AGM where they can influence how all<br />

aspects of the business are run, including<br />

the programme and scheduling. Shares<br />

are limited to one per investor, regardless<br />

of the amount invested, and investors will<br />

see an annual return of 3% cash or 6%<br />

in-store credit.<br />

Since opening in 2012, the Exchange<br />

has become Bristol’s go-to venue for punk<br />

and hardcore acts. Anyone wishing to<br />

participate in its new business model can<br />

enquire about shares online.<br />

12 | <strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong>


As Wonga goes to the wall, can credit unions seize the moment?<br />

With payday lender Wonga entering<br />

administration, the Association of British<br />

Credit Unions (Abcul) has highlighted<br />

credit unions’ role in providing an<br />

alternative to high-cost creditors.<br />

In spite of the payday lender’s collapse,<br />

customers will still make any outstanding<br />

payments in the normal way. Around<br />

200,000 Wonga customers owe more than<br />

£400m in short-term loans.<br />

In a statement published on 30 August,<br />

the FCA confirmed that all existing<br />

agreements remained in place and would<br />

not be affected by the administration.<br />

However, the firm is no longer able<br />

to issue new loans. The repayments<br />

will be overseen by administrators<br />

Grant Thornton.<br />

Wonga was the UK’s biggest payday<br />

lender. In 2014 the FCA ordered the<br />

business to pay £2.6m to 45,000 customers<br />

for “unfair practices”. New payday loan<br />

regulations introduced in 2015 required<br />

all online lenders to advertise on at least<br />

one price comparison website. The FCA<br />

also imposed a cap on fees and charges<br />

on payday loans at double what was<br />

borrowed, which affected Wonga’s profits.<br />

In 2016, the payday lender reported pretax<br />

losses of nearly £65m.<br />

Abcul’s head of policy and<br />

communication, Matt Bland, warned<br />

that the closure of Wonga should not<br />

be confused with the end of high-cost<br />

lending or payday lending.<br />

He said: “The interest rate cap regime<br />

has caused most short-term lenders<br />

to adapt their lending practices and<br />

many now offer loans on instalment<br />

repayment plans which, while still very<br />

expensive, are much better for consumers.<br />

And while the FCA’s consumer credit<br />

regime had produced improvements<br />

in practices in many respects, lenders<br />

continue to grow and lend to people<br />

who find difficulty accessing credit from<br />

the mainstream.<br />

“Credit unions offer an alternative<br />

to these high-cost creditors which puts<br />

people’s long-term financial resilience at<br />

its heart. They will lend people the smaller<br />

sums that banks won’t consider but at<br />

reasonable rates of interest. At the same<br />

time they encourage people to save, which<br />

is the only long-term route out of a cycle of<br />

p Stella Creasy has been campaigning against payday lenders (Photo: Andrew Wiard/Co-op Party)<br />

debt. The Fairbanking Foundation’s Save<br />

As You Borrow report demonstrates the<br />

power of this method.<br />

Stats published by the Bank of England<br />

in September show that credit unions<br />

have two million members across the UK.<br />

Total assets reported also reached £3.2bn,<br />

2% higher for the first quarter of <strong>2018</strong>,<br />

compared to the same period last year.<br />

Mr Bland says Abcul is working closely<br />

with the government, regulators, banks<br />

and others to support the sector.<br />

“With changes to legislation and<br />

regulation, and some targeted investment<br />

and partnerships with employers to<br />

deliver services in the workplace, credit<br />

unions could become an even more<br />

significant force in providing an ethical<br />

source of credit,” he added.<br />

Writing for the Guardian, Labour/Co-op<br />

MP Stella Creasy, who has been leading a<br />

campaign against payday lenders, warned<br />

that Wonga’s demise would not lead to<br />

an end of “legal loan sharking”. She<br />

pointed out that the number of payday<br />

lenders had fallen but 150 such lenders<br />

continued to operate in the UK. She added<br />

that some lenders offer high cost credit<br />

cards while others ask for guarantors to<br />

chase more people for the same debt.<br />

Actor and activist Michael Sheen also<br />

called on the government to ensure that<br />

Wonga would be sold to an ethical lender.<br />

In March <strong>2018</strong> Mr Sheen launched the<br />

End of High Cost Credit Alliance, which<br />

promotes affordable alternatives, such as<br />

credit unions. Speaking to the Observer,<br />

he added that the collapse of Wonga<br />

was an opportunity for the government<br />

to support “fair and responsible”<br />

credit providers.<br />

Meanwhile, the Scottish government<br />

has pledged to continue its efforts to grow<br />

the credit union sector in its programme<br />

for <strong>2018</strong>/2019.<br />

“We know that accessing affordable<br />

credit is a concern generally across<br />

Scotland,” it says. “That is why we are<br />

investing £1m in the Affordable Credit<br />

Fund, working with the Carnegie UK Trust<br />

to reduce the ‘poverty premium’ lowincome<br />

households often have to pay.<br />

“Care-experienced young people,<br />

in particular, can face considerable<br />

challenges to borrow money. We want to<br />

help. Over the next year, we will work with<br />

the Care Review to develop options which<br />

will help these young people increase<br />

access to financial services.”<br />

Karen Hurst, Scottish policy officer<br />

for Abcul, said: “We’ve been working<br />

closely with the Scottish government on<br />

developing the campaign, and are really<br />

excited to see it launch in November.”<br />

<strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong> | 13

CO-OP LAW<br />

Building a co-op<br />

commonwealth: UK<br />

movement calls for<br />

a supportive legal<br />

environment<br />

UK co-ops operate in one of the least<br />

supportive legal systems in the EU,<br />

co-op law specialist Cliff Mills told the UK<br />

Society for Co-operative Studies annual<br />

conference in Sheffield last month.<br />

Mr Mills, a consultant with Anthony<br />

Collins Solicitors and principal associate<br />

at sector advocate Mutuo, presented a<br />

study of the laws of Norway and all EU<br />

member states apart from Luxembourg<br />

and Slovenia.<br />

One issue he highlighted was indivisible<br />

reserves – funds set aside from the<br />

surplus, not available for distribution to<br />

members, but owned collectively by them.<br />

These reserves can absorb trading losses<br />

and fund training and development.<br />

This type of ownership is not very<br />

familiar to the UK, where there is a<br />

more individualistic understanding of<br />

ownership, he added. “We see it as a<br />

restriction on an individual’s rights if<br />

something is indivisible,” he said.<br />

But some EU states make it compulsory<br />

for co-ops to set funds aside, and the third<br />

co-op principle says members should<br />

allocate surpluses, “possibly by setting up<br />

reserves, part of which at least would be<br />

indivisible”.<br />

Six states refer to co-ops in their<br />

national constitutions: Bulgaria, Greece,<br />

Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain.<br />

But the UK is one of five EU states –<br />

alongside Denmark, Estonia, Ireland and<br />

the Netherlands – with no separate law<br />

for co-ops. It has the Co-operative and<br />

Community Benefit Societies Act of 2014,<br />

but this is not a co-op law in the sense that<br />

some EU states have one. And the lack of a<br />

co-op status in UK law hinders legal<br />

practitioners from exploring the model.<br />

Most EU states define co-ops – but again,<br />

the UK is one of four that do not, alongside<br />

Estonia, Ireland and the Netherlands. And<br />

it is one of six states which do not require<br />

a proportion of surplus to be set aside<br />

for reserves – alongside Austria, Czech<br />

Republic, Denmark, Ireland and Norway.<br />

p Cliff Mills, a specialist in co-op law<br />

Mr Mills said the most supportive states<br />

in terms of co-op legislation were Greece,<br />

Italy, Malta, Portugal, Spain, Croatia,<br />

Cyprus, France, Hungary and Romania.<br />

The least supportive were in Austria,<br />

the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia,<br />

Ireland, the Netherlands and the UK.<br />

He said the UK sector needs a<br />

conversation about indivisible reserves<br />

and making a common cause with other<br />

states that do not have co-operative law to<br />

get recognition at higher level.<br />

Mr Mills’ remarks echo other calls from<br />

the movement for a more conducive legal<br />

environment. Co-operatives UK is asking<br />

Companies House to change its co-op<br />

definition to draw more directly on the<br />

International Co-operative Alliance’s<br />

Statement on the Co-operative Identity.<br />

By law companies can only use the word<br />

“co-operative” in their name if they satisfy<br />

Companies House that they meet certain<br />

criteria. These include being owned and<br />

controlled by members who participate<br />

in the economic activity of the business,<br />

having voluntary and open membership,<br />

and distributing profits equally among the<br />

members, or at least in proportion to the<br />

extent each member has participated.<br />

Co-ops can also register as societies with<br />

the Financial Conduct Authority. In this<br />

case, the main criterion is being a bona<br />

fide co-op – “an autonomous association<br />

of persons united voluntarily to meet their<br />

common economic, social and cultural<br />

needs and aspirations through a jointly<br />

owned and democratically controlled<br />

enterprise”. Notable exceptions include<br />

the Co-op Bank.<br />

James Wright, policy officer at<br />

Co-operatives UK, said: “For a couple<br />

of years we’ve been working with our<br />

members to establish the case for statutory,<br />

but optional, ‘asset lock’ mechanisms for<br />

co-ops, including indivisible reserves and<br />

disinterested distribution at windup. These<br />

tools could help create a ‘commonwealth’<br />

model for UK co-ops: providing a<br />

better basis for capital to be pooled in<br />

co-ops, built up over time, invested in<br />

other co-ops, and, if a co-op comes to an<br />

end, recycled in the co-op economy.<br />

“A consultation we ran with members<br />

in 2016 suggested we should anticipate<br />

broad and strong demand for optional<br />

statutory ‘asset lock’ tools. But we should<br />

anticipate some strong opposition too –<br />

on the grounds that these measures would<br />

be undemocratic and/or unnecessary.”<br />

But Mr Wright warned against “rushing<br />

ahead with legislative projects that end<br />

up suffering from too little consultation or<br />

scrutiny” and instead look at what works<br />

– and what doesn’t work – abroad.<br />

“We can also learn from our experiences<br />

in the UK,” he said. “For example, while<br />

it has proven extremely useful, the asset<br />

lock for community benefit societies is<br />

increasingly understood to contain some<br />

difficult dysfunctions. We can’t afford<br />

more sub-optimal legislation.”<br />

He added: “Our advocacy has recently<br />

led the New Economics Foundation to<br />

make commonwealth reforms a priority<br />

in co-op policy. And there may soon be<br />

opportunities to progress to legislative<br />

design with government support, but coproduction<br />

with the sector must be central<br />

to this, not an adjunct.”<br />

u More reports from the UKSCS annual<br />

conference, pages 28-31<br />

14 | <strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong>


USA<br />

Electric co-ops feel the force of Hurricane Florence<br />

With Hurricane Florence set to make<br />

landfall on the Carolina coastline, electric<br />

co-ops in the US have made preparations<br />

to deal with the emergency.<br />

The storm is expected to make landfall<br />

at noon local time on Friday and is moving<br />

at wind speeds of 90mph, threatening<br />

power outages which could last<br />

for weeks.<br />

The National Hurricane Center says<br />

the storm is an extremely dangerous one,<br />

bringing a high volume of rainfall and<br />

storm surges, with the threat of a serious<br />

death toll from inland flooding.<br />

Georgia, North and South Carolina,<br />

Virginia and Maryland have declared<br />

a state of emergency and sea water is<br />

washing through coastal streets.<br />

NRECA, the national body for the<br />

USA’s electric co-ops, said the storm has<br />

already caused power outages for co-op<br />

members, with crews standing down until<br />

conditions are safe to carry out repairs.<br />

The organisation says it is closely<br />

monitoring the situation and supporting<br />

co-ops in North Carolina, South Carolina,<br />

Georgia and Virginia.<br />

NRECA’s communications and<br />

government relations departments are<br />

leading the effort, which is designed to<br />

provide resources to electric co-ops as<br />

they respond to the storm.<br />

During Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and<br />

Maria, NRECA says supported affected<br />

p A team from Tennessee’s Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative takes men and equipment to<br />

assist co-op recovery efforts in North Caroline (Photo: Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative)<br />

co-ops by providing talking points, social<br />

media guidance, and media outreach.<br />

NRECA also coordinates with the<br />

Federal Emergency Management Agency,<br />

the Department of Energy and other<br />

federal agencies during extreme weather<br />

events, keeping them updated on its<br />

members’ response to the storm.<br />

Power outages are expected to be<br />

widespread, with hurricane and tropicalstorm-force<br />

winds hitting some areas for<br />

36 to 48 hours or longer.<br />

Lisa Galizia, communications director<br />

of Carteret-Craven Electric Cooperative,<br />

based in Newport, NC, told NRECA’s<br />

website: “We will not put our crews<br />

in harm’s way, and we will not send<br />

anyone out to assess damages and begin<br />

repairs until it is safe to do so.<br />

“People need to remember, too, that<br />

damage may cause outages to systems<br />

up the line from us, such as transmission<br />

lines, which we cannot control.”<br />

The co-operative said that power was<br />

out to thousands of its meters as the storm<br />

set in.<br />

Crews could be forced to sit the storm<br />

out until winds subside to under 35<br />

sustained mph, due to safety concern.<br />

They will not be able to deploy bucket<br />

trucks and are also at risk from falling<br />

trees and windblown debris.<br />


New legal framework eases the way for energy co-ops<br />

Puerto Rico’s state senate has taken steps<br />

to diversify its energy industry by passing<br />

a law on 27 August to provide a framework<br />

for co-ops in the sector.<br />

The legislation aims to transform<br />

the territory’s energy sector and help<br />

communities become more resilient by<br />

forming co-operatives.<br />

Under the rules, an energy co-op will<br />

require a minimum of five members before<br />

setting up. People will be able to develop<br />

co-ops to generate energy for themselves,<br />

as well as distribute it or sell it to the grid.<br />

The law mentions that electric co-ops will<br />

also need to ensure they charge fair tariffs.<br />

The general law of co-operative<br />

societies has also been amended to<br />

include renewable energy co-ops.<br />

In a report to the senate, the<br />

government’s energy department said the<br />

changes are a response to Puerto Rico’s<br />

financial crisis and the need to rebuild<br />

after Hurricane María, which devastated<br />

the island last September.<br />

The territory’s renewable energy<br />

association says the law should be used to<br />

develop renewable energy co-operatives<br />

rather than fossil fuel co-ops.<br />

The Coalition for Economic<br />

Co-operation of Puerto Rico welcomed<br />

the law, which it sees as an opportunity<br />

to develop a decentralised energy system.<br />

Larry Seilhamer, president of the<br />

special energy commission, said: “In<br />

the current environment faced by Puerto<br />

Rico, it is necessary and worthy to enable<br />

communities to explore alternatives to<br />

generate, transmit and distribute their<br />

energy. In this sense, energy public policy<br />

needs to grant communities more access<br />

to this essential type of service. The<br />

co-operative model is ideal.”<br />

<strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong> | 15


Dairy co-op Arla will give entire <strong>2018</strong> profit to farmers hit by drought<br />

p Dead cornfields in the Netherlands – a typical sight in Europe during the drought<br />

Arla Foods, one of the world’s biggest<br />

dairy firms, is to pay out its entire <strong>2018</strong><br />

net profit of up to €310m (£278.48m) to<br />

its members after one of the hottest and<br />

driest summers on record.<br />

The proposal from the agri co-op’s<br />

board follows significant improvement in<br />

Arla’s finances over recent years.<br />

The firm, owned by 11,200 farmers in<br />

Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Britain,<br />

Luxembourg, the Netherlands and<br />

Belgium, traditionally pays only a part of<br />

its profit to owners, but said it would make<br />

an exception this year.<br />

Company chair Jan Toft Nørgaard<br />

said: “The board recognises that many<br />

Arla farmers are facing a tough financial<br />

situation due to this summer’s drought in<br />

Europe, and that it is in Arla’s best interest<br />

for this year’s net profit to be paid out to<br />

the farmers.<br />

“Arla’s board of directors has discussed<br />

and agreed on a proposal for the<br />

company’s supreme governing body,<br />

the board of representatives, to pay out<br />

the entire net profit from <strong>2018</strong> when<br />

the annual results are approved early<br />

next year, thus making a one-year only<br />

deviation from the company’s usual profit<br />

appropriation policy.”<br />

He added: “As a farmer-owned dairy<br />

company, we care deeply about the<br />

livelihood of our farmers and we recognise<br />

that this summer’s drought in Europe has<br />

been extraordinary.<br />

“We are proposing that extraordinary<br />

measures be taken in this situation,<br />

and the board is satisfied with the<br />

improvement in the company’s finances,<br />

which makes this proposal possible.”<br />

The move comes as farmers across<br />

Europe try to recoup losses after the<br />

heatwave hit cereal harvests and dried<br />

out pastures, leaving some on the edge<br />

of bankruptcy and shutting the EU out of<br />

lucrative export markets.<br />

“It is obvious farmers have had a tough<br />

time acquiring fodder, and it’s been more<br />

expensive. This puts the farmers’ economy<br />

under pressure,” Arla chief executive<br />

Peder Tuborgh told Reuters press agency.<br />

The proposal will be discussed at the<br />

next board of representatives meeting in<br />

October, and brought forward for a final<br />

decision at the meeting in February 2019<br />

when the annual results are approved.<br />

A statement from Arla added that the<br />

amount of this payout remains subject to<br />

there being no material changes to the<br />

profit level or financial outlook at the end<br />

of the year.<br />

If approved, the extraordinary payment<br />

will follow Arla’s regular supplementary<br />

payment timetable with money being paid<br />

out in March 2019.<br />

The company says it will return to<br />

its existing retainment policy for the<br />

remainder of the current strategic period,<br />

affecting the financial years of 2019<br />

and 2020.<br />

“Our balance sheet has improved<br />

significantly over the last few years,”<br />

said Mr Tuborgh, “and the strength<br />

of our balance sheet makes room for<br />

this extraordinary initiative while still<br />

maintaining our investment plans<br />

for the continued future growth of<br />

the company.”<br />

16 | <strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong>

SPAIN<br />

DCOOP Group<br />

acquires<br />

20% stake in US olive<br />

producer Bell-Carter<br />

Agri-food business DCOOP has acquired a<br />

20% stake in Bell-Carter, the largest table<br />

olive producer in the US and the second<br />

largest in the world.<br />

As part of the deal, DCOOP’s USA<br />

branch, Acorsa USA, will be integrated<br />

into the Bell-Carter structure, with the<br />

aim of strengthening its position in the<br />

USA market.<br />

Bell-Carter produces and sells over<br />

half of all California olives, processing<br />

between 40,000 and 60,000 tons of olives<br />

each year.<br />

The DCOOP Group includes 180 co-ops<br />

with 75,000 families and two production<br />

plants, which process a total of 100,000<br />

tons a year.<br />

In 2017, the value of the co-op’s total<br />

exports amounted to €541m, a 10.5%<br />

increase from 2016. The co-op exports<br />

to 72 countries, the USA being its third<br />

biggest olive oil market after Europe<br />

and Japan.<br />

Last year, DCOOP, which is the largest<br />

olive oil co-operative in the world,<br />

signed an agreement with Pompeian<br />

Group, a Baltimore-based importer<br />

and manufacturer of olive oil. The deal<br />

increased the companies’ stakes in one<br />

another from 20% to 50%.<br />

A spokesperson for the co-op said: “We<br />

are farmers and we want our products to<br />

be marketed all over the world. The US<br />

is an important market where we have<br />

already been selling olives and oil, as part<br />

of the Pompeian project.<br />

“With this agreement, we intend to<br />

encourage the consumption of more olives<br />

in the US and we believe the alliance with<br />

leading company Bell-Carter will help in<br />

that respect. We are very excited about<br />

the partnership and we now have to work<br />

together to drive olive consumption in the<br />

USA and around the world.”<br />

The collaboration with Bell-Carter<br />

comes at a time when Spanish olives<br />

are facing total taxes of 34.75% to enter<br />

the USA’s market. By buying a share in<br />

the business, DCOOP has ensured it will<br />

continue to grow in the USA.<br />

According to Copa Cogeca, the<br />

organisations representing European<br />

farmers and agri co-operatives, Spanish<br />

imports have already faced additional<br />

duties totalling 21.6% since January this<br />

year, causing Spanish exports to the USA<br />

to drop by as much as 42.4% in the first<br />

quarter of <strong>2018</strong>.<br />

Agrosevilla, a Spanish group of 12<br />

co-operatives and 4,000 producers,<br />

announced restructuring plans to cope<br />

with the USA’s tariffs. The group is Spain’s<br />

largest olive oil co-operative exporter.<br />

The right ingredients<br />

/sumawholefoods<br />

Perfected over 40 years of worker co-operation<br />

Find us in your nearest independent grocery store<br />

<strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong> | 17

EUROPE<br />

Cooperatives Europe wants young co-op<br />

entrepreneurs to share their stories<br />

Cooperatives Europe is calling on young<br />

co-operative entrepreneurs to share their<br />

stories in short videos.<br />

It hopes to collect 10-20 short videos to<br />

share on social media under the hashtag<br />

#ImACoopStarter. Young co-operators<br />

wishing to take part have to introduce<br />

themselves and their business, say why<br />

they chose the co-op model, and what<br />

advice they would give other young<br />

people thinking of starting a co-op.<br />

Each answer must be maximum of 20<br />

seconds long.<br />

The films are part of the Coop Starter 2.0.<br />

project, a European initiative launched<br />

last year to mobilise youth around<br />

co-operative entrepreneurship.<br />

The programme is funded by the<br />

European Commission and builds on the<br />

previous CoopStarter project, created<br />

by eight partner organisations across<br />

Europe to teach younger people about the<br />

co-operative business model.<br />

Cooperatives Europe is the regional<br />

office of the International Co-operative<br />

Alliance and one of the partner<br />

organisations. The others are Legacoop<br />

Liguria (Italy), Kooperationen (Denmark),<br />

K.A.P.A Network (Greece), Promo<br />

Jeunes ASBL (Belgium), CJDES (France),<br />

AEGEE (Belgium) and the Co-operative<br />

College (UK).<br />

Video submissions can be<br />

sent to: e.rosenberg@coopseurope.coop<br />

Participants also need to post on social<br />

media using the hashtag #CoopStarter<br />

and mentioning @coopseurope. More<br />

details on Cooperatives Europe’s website.<br />

USA<br />

Going global: Skincare co-op<br />

takes its healthy message to the States<br />

Skin health co-op JooMo presented its<br />

research on microbiomes in San Francisco<br />

last month.<br />

Working with the Medical University of<br />

Graz, in Austria, JooMo is looking at the<br />

possible link between cosmetics and the<br />

enormous rise in skin allergy problems in<br />

the western world. It focuses on the effect<br />

of cosmetics on human skin microbiomes<br />

– communities of micro-organisms.<br />

JooMo, which unveiled the findings at<br />

the Global Skin Microbiome Congress,<br />

says the trials show how high street<br />

cosmetics appear to maintain the depleted<br />

western microbiome, while third-wave<br />

microbiome-friendly products like JooMo<br />

increase skin microbiome biodiversity,<br />

which improves skin health.<br />

Everyday cosmetics were also shown<br />

to greatly de-moisturise the skin, a key<br />

reason why skin becomes damaged, the<br />

co-op says – while its own third-wave<br />

technology makes it “the only product to<br />

maintain skin moisture”.<br />

Kit Wallen Russell – research coordinator<br />

and lead author of the peer-reviewed<br />

2017 paper Meta Analysis of the Skin<br />

Microbiome – said: “The terrifying rise in<br />

skin allergies has led many to speculate<br />

whether regular contact with everyday<br />

cosmetics are a major contributor to this<br />

problem.”<br />

“These results, coupled with other<br />

complementary research, are now<br />

suggesting a definitive link.”<br />

This should not really come as any great<br />

surprise, he adds, pointing out that the<br />

food industry has been restricting the use<br />

of additives for many decades.<br />

“Cosmetics consumers are finally<br />

cottoning on to the fact that covering their<br />

bodies with harsh unfamiliar chemicals<br />

every day probably isn’t a good idea,”<br />

he said.<br />

“These results show how the cosmetics<br />

industry must urgently introduce the same<br />

safety standards as the food industry,<br />

including the ending of misleading<br />

labelling and the severe restriction in the<br />

use of chemical additives.”<br />

JooMo, which is based in Reading, UK,<br />

was formed in response to an increase in<br />

childhood skin problems and developed a<br />

100% natural preservative-free face wash.<br />

p JooMo offers all-natural products<br />

18 | <strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong>

CHILE<br />

Laying the<br />

groundwork for an<br />

agri co-op revival<br />

Chile’s agriculture minister Antonio<br />

Walker has announced a meeting of<br />

Congress in October to explore “the<br />

best legislation to reinvigorate modern<br />

co-operativism in Chile”.<br />

Speaking at a special session on<br />

co-operatives, organised by the senator<br />

of the Los Ríos region, Alfonso de<br />

Urresti, the minister said: “Co-operatives<br />

represent the most important opportunity<br />

for the development of the economy and<br />

our agriculture.”<br />

Of Chile’s 300,000 farmers in Chile,<br />

285,000 work at small scale, and Mr<br />

Walker is calling for greater co-operation<br />

and collaboration within the sector.<br />

“The ministry of agriculture strongly<br />

advocates modern co-operativism,<br />

productive alliances, forming teams and<br />

breaking individualism, because this<br />

game is won as a team – and the way to<br />

do that is by promoting co-operation,”<br />

he said. “We have a very demanding<br />

international market in terms of volume<br />

and quality, and for that we have to<br />

unite, we have to come together – and<br />

co-operativism is a central issue.”<br />

The session, held at Chile’s national<br />

Congress, was also attended by the<br />

president of the Senate, Carlos Montes,<br />

and the president of the agriculture<br />

committee, Carmen Gloria Aravena.<br />

Mr Walker said initiatives to unite<br />

farmers and encourage co-operation<br />

“are in line with what we want to<br />

p A vineyard in the Coquimbo region<br />

develop ... We have to form a team to<br />

adapt Chilean agriculture to the modern<br />

co-operativism that’s working in other<br />

parts of the world.<br />

“We’re working on this – it’s a very<br />

important focus for our ministry and we<br />

are going to hold an international congress<br />

on October 3 and 4, where we are inviting<br />

senators to participate and support us<br />

to explore what is the best legislation to<br />

reinvigorate modern co-operativism<br />

in Chile.”<br />

FRANCE<br />

Co-op champers beats the big-name bubblies in taste test<br />

A blind tasting of Champagnes, held by<br />

industry magazine The Drinks Business<br />

last month, saw lesser-known labels from<br />

the region’s co-ops outdo famous rivals.<br />

Among the seven Champagnes that<br />

gained a Gold medal or higher in the Brut<br />

Non-Vintage category were Champagnes<br />

Palmer and Pannier, two brands owned<br />

and run by co-ops. They were placed<br />

above celebrated – and more expensive<br />

– labels, such as Champagnes Pommery<br />

and Laurent-Perrier.<br />

Co-op label Champagne Castelnau<br />

achieved a near-perfect score in the<br />

vintage Champagne category, for its<br />

release from the 2006 harvest. The same<br />

category saw the 2008 vintage from<br />

Champagne Chassenay d’Arce – a growers’<br />

co-op in the Aube – pick up a Gold.<br />

Finally, one of the highest-scoring<br />

Champagnes of the day’s tasting – which<br />

saw almost 200 bottles sampled blind<br />

by experienced judges – was Egérie<br />

p Egérie de Pannier 2006<br />

de Pannier 2006, the top cuvée from<br />

Pannier co-op. Gaining 97 points out of<br />

100, it was praised for its combination of<br />

complementary flavours, from lemon and<br />

honey, to toast and grilled nuts, along with<br />

an uplifting, lasting and very fresh, dry<br />

finish. It costs £75, but the Drinks Business<br />

says this is “amazing value relative to<br />

other special blends in this top-end<br />

Champagne category, from Dom Pérignon<br />

to Cristal, which can retail for almost<br />

double the price”.<br />

Among other co-op Champagnes that<br />

performed well were labels from Nicolas<br />

Feuillatte, Montandon and Jacquart, each<br />

picking up Silver medals for a range of<br />

cuvées.<br />

The Drinks Business added: “Although<br />

Champagnes sourced from growers’<br />

co-operatives are often believed to be<br />

of lesser quality, the tasting in August<br />

proved that such producers can achieve<br />

outstanding results, and even make<br />

superior cuvées than the famous Grandes<br />

Marques, despite the lower prices.<br />

“For those who know the Champagne<br />

region well, however, such an outcome<br />

may not surprise, with co-operatives<br />

being major suppliers of grapes and wine<br />

to many well-known names in the region,<br />

who own few vineyards themselves.”<br />

<strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong> | 19

EUROPE<br />

Mixed co-op reaction to Juncker’s State of the Union speech<br />

The co-operative sector has responded<br />

to the State of the Union speech delivered<br />

on 12 September by president of the<br />

European Commission, Jean-Claude<br />

Juncker.<br />

Addressing the European Parliament,<br />

Mr Juncker announced a series of policy<br />

proposals around immigration, Brexit,<br />

the economy, the 2019 elections and<br />

strengthening the union’s partnership<br />

with Africa.<br />

Responding to the speech, Cooperatives<br />

Europe, the regional organisation of the<br />

International Co-operative Alliance, said<br />

it agrees with president Juncker on the<br />

need for “a strong and united Europe”<br />

but argued this would only be achieved by<br />

ensuring strong links with citizens.<br />

And it regrets the omission of the<br />

White Paper on the Future of Europe, an<br />

initiative that puts citizens at the heart of<br />

building and determining the future path<br />

for Europe.<br />

In February, Cooperatives Europe<br />

stressed the importance of co-ops<br />

in achieving a “more inclusive and<br />

sustainable Europe”, as set out in<br />

the Future of Europe white paper.<br />

The organisation also argued that the<br />

speech had not adequately addressed<br />

the Sustainable Development<br />

Goals theme.<br />

Jean-Louis Bancel, president<br />

of Cooperatives Europe, said: “As<br />

Europe faces numerous challenges,<br />

co-operative, as well as social economy<br />

enterprises, must be seen as key partners<br />

for the EU in offering solutions that put<br />

the focus back on the people and back<br />

on our values. To move forward, we now<br />

need a stronger commitment from the<br />

European institutions to our movement,<br />

p Mr Juncker delivers his speech<br />

as together we preserve the diversity<br />

and richness of Europe.”<br />

Mr Juncker also proposed a new Alliance<br />

for Sustainable Investment and Jobs<br />

between Europe and Africa. Cooperatives<br />

Europe is currently engaged in discussions<br />

on the EU External Investment Plan.<br />

The Commission president also called<br />

for stronger anti-money laundering<br />

supervision and enhancing the role of the<br />

European Banking Authority.<br />

GLOBAL<br />

Co-operation can get the world’s small<br />

farmers a better deal, says Oxfam report<br />

Farmers around the world can earn a<br />

higher share of consumer price if they<br />

collaborate, says Oxfam.<br />

The charity’s new report, Ripe for<br />

Change, undertaken by the Bureau<br />

for the Appraisal of Social Impacts for<br />

Citizen Information, found small-scale<br />

farmers benefit from much higher shares<br />

of the end consumer price − around 26%<br />

− where they are organised in co-ops.<br />

Farmers who are not organised in<br />

co-ops retain only around 4% of the end<br />

consumer price, it adds.<br />

The study analysed the value chains<br />

of 12 common products sourced by<br />

supermarkets around the world, from<br />

producing countries in Asia, Africa and<br />

Latin America.<br />

It found producer co-ops add value by<br />

aggregating their produce, supporting<br />

marketing, sharing risks, and amassing<br />

stronger bargaining powers.<br />

One example is the Alaznistavi<br />

Cheese Cooperative in Georgia,<br />

which has allowed members to gain<br />

a higher share of the end consumer<br />

price through niche production of<br />

high quality handmade cheese for<br />

distribution through supermarkets in the<br />

capital, Tbilisi.<br />

Another case study in the report is<br />

Divine Chocolate in the UK, which is 44%<br />

owned by a cocoa co-op in Ghana.<br />

“Consumer-facing companies such as<br />

Divine Chocolate and Cafédirect – which<br />

are both jointly owned by producers<br />

in developing countries – each have<br />

a turnover of $15m per annum,” the<br />

report says.<br />

But the study found that women in<br />

some co-ops do not feel on an equal level<br />

with men. While women in large and<br />

often mixed-gender co-operatives often<br />

gain access to agricultural inputs and<br />

services, they enjoy only a limited role in<br />

decision-making, it said.<br />

“By contrast, small, more informal<br />

women-only groups typically allow<br />

women to build confidence, leadership,<br />

skills and savings,” the report added.<br />

Ripe for Change argues that these<br />

business models do not have to be niche<br />

– and could be taken to scale. Producerled<br />

Kaira District Cooperative Milk<br />

Producers Chain in India, also known<br />

as Amul, is jointly owned by 3.6 million<br />

SUMMARY ................................<br />

RIPE<br />

FOR<br />

CHANGE<br />



p Oxfam’s latest report<br />

milk producers in Gujurat, with a sales<br />

turnover of $736m in 2016.<br />

The report urged supermarkets to<br />

place a focus on sourcing from business<br />

structures that aim to share value<br />

with farmers and workers, such as cooperative<br />

groups or women’s collective<br />

enterprise, and use prominent shelf<br />

positioning to promote these products.<br />

20 | <strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong>


Rebirth of cocoa<br />

industry based on co-op<br />

values and high quality<br />

p Producers from CECAQ-11<br />

A farmers’ co-op in São Tomé and Príncipe<br />

is producing a superior crop of beans to<br />

gain an advantage in the world market.<br />

The country – a set of islands in Africa’s<br />

Gulf of Guinea – was once one of the<br />

world’s biggest cocoa producers but its<br />

industry has collapsed in recent decades.<br />

Today, farmers on the island of São Tomé<br />

are working to revive the crop’s reputation,<br />

and have organised themselves into<br />

co-operatives with a shared pride in the<br />

excellence of their crop.<br />

Charlotte Borger, of farmer-owned<br />

Divine Chocolate, wrote on the its blog:<br />

“Spending time with the members of the<br />

CECAQ-11 co-operative, we saw and heard<br />

evidence of this pride every day.<br />

“Cocoa growing, especially on the<br />

steep slopes of the island, is a labour<br />

-intensive affair, but these farmers can see<br />

the benefit of being more meticulous and<br />

skilled in how they manage their farms.<br />

“They have been trained in better<br />

pruning methods, in shade management<br />

(cocoa grows best in the humid shade of<br />

the rainforest canopy), and in grafting<br />

seedlings to combine quality with<br />

higher productivity.”<br />

She added: “The farmers are developing<br />

their own improved version of amelonado,<br />

a sub-species of forastero, that delivers a<br />

distinctive depth of flavour with woody,<br />

spicy notes. Their care with harvesting,<br />

natural fermenting and drying ensure<br />

they are extracting the best from their<br />

beans, while the new techniques they<br />

are learning will help with the increased<br />

productivity they urgently need to meet<br />

demand, and grow their income.”<br />

Sad end to Galicia’s clothing co-op movement<br />

Co-op forest plan to tackle climate change<br />

Confecciones Corcubión, the last<br />

remaining clothing manufacturing co-op<br />

on the Costa da Morte in Galicia, north<br />

west Spain has ceased operation after more<br />

than 30 years. The closure came about<br />

after a change in management at Inditex<br />

which saw Confecciones Corcubión receive<br />

orders for women’s clothing – which the<br />

worker members didn’t have the skills or<br />

machinery to produce. The co-op will be<br />

dissolved at the end of the month.<br />

A Canadian co-operative is pioneering<br />

a new approach to carbon offsetting,<br />

with a focus on the social aspect<br />

of planting trees. Set up as a co-operative<br />

in 2016, Arbre-Évolution has recently<br />

become a certified partner of Coop<br />

Carbone, which works with enterprises<br />

to identify, develop and fund carbonoffsetting<br />

projects.<br />

42 member-owned companies on Australia’s top 500 list<br />

Australia’s co-op and mutuals sector has<br />

a strong showing in the <strong>2018</strong> IbisWorld<br />

Index, with 42 businesses from the<br />

sector making the top 500. The results<br />

show the resilience of the model, says<br />

Melina Morrison, chief executive of<br />

national sector body the Business Council<br />

of Co-operatives and Mutuals<br />

Dominican Republic backs sector with co-op fair<br />

The Dominican Republic’s National<br />

Council of Co-operatives is hosting<br />

the country’s first co-op fair from 15-<br />

18 November. The event – Expo Coop<br />

<strong>2018</strong> – will bring more than 100 of the<br />

country’s leading co-ops together for<br />

a programme of workshops, talks,<br />

presentations and networking.<br />

WOCCU calls to reduce CU capital requirements<br />

The World Council of Credit Unions is<br />

asking international standard setting<br />

agencies for regulatory changes to provide<br />

a level playing field for credit unions and<br />

community based financial institutions.<br />

The consultation on its report ‘Incentives<br />

to centrally clear over-the-counter<br />

derivatives’ can be read at: s.coop/2aocz<br />

<strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong> | 21


Fonterra dairy<br />

falls into the red and<br />

re-asseses investments<br />

Dairy giant Fonterra has reported a yearly<br />

loss of NZ $196m (£98m) – compared to<br />

last year’s profit of $745m (£373m).<br />

The co-op, New Zealand’s largest<br />

company, blamed the results on high<br />

butter prices, which impacted volumes<br />

and margins; the increase in the forecast<br />

farmgate milk price late in the season; and<br />

higher costs in its ingredients business.<br />

Other factors were higher costs as<br />

Fonterra expanded in Australia, and<br />

increased IT and R&D expenditure to<br />

support development.<br />

Its performance was also affected<br />

by a write-down of $405m (£203m) in<br />

Fonterra’s Beingmate investment in China<br />

and the pay out of $183m (£91m) to global<br />

infant formula maker Danone for the 2012<br />

botulism scare.<br />

In August, Fonterra reduced last<br />

season’s farmgate milk price to $6.70<br />

(£3.36) per kg of milk solids from $6.75<br />

(£3.39). “Our farmers rely on accurate<br />

forecasting when planning. Our decision<br />

to update our earnings guidance and<br />

reduce our 2017/18 forecast Farmgate Milk<br />

Price late in the year was frustrating but<br />

necessary to protect the balance sheet,”<br />

wrote chair John Monaghan in the report.<br />

More accurate earnings forecasts was<br />

an “obvious priority” for 2019, he added.<br />

Interim chief executive Miles Hurrell,<br />

who took over the business after former<br />

boss Theo Spierings resigned in March,<br />

said: “We entered the second half of this<br />

year expecting our performance to be<br />

weighted to the second half.<br />

“The reality is, for this to have happened<br />

we needed an outstanding third and<br />

fourth quarter after an extremely strong<br />

second quarter for sales and earnings.<br />

Unfortunately, this didn’t eventuate.<br />

Forecasting is never easy, but ours wasn’t<br />

on the mark and proved to be optimistic.”<br />

The Kiwi co-op plans to re-evaluate<br />

investments, major assets and<br />

partnerships, including its Beingmate<br />

investment in China, to ensure they still<br />

meet the co-operative’s needs.<br />

“This will involve a thorough analysis<br />

of whether they directly support the<br />

strategy, are hitting their target return on<br />

capital and whether we can scale them up<br />

and grow more value over the next two to<br />

three years,” said Mr Hurrell.<br />

Craig Presland, chief excutive of<br />

Cooperative Business New Zealand, which<br />

represents the national co-op sector, said<br />

the performance had not been impacted<br />

by its co-operative status.<br />

He added that the co-op model remains<br />

“a key strength and founding pillar of the<br />

organisation – with financial benefits for<br />

milk supplied provided to its shareholders<br />

(members) only, profits retained locally<br />

and, most importantly, 100% local<br />

shareholder ownership and control of<br />

the organisation.<br />

“Fonterra remains solely within the<br />

control and hands of its dairy farmers and<br />

long may that continue.”<br />


Digital innovation drives growth at Credit Union Australia<br />

Australia’s largest credit union witnessed<br />

a small drop in profit for the year ended 30<br />

June <strong>2018</strong> following investment in digital<br />

technologies.<br />

Credit Union Australia, which provides<br />

financial, health and insurance services<br />

to around 470,000 Australians, reported a<br />

net profit of AU$54.79m (£30.14m), down<br />

1.9% from the previous year.<br />

Retail deposits grew 5.3% for the year<br />

to a record $9.22bn (£5.07bn) while loans<br />

under management were up 6.7% to<br />

$12.30bn (£6.7bn).<br />

Banking membership grew by a net<br />

20,008, which CEO Rob Goudswaard said<br />

was driven by the digital changes and<br />

brand awareness campaigns.<br />

“We now offer a full suite of digital<br />

wallets,” he added. “We’ve delivered an<br />

updated mobile banking app provided by<br />

Kony ... Members are benefiting from faster<br />

payments through CUA being an early<br />

adopter of the New Payments Platform<br />

(NPP), with 16,500 PayIDs registered by<br />

our members in the first four months. And<br />

we’ve had outstanding feedback from the<br />

2,000 members piloting our messaging<br />

app from Pivotus Inc, the international<br />

banking collaboration we joined this<br />

year.”<br />

Meanwhile its insurance arm CUA<br />

Health saw an increase of $1.49m (£8.2m)<br />

on its previous full-year result, to a $8.99m<br />

(£494m) net profit after tax. The company<br />

also passed on its lowest average premium<br />

increase in almost two decades.<br />

Digital innovation saw the roll-out of a<br />

refreshed health mobile app, and the pilot<br />

of a chatbot to supplement its human<br />

service team.<br />

CUA Health also launched three new<br />

lower cost hospital cover products this<br />

year, including a new hospital and extras<br />

package, aimed at first time buyers and<br />

young people.<br />

22 | <strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong>

New book chronicles the crisis<br />

at the Co-op Bank<br />

To purchase: thenews.coop/fall



Game changing is the challenge, so<br />

why the John Lewis Partnership name<br />

change? Part of Co-operatives UK – with<br />

Waitrose – it has a larger turnover than the<br />

Co-operative Group.<br />

Bonuses for never knowingly undersold<br />

partners have gone down these past five<br />

years with growing online competition<br />

from the likes of Amazon. Spending<br />

millions on changing the organisation’s<br />

name to John Lewis and Partners hardly<br />

seems the priority (although consultants<br />

may benefit).<br />

The priority is surely for the government<br />

to get its act together on retail taxation.<br />

Amazon, with revenues in billions, pays but<br />

millions in tax. Delivering to the customer<br />

increases road traffic and maintenance,<br />

not to mention the disposal of cardboard<br />

waste at public expense.<br />

As more high street retailers vanish,<br />

less money will come in from business<br />

rates and local taxation – and the onliners<br />

replacing them do not contribute much.<br />

Jim Craigen<br />

Edinburgh<br />




Sorry John McD, instead of putting<br />

a sticking plaster on the failing and<br />

discredited capitalist system, why not get<br />

behind an all-out drive to promote the<br />

co-operative model?<br />

The people want democratically owned<br />

ethical organisations. While at school,<br />

college or university, students learn<br />

nothing about the alternative to the corrupt<br />

capitalist model which offers wealth for<br />

the few. It’s time not just for a level<br />

playing field, but for a system that<br />

redresses the balance.<br />

No one should leave public or private<br />

education without a full understanding of<br />

the different models – with every hour of<br />

brainwashing on capitalism to be matched<br />

by three on co-operation.<br />

All public employees – both existing<br />

and new recruits – should have at least a<br />

week’s training on the co-operative model<br />

and its benefits. The ease with which<br />

co-operatives can be established should<br />

be made to match that of setting up a as<br />

a self-employed person / partnership / or<br />

private company. The first two can be set<br />

up almost instantly, with no paperwork;<br />

the second takes about half an hour online<br />

and costs nothing.<br />

But to establish a co-operative takes<br />

weeks and costs hundreds of pounds –<br />

and people will try to persuade you not<br />

to do it.<br />

Professional bodies such as lawyers and<br />

accountants should be required to include<br />

the co-operative model in their syllabuses;<br />

at the moment I am told there is nothing.<br />

The UK has a small co-op sector because it<br />

is 100 years behind other countries.<br />

John Harrington<br />

via Facebook<br />



SHIFTS (P7)<br />

All comments via Facebook<br />

After being in store during an armed<br />

robbery I know how important staff safety<br />

is. I wish head office would rethink the<br />

one-on-one system.<br />

Gordon Lindsay<br />

I fully support the staff in their quest to<br />

ensure minimum staffing levels in stores.<br />

Risk assessments should be conducted<br />

regularly and ALL incidents should be<br />

recorded for future reference. Staff safety<br />

cannot be compromised in order to<br />

increase profitability.<br />

Christopher Rawlinson<br />

In some cases I agree that workload<br />

and colleagues can be rescheduled to<br />

ensure more even cover, but in certain<br />

cases this extra cost could make some<br />

stores unprofitable and therefore at<br />

risk of closure or disposal. Some of our<br />

competitors operate with only one person<br />

on site during certain hours.<br />

Mark Sanderson<br />

Have your say<br />

Add your comments to our stories<br />

online at www.thenews.coop, get<br />

in touch via social media, or send<br />

us a letter. If sending a letter, please<br />

include your address and contact<br />

number. Letters may be edited<br />

and no longer than 350 words.<br />

Co-operative News, Holyoake<br />

House, Hanover Street,<br />

Manchester M60 0AS<br />

letters@thenews.coop<br />

@coopnews<br />

Co-operative News<br />

My daughter used to have to do this<br />

regularly for another chain, including<br />

shifts that finished at 11pm. She was<br />

generally OK about the workload but was<br />

concerned about safety on the nights<br />

the security guard wasn’t on (very rough<br />

area with lots of bars and takeaways).<br />

I also have a friend in a newsagents chain<br />

who is often completely alone, never<br />

more than two, working 11 hour shifts. It<br />

appears to be an industry thing for the<br />

small stores. On the one hand, it would<br />

be good for the Co-op to take the lead<br />

in ending the bad practice – but on the<br />

other, how do you stay competitive in a<br />

crowded market if the wage bill for each<br />

store is increased?<br />

Linda Smith<br />

p Craig Noonan (right), the Group’s head of<br />

retail PR, discusses the issue with staff<br />

24 | <strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong>


A final update from the Co-operative Heritage Trust<br />

In 2017 the Co-operative Heritage Trust launched<br />

Working Together, a project to find record and<br />

preserve the heritage of the worker co-op movement<br />

of the 1970s-1990s. As the project draws to a close,<br />

archivist Philippa Lewis gives a final update...<br />


The first stage of the project involved finding out<br />

what material existed – and where it was. Many<br />

items were still held by individuals, often packed<br />

away and forgotten in cupboards or attics.<br />

Working with members of the project steering<br />

committee (who have all been active participants in<br />

the workers’ co-operative movement), we were able<br />

to draw up a list of individuals and co-operatives to<br />

contact. The scoping exercise escalated from this<br />

original list of contacts, with people passing details<br />

of the project to others involved in the worker<br />

co-operative movement.<br />

In total, we contacted over 300 co-operatives or<br />

individuals, many of whom held material relating to<br />

workers’ co-ops that they were keen to deposit with<br />

us at the National Co-operative Archive.<br />


Alongside physical items – like banners, bags,<br />

minutes and leaflets – we also spoke with some<br />

of the people involved in worker co-ops during the<br />

1970s, 80s and 90s, which allowed more personal<br />

recollections to be recorded.<br />

In total, staff and volunteers undertook 26<br />

interviews across the UK, with people associated<br />

with, for example, Unicorn, the 8th Day and<br />

Delta-T Devices.<br />


From the outset, the aim of the project was not just<br />

to collect material, but to make it accessible to as<br />

large an audience as possible.<br />

Material deposited at the National Co-operative<br />

Archive has now been catalogued, with descriptions<br />

available on the archive catalogue online. This<br />

catalogue will allow researchers to search for<br />

workers’ co-operative collections and choose<br />

material to access in the National Co-operative<br />

Archive reading room in Manchester.<br />

However, it was also recognised that, as a<br />

national project, it was important that material<br />

was also made accessible online, for people who<br />

cannot visit. One way we have done this is to display<br />

workers’ co-operative images on a dedicated Flickr<br />

account, which allows images to be uploaded and<br />

shared, with others able to tag and engage with the<br />

images.<br />

To make the oral histories more accessible, full<br />

transcripts and summaries of the interviews have<br />

been created (many of which were completed by<br />

project volunteers). These have been uploaded<br />

with the recordings to the National Co-operative<br />

Archive website.<br />

A travelling exhibition has also been developed<br />

to showcase some of the findings of the project.<br />

This has been displayed at various venues including<br />

Manchester Central Library and Warwick Modern<br />

Records Centre, and is now at the Rochdale<br />

Pioneers Museum.<br />


Although the project itself is coming to an end, the<br />

material and lessons learned from it will live on in<br />

the wider collections of the National Co-operative<br />

Archive. Another long-term aim of the project<br />

is to ensure that workers’ co-operative material<br />

continues to be deposited at the archive.<br />

This will ensure that the heritage of this key part<br />

of the co-operative movement will be preserved<br />

and made accessible to current and future<br />

researchers alike.<br />

The Working Together<br />

exhibition is available for<br />

display at co-operative<br />

events and venues in<br />

the future. If you would<br />

like to know more about<br />

the project, hosting the<br />

exhibition or have some<br />

material you would like<br />

to donate please visit<br />

the National Co-operative<br />

Archive website, contact<br />

us or tweet us.<br />

archive@co-op.ac.uk<br />

@cooparchive<br />

<strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong> | 25

MEET...<br />

The Right Honourable The<br />

Lord Graham of Edmonton PC<br />

Thomas Edward ‘Ted’ Graham was born in Newcastle in 1925 and started<br />

working at the Newcastle-upon-Tyne Co-operative at the age of 13. He served<br />

in the Royal Marines from 1943, but was severely wounded when taking part<br />

in an exercise in 1944 and returned to the co-operative movement in 1946. He<br />

studied by correspondence courses and at night school and earned certificates<br />

from the Co-operative College. Ted became prime minister of the Tyneside<br />

Youth Parliament and held several positions in the co-operative movement,<br />

being appointed southern section officer of the Co-operative Union and<br />

national secretary for the Co-operative Party. He was the Labour and Cooperative<br />

MP for Edmonton from February 1974; he lost his seat in 1983 but was<br />

created a life peer as Baron Graham of Edmonton. He was Labour chief whip<br />

from 1990-97 and chair of the Co-operative Council, and served as president of<br />

the 1987 Co-operative Congress.<br />

I FIRST GOT INVOLVED IN CO-OPS in the 1940s. As I<br />

am now 93 years of age and joined the Co-operative<br />

Party and the Newcastle Co-operative Society<br />

when I was 17, I can modestly claim to have been<br />

around the course! I first became an addict of the<br />

Co-operative News in the years when it was a vastly<br />

different ‘News’. The year was 1942 and the first<br />

editors that I can recall were Billy Richardson and<br />

Frank Buckshaw, who brought reading pleasure to<br />

thousands of co-operative enthusiasts. But just as<br />

the clientele has changed, so has the congregation<br />

it seeks to serve. The movement as I remember it<br />

has changed out of all shape and size!<br />

I SENSE A FEELING that the future of co-operatives<br />

is full of danger – much of it of our own making.<br />

Let me begin by remembering that the Co-op was<br />

the first retailer to produce what turned out to be<br />

self-service stores. The London Co-op Society (LCS)<br />

led the way. This was one of the biggest of changes<br />

as it engaged the shopper within the democratic<br />

framework of managing the business.<br />

The democracy extended to member meetings. In<br />

the 1940s, gatherings for the Newcastle Society<br />

in the City Hall, which held over 1,000, was often<br />

overflowing. A dividend announcement or a fiercely<br />

fought local issue could draw vast attendance.<br />

There was an air of excitement – the reduction in<br />

the dividend declared could create a riot! Where<br />

are these members now?<br />


epitomised by the strength of the auxiliary bodies<br />

– the Women’s Guild, the Men’s Guilds, the Mixed<br />

Guilds, the BFYC (Young Co-operators). We boasted<br />

what were called ‘activists’, who were active in the<br />






26 | <strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong>

ISSN 0009-9821<br />

9 770009 982010<br />

01<br />

years following the Rochdale Pioneers. At one time<br />

in the past 100 years we could rely on the guilds to<br />

democratically keep the board on their toes. But all<br />

of these are gone now too, save spasmodic efforts<br />

to stay alive.<br />

Your co-operatives.<br />

Your Co-op news.<br />

ANOTHER DANGER I SEE is the result of decades of<br />

co-operative mergers.<br />

In Newcastle, for example, I witnessed co-operative<br />

societies clustered around the city merging into a<br />

regional society; thus a modest congregation in a<br />

district was submerged. Over 30 separate societies<br />

merged into one, 30 groups that were whittled<br />

away as their fates were thrown in with other<br />

nearby societies. This meant fewer co-ops. But is<br />

this a good thing?<br />

Whatever happened to the hundreds of oncethriving<br />

societies we were once proud of, their<br />

purpose lost in a morass of fighting for their lives?<br />

Playing the game of expansion does not signal<br />

success but instead we find the very foundations<br />

on which a co-op is built, being eroded away.<br />

news Issue #7294 APRIL <strong>2018</strong><br />

Connecting, championing, challenging<br />

APRIL <strong>2018</strong><br />


Co-op learning:<br />

principle five<br />

in action<br />

Plus ... 150 years<br />

of East of England ...<br />

and updates from the<br />

Co-op Retail and Abcul<br />

conferences<br />

£4.20<br />

www.thenews.coop<br />

THE WINNING INGREDIENT isn’t necessarily scale<br />

(look at our large competitors who are fighting<br />

to survive) – it rests substantially more on the<br />

quality of management.<br />

Size and business strength does not bring the<br />

success we could once achieve. And although we<br />

cannot match the access to hard capital of our<br />

main competitors, all is not lost. The success of<br />

co-operatives over the last century tells us that the<br />

co-operative principles can be at least one secret to<br />

winning.<br />

THE CO-OPERATIVE NEWS is a great canvas to<br />

reflect on how the new co-operative movement is<br />

emerging, based on men and women with the right<br />

principles at heart. It is full of splendid history<br />

and stories of progress. Modestly, I am likely to<br />

be among the elite who have read the News for a<br />

very long time. I very much welcome the coverage<br />

of world events and recent issues have opened<br />

my eyes to new forms of co-operative, mainly and<br />

strongly worker co-operatives.<br />

Anthony Murray (the previous editor) sailed the<br />

ship in the right direction. Sincere congratulations<br />

to Rebecca Harvey, new editor of the News. I will<br />

read every page of future editions, and anticipate<br />

that it will stimulate more readers, more cooperators<br />

and more appreciation for the vital part<br />

the Co-op News has played for many years. Long<br />

may it do so!<br />

<strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong> | 27

UKSCS annual conference<br />

The UK Society for Co-operative Studies (UKSCS) held its annual conference<br />

in Sheffield from 31 August – 2 September, bringing together a range of<br />

expert research. Anca Voinea reports on discussions including worker co-op<br />

funds, FairShares and modern slavery ...<br />

Annual report<br />

The UKSCS reported positive financial results<br />

for the year ending 10 April <strong>2018</strong>, with increased<br />

income from events and the sale of its Journal of<br />

Co-operative Studies.<br />

Over the past 12 months, UKSCS has changed<br />

its legal structure from an unincorporated charity<br />

to a charitable incorporated organisation.<br />

Chair Ian Adderley told the AGM the organisation<br />

was in a much healthier position, and had been<br />

financially restored by a successful 2017 annual<br />

conference. The organisation also hosted an<br />

annual lecture, which was livestreamed, and two<br />

law seminars in collaboration with Anthony Collins<br />

Solicitors. “Cash in” increased from £17,097 in<br />

2017 to £19,007 in <strong>2018</strong> while “cash out” rose from<br />

£4,383 to £7,141.<br />

Crowdsourcing meets<br />

co-op development<br />

“The events helped to<br />

educate people about<br />

co-operative forms and<br />

structures and brought in revenue for the society,”<br />

said Mr Adderley.<br />

The UKSCS now has 81 members, and the<br />

journal is bought by around 110 universities, with<br />

subscribers around the world, including in Europe,<br />

Japan, Indonesia, the USA, Canada and Thailand.<br />

The increased income have allowed the<br />

organisation to set up designated funds and<br />

general reserves, and allocate bursaries for those<br />

wishing to attend its annual conference.<br />

Looking ahead, the UKSCS aims to work on<br />

communication and its website.<br />

The AGM also awarded Richard Bickle, who<br />

retired from the board of trustees, an honorary life<br />

membership of the organisation.<br />

p Richard Bickle receives<br />

his honorary membership<br />

of the UKSCS<br />

A fund created four years ago to support the UK<br />

worker co-op sector has reached £76,203, a<br />

session at the conference was told.<br />

The Worker Co-op Solidarity Fund – run by<br />

Solid Fund, an unincorporated collective with 581<br />

contributing members – emerged from a discussion<br />

about a possible development fund at the Worker<br />

Co-op Weekend in 2014.<br />

“Anybody who pays into the fund is a member,”<br />

said Siôn Whellens, a member of design and<br />

print enterprise Calverts, one of the contributing<br />

worker co-ops.<br />

Mr Whellens said there is growing appetite for<br />

industrial democracy within the tech sector, and<br />

most new members are not employees of worker<br />

co-ops but supporters of industrial democracy.<br />

Each member of the fund, whether individual or<br />

corporate, has one vote. It is run on a voluntary<br />

basis, with individual members contributing £1<br />

a week, while worker co-ops pay on behalf of<br />

their members – in some cases through payroll<br />

deduction.<br />

The decisions regarding the allocation of<br />

funding are made collectively through Loomio, an<br />

online collective decision-making tool developed<br />

by a worker co-op in New Zealand.<br />

Around 150 people are active in the Loomio<br />

group, through which Solid Fund makes all<br />

decisions, with 60 members exercising their<br />

voting rights.<br />

Members propose projects for support, which<br />

are discussed and voted on. A number of projects<br />

have already won support, with £3,750 going to<br />

the Creative Workers Co-operative (CWC) for the<br />

purchase of video production equipment.<br />

Last year, a grant went to the successful CoTech<br />

retreat and £6,600 was allocated to find the next<br />

generation of worker co-op development advisers.<br />

“We are now trying to reflect on why this<br />

has this worked and how to make it better,” said<br />

Mr Whellens.<br />

p Siôn Whellens<br />

discusses efforts to fund a<br />

new wave of co-operation<br />

28 | <strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong>

Where do co-ops fit within the FairShares model of enterprise?<br />

p Prof Ridley-Duff<br />

explaining the main<br />

characteristics of<br />

the FairShares multistakeholder<br />

mode<br />

A diverse co-op movement needs a variety of legal<br />

forms – and for multi-stakeholder co-ops, these<br />

include the FairShares model, says Prof Rory<br />

Ridley-Duff.<br />

Prof Ridley-Duff, in his a keynote presentation<br />

at the conference, invited delegates to switch to a<br />

multi-stakeholder mindset and look at how co-ops<br />

can support solidarity enterprises.<br />

He said the FairShares model is based on<br />

the assumption that the exclusion of primary<br />

stakeholders from member-ownership is a cause<br />

of contemporary poverty.<br />

The approach aims to bring together the people<br />

who established the organisation; the people who<br />

provide the labour; those who use the products<br />

and services; and the financial investors. All<br />

of them are investing different types of capital, be<br />

it financial, social or labour. A person could also<br />

invest different forms of capital into the business.<br />

Governance and legal systems need to<br />

recognise these contributions and reward them<br />

accordingly, said Prof Ridley-Duff, adding: “If you<br />

are constituted appropriately, you can offer shares<br />

to raise financial capital from the people inside<br />

and outside the organisation.<br />

“You can be a company or a co-operative to<br />

do that. And you can adopt this mindset across<br />

different legal traditions.”<br />

As a result, entrepreneurs get Founder Shares<br />

(or membership); workers get Labour Shares<br />

(or membership); trading commitments are<br />

rewarded with User Shares (or membership);<br />

and financial capital creation is rewarded with<br />

Investor Shares (or restricted funds to organise<br />

investments in the well-being of employees, user<br />

communities and/or public benefit).<br />

Prof Ridley-Duff argued that the FairShares<br />

model promoted by the Fair Shares Association<br />

was rooted in the history of co-operatives.<br />

The three models of thinking around consumer<br />

co-operation, social entrepreneurship and<br />

worker co-operation are key concepts within the<br />

FairShares model, he said.<br />

However, the FairShares model has its own<br />

values and principles. These are wealth and power<br />

sharing with primary stakeholders; specification<br />

of social purposes and auditing of social impacts;<br />

ethical review of the choices of goods and<br />

services offered, as well as the production and<br />

retailing processes; and social democratic models<br />

of ownership, governance and management.<br />

Some groups are already using FairShares<br />

models while operating as co-operatives. One<br />

example is Anyshares, a United States company<br />

that includes all stakeholder groups in voting<br />

and dividend profit sharing. The business aims to<br />

position itself as an alternative platform bringing<br />

together users and service providers.<br />

Similarly, Resonate, a co-op owned music<br />

streaming service, is jointly owned and managed<br />

by artists, listeners and record labels. Users pay<br />

to listen to a song – and after they pay to listen<br />

to it nine times, they can download it. With other<br />

providers, listeners have to listen to a song over<br />

100 times to own it. A platform co-op, Resonate<br />

also uses Blockchain technology to track and<br />

distribute payments.<br />

According to Prof Ridley-Duff, co-operative<br />

social entrepreneurship is more rooted in<br />

mutuality than in philanthropy. It also tends to be<br />

explored more within multi-stakeholder co-ops<br />

than the rest of the movement.<br />

“It is closely aligned with the development<br />

of a social and solidarity economy. It’s supportive<br />

of member participation in ownership and<br />

it expands the notion of trading beyond<br />

commodities and market,” he said, adding<br />

that the UK had yet to fully grasp the concept<br />

of multi-stakeholder ownership.<br />

He said that more studies and legislation were<br />

required to support the model, as well as having it<br />

included in education curricula.<br />

In his view, the FairShares model is a philosophy<br />

for creating and sustaining networks of solidarity<br />

enterprises that share power and wealth among<br />

their entrepreneurs, producers, consumers<br />

and investors.<br />

<strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong> | 29

Denmark’s co-op movement looking for formal recognition<br />

While 37% of all housing in Denmark is provided<br />

through co-ops, re-marketing co-ops remains a<br />

big challenge for the movement.<br />

The CEO of co-op federation Kooperationen,<br />

Susanne Westhausen, spoke about the sector at<br />

the UKSCS conference in Sheffield, and said the<br />

challenges faced by co-ops in Denmark are similar<br />

to those in the UK.<br />

The country has no co-operative legislation,<br />

which means co-ops can register in any form<br />

they want and set out co-operative principles in<br />

their by-laws.<br />

Worker co-ops in particular are being perceived<br />

as old-fashioned but continue to enjoy a close<br />

relationship with trade unions.<br />

On the other hand, Denmark is home to some<br />

16,500 voluntary clubs and associations. There<br />

is a joke that if two Danes sit together for five<br />

minutes, they will start an association.<br />

“Denmark is the country of associations<br />

but people do not perceive them as business<br />

models, again due to a lack of legislation,” said<br />

Ms Westhausen. She explained that some co-ops<br />

were losing members and board members and<br />

then being sold. For consumer co-ops, a key issue<br />

is explaining to customers that being a member is<br />

different from just having a loyalty card.<br />

On the other hand, the young generation likes<br />

the idea of working together across countries.<br />

“The best way for them to learn is by doing trips<br />

to co-ops to get a co-operative experience,” she<br />

added. The country is also moving away from the<br />

welfare state, which could open the healthcare<br />

sector to co-ops and mutuals.<br />

In the absence of a legal definition of the social<br />

economy, allocating specific funding to co-ops<br />

is not possible, even when political players are<br />

in favour of promoting the sector, added Ms<br />

Westhausen.<br />

She thinks that in spite of these barriers, there<br />

are opportunities for the sector. Changes brought<br />

by the fourth industrial revolution are expected to<br />

result in higher numbers of people working part<br />

time or as freelancers – and co-ops can help them<br />

have more bargaining power.<br />

The UN’s Sustainable Development agenda<br />

gives co-operatives the chance to show how<br />

they can make a difference. New organic farming<br />

co-ops are also taking off in Denmark, where<br />

people are more familiar with organic products<br />

than they are with co-ops.<br />

Kooperationen is currently working on creating<br />

a co-operative certificate. The federation is a<br />

network of 92 member enterprises and 14,000<br />

employees, being the country’s main apex<br />

organisation for co-operatives. It provides<br />

professional legal advice and counselling within<br />

areas such as employment law, company law and<br />

construction law.<br />

p Susanne Westhausen<br />

shares the lessons of<br />

Danish co-operation<br />

qCopenhagen, a city in a<br />

‘country of associations’<br />

30 | <strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong>

The past informs the present<br />

– The co-operative movement and anti-slavery<br />

At this year’s conference of the UK Society<br />

for Co-operative Studies, Nick Matthews,<br />

chair of Co-operatives UK and representative<br />

on the Co-op Group members’ council,<br />

gave a presentation inspired by the Group’s<br />

campaign against modern slavery. Its<br />

efforts have seen it lobby government and<br />

businesses to tackle the rise in forced labour,<br />

and devise the Bright Future programme,<br />

which offers work opportunities to survivors<br />

of the crime. Here, Mr Matthews argues that<br />

this anti-slavery ethos is embedded in the<br />

co-op movement’s history ...<br />

Last year, when the Co-op Group was awarded<br />

the Thomson-Reuters Stop Slavery Award for the<br />

great work of the Bright Futures programme in<br />

supporting former slaves, I wondered what our<br />

founders would have thought. Delighted that our<br />

values were still intact or horrified that slavery<br />

still existed?<br />

p The iconic CWS wheatsheaf<br />

I thought about the early trademark of<br />

the Co-operative Wholesale Society, the<br />

wheatsheaf with the motto “Labor and<br />

Wait”. Labor stood out because it was in the<br />

American spelling. It was suggested that this was<br />

a demonstration by the founders of the CWS of<br />

their commitment to the emancipation movement.<br />

It is generally accepted that ‘labor and wait’<br />

comes from the last line of the Longfellow poem<br />

the Psalm of Life.<br />

This raises a series of questions: were the<br />

early co-operators supporters of Lincoln and the<br />

Union forces? If the phrase was from Longfellow,<br />

why was it important and would anyone seeing it<br />

understand what it meant?<br />

In short, this is what I have found. Two ideological<br />

strands feed the early movement – Chartism and<br />

Christian Socialism. Both had a commitment to<br />

equality and extending the franchise at home and<br />

against slavery.<br />

The backdrop to the whole process of the<br />

formation of the CWS was the US Civil War and the<br />

blockade of the Southern ports by the Union navy.<br />

This prevented the export of cotton to Manchester<br />

and Liverpool. Prior to the civil war, there were over<br />

half a million operatives in the cotton districts in<br />

Lancashire and Yorkshire. By November 1862, over<br />

two thirds of them had been laid off. The misery<br />

caused has been referred to ever since as the<br />

Lancashire Cotton Famine.<br />

Co-ops were not immune to this economic<br />

pressure. There were around 120 co-op societies<br />

in the cotton districts. All lost trade and members.<br />

Some collapsed. I believe this must have been<br />

part of the pressure to form a Wholesale Society.<br />

The Manchester campaign in support of the<br />

Union came to a crescendo on New Year’s Eve in<br />

1862 as Lincoln’s proclamation freeing the slaves<br />

came into force on New Year’s Day. Two founders<br />

of the CWS, John Cooper of Rochdale Co-op and<br />

Edward Hoosen of Manchester Co-op, had called<br />

the meeting, and some 6,000 people turned up<br />

at the Free Trade Hall for the first meeting of what<br />

became the Union and Emancipation Society. They<br />

went in to be on the founding board of the CWS.<br />

So their anti-slavery credentials are clear. How<br />

well did they know Longfellow? Now, it is hard<br />

to appreciate just how popular he was. Before<br />

effective copyright law, huge quantities of his<br />

work were sold. He was the most popular poet in<br />

the country, with over 20 British publishers, easily<br />

outselling the likes of Wordsworth and Tennyson.<br />

His style of morally uplifting verse fitted the<br />

mood of the times. It is astonishing how many of<br />

his phrases have entered our language and there<br />

is no doubt the founders of the CWS would have<br />

been familiar with his work.<br />

So, it seems that it is true that as George Jacob<br />

Holyoake wrote, “Co-operative societies had no<br />

small share in enabling the people of the two great<br />

cotton spinning counties to resist the recognition<br />

of a slave dominion.”<br />

<strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong> | 31

It has become a familiar story: political fault-lines are opening up around<br />

the world, huge sections of the population are feeling disenfranchised,<br />

and reactionary populist movements are moving to fill the vacuum.<br />

Introduction by Miles Hadfield<br />

32 | <strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong>

The upheaval following the 2008 crisis has led<br />

to the Brexit vote (see page 46-47), the election<br />

of Donald Trump, the electoral successes of far<br />

right parties across Europe, and the hold on power<br />

enjoyed by political “strongmen” such as Vladimir<br />

Putin, Recep Erdogan and Rodrigo Duterte.<br />

These all represent variations on populism –<br />

characterised by political academics such as Jan-<br />

Werner Muller as a form of identity politics that is<br />

critical of elites, anti-pluralist, and makes moral<br />

claim of representation.<br />

In his book, What is Populism, Muller warns:<br />

“The notion that we move closer to democracy<br />

by pitting a ‘silent majority’, which supposedly is<br />

being ignored by elites, against elected politicians<br />

is not just an illusion, it is a politically pernicious<br />

thought ... Populism is something like a permanent<br />

shadow of modern representative democracy, and<br />

a constant peril.”<br />

But there is also a more progressive strain of<br />

populism, as seen in the huge grassroots support<br />

Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, Bernie Sanders in the<br />

US, and the Syriza and Podemos parties in Greece<br />

and Spain.<br />

Muller points out that in North, Central, and<br />

South America, there has always been progressive<br />

strand of populism. This has influenced co-op<br />

history in these regions – for instance, in the US,<br />

a wave of co-operativism emerged from the 1880s<br />

populist movement The Knights of Labor.<br />

“The populists’ basic premise,’ writes Nathan<br />

Schneider in his new book Everything for Everyone<br />

(review, p48), is that opposing entrenched power<br />

and creating co-ops went hand in hand.”<br />

Now, the movement is developing its own<br />

radical responses to the world’s challenges, from<br />

the Cleveland model of local co-op economies, to<br />

the development of the platform co-op model to<br />

disrupt the tech economy. Meanwhile, the racial<br />

tensions in the US, which have worsened since<br />

Trump’s election victory in 2016, have seen a<br />

resurgence in the African American co-operative<br />

movement (p 44-45).<br />

But can these diverse strands be built into<br />

a coherent political programme? The co-op<br />

movement has been using the crisis to push its<br />

own cause, arguing for more democratic models<br />

of ownership in housing, transport, utilities and<br />

business. The hope is that co-operative ways of<br />

working, focused on potential employment growth<br />

sectors such as care work and the knowledge<br />

economy, can deliver a more stable future, with<br />

less inequality.<br />

In the UK, thinktanks have produced a series<br />

of policy documents for a reshaped economy,<br />

most recently last month's report by the Institute<br />

for Public Policy Research (IPPR) Commission<br />

on Economic Justice (page 44-45). These ideas<br />

are being echoed in grassroots meetings around<br />

the country. Last week in Manchester, there<br />

was an event discussing alternative models of<br />

home ownership, from campaign group Housing<br />

Futures.<br />

Salford’s Labour MP Rebecca Long-<br />

Bailey, the shadow business secretary,<br />

said “the housing crisis exemplifies<br />

inequality” in the UK. She said Labour<br />

planned to build a million new homes –<br />

half of them social housing – if elected,<br />

but that this would not be enough on<br />

its own.“We also need to investigate<br />

new models”, she said, such as co-op<br />

housing and co-ownership. This was<br />

part of plan to “diversify the economy”.<br />

“We need to investigate who<br />

owns the economy, and investigate<br />

whose interests it is run for,”<br />

she added.<br />

Neil McInroy, chief executive of the<br />

Centre for Local Economic Strategies<br />

thinktank, agreed there was a need<br />

for a variety of ownership models. “We<br />

need a plurality of forms to ensure<br />

there is not one monolithic entity to<br />

extract the wealth.”<br />

He told the meeting the global<br />

crisis had discredited the neoliberal<br />

consensus and left an “interregnum of<br />

ideas” – offering a space of alternative<br />

ideas of ownership to develop.<br />

“Things are coming together,” he<br />

said, “but we’re not there yet.”<br />

But will this be enough? Mr McInroy warned<br />

that such models need a supportive environment,<br />

arguing that community asset transfers, which<br />

had given responsibility to social housing tenants,<br />

had not worked.<br />

“It’s a good idea,” he said, “But in a time of<br />

austerity, it’s just an exercise in passing the buck.”<br />

He added: “We’ve got to listen more and try to<br />

co-design and co-produce” policies with people<br />

who had previously “had things done to them.”<br />

“The housing crisis exemplifies<br />

inequality ... We need to<br />

investigate who owns the<br />

economy, and investigate<br />

whose interests it is run for”<br />

Above: Rebecca Long-<br />

Bailey and Neil McInroy<br />

<strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong> | 33



As with in other east European countries, many<br />

people in the Czech Republic associate co-ops with<br />

the former communist regime. Some still perceive<br />

co-operatives as old-fashioned, state-owned,<br />

unproductive enterprises.<br />

But in the small town of Kostelec nad Labem, in<br />

Central Bohemia, a coffee co-op is trying to show<br />

that co-operation works. The founders of Fair &<br />

Bio Coffee Roasters wanted to process Fairtrade<br />

coffee in the Czech Republic, rather than have it<br />

imported. In doing so, they are also reviving the<br />

co-operative business model.<br />

“The image of co-ops was very<br />

much damaged. Until now,<br />

they have been disregarded.<br />

There was a misconception that<br />

co-operation doesn't work and<br />

co-ops were rejected. It is<br />

getting better. Over the past<br />

five years, things have changed.<br />

People don’t laugh at us<br />

anymore,” she adds."<br />

The Czech co-op movement dates back to<br />

1847, with the formation of the Prague Food and<br />

Savings Society. Its purpose was similar to that of<br />

the Rochdale Pioneers – to provide high-quality,<br />

affordable food to people in industrial areas. Soon<br />

after, credit, agricultural and housing co-ops<br />

formed in Bohemia and Moravia.<br />

The downfall of the co-operative sector in the<br />

region started with World War II. Co-op staff were<br />

targeted and executed by the Nazi regime. And<br />

when the communists came to power in 1948,<br />

co-ops lost their autonomy and independence,<br />

becoming state-owned. New co-ops were set up<br />

but they belonged to the state and lacked the<br />

entrepreneurial aspect of the old societies. After<br />

communism fell in 1989, some co-ops did not<br />

manage to obtain ownership of their former assets<br />

and were disbanded.<br />

“In 1989, the collective way of doing<br />

things was rejected,” says Marketa<br />

Vinkelhoferová, a member and director<br />

of the Fair & Bio Coffee roasters. “We are now trying<br />

to explain that the collective democratic form of<br />

doing business is not evil and that co-operation is<br />

necessary for a successful way of doing anything.<br />

Not many people know that co-operative history is<br />

so rich.”<br />

She adds: “The image of co-ops was very<br />

much damaged. Until now, they have been<br />

disregarded. There was a misconception<br />

that co-operation doesn’t work and<br />

co-ops were rejected. It is getting better. Over the<br />

past five years, things have changed. People don’t<br />

laugh at us any more.”<br />

The multi stakeholder co-op has 25 members,<br />

some of them employees. There 12 workers, nine of<br />

whom have disabilities.<br />

“I like working in the roastery because of the<br />

beautiful smell of coffee,” says Filip, one of the<br />

employees with learning disabilities, who has<br />

been there since the start. His colleague, Lukáš,<br />

adds: “I love the friendly and relaxed atmosphere<br />

of the workplace.”<br />

Marketa is the president of the co-op’s board,<br />

which includes two other members. Regular<br />

members are also involved on a voluntary basis,<br />

helping out during busy periods, particularly at<br />

Christmas. To join the co-op, members have to<br />

invest €200 in the business.<br />

“We don’t recruit members. We work with<br />

people who want to become members and are<br />

highly motivated. We want committed members<br />

rather than a big membership pool. We expect<br />

support and involvement from them, as well as an<br />

understanding of our values.<br />

“We are part of the wider movement and we<br />

aim to create international contacts. Not much is<br />

known about co-ops in Central and East-European<br />

countries. We would like to let the world know.”<br />

CZ, Kostelec<br />

nad Labem,<br />

Central Bohemia<br />

25 members,<br />

12 workers<br />

Roasted in the<br />

Italian Style<br />

34 | <strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong>

The co-op is a member of the Union of Czech<br />

and Moravian Manufacturing Cooperatives,<br />

the Association of Social Responsibility, the<br />

Decent Company platform, and RIPESS, the<br />

intercontinental network for the promotion of<br />

social solidarity economy.<br />

Ecumenical Academy – the non-governmental<br />

organisation that co-established the co-op –<br />

was a partner organisation in SUSY, a European<br />

initiative to promote the social and solidarity<br />

economy. Ecumenical Academy supports<br />

alternative solutions to the current economic,<br />

social and environmental issues both in local<br />

communities and at global level.<br />

Fair & Bio Roastery was one of the good practice<br />

examples included in the scheme. As part of the<br />

initiative, the partner organisations launched a<br />

series of videos showcasing good practices in the<br />

social and solidarity economy around the world.<br />

The co-op roasts around five tonnes of coffee per<br />

year. The coffee sold by Fair & Bio Roastery is 100%<br />

Arabica and comes from Latin America, Africa<br />

and Asia. It also offers a blend with Robusta. All<br />

coffee is Fairtrade certified and a large part of it<br />

is organic.<br />

Products include Italian-style roasted espresso<br />

and third-wave coffee, which is roasted less and<br />

emphasises floral and fruity flavours. The products<br />

are sold online, as well as to local businesses and<br />

shops, including zero-waste retailers. A significant<br />

percentage of customers are companies – who buy<br />

the coffee for gift sets or for their staff.<br />

“There is a lot more acknowledgement of<br />

Fairtrade than 10 years ago,” says Marketa.<br />

“People also respect the concept of organic<br />

agriculture. We don’t want to make ourselves<br />

cheaper to be more competitive because we<br />

“We combine global sustainability through our<br />

Fairtrade sourcing and transparent supply chains<br />

with local sustainability by providing jobs for local<br />

people and those disadvantaged”<br />

would need to save money from somewhere and<br />

we don’t want to abandon some of our values.”<br />

One of the main challenges faced when setting<br />

up was the lack of support available for co-ops,<br />

particularly in terms of access to capital, with a<br />

lack of ethical finance in the Czech Republic.<br />

Acquiring the roasting machine and other<br />

equipment required investment; the co-op<br />

obtained a grant from the EU Social Fund, but that<br />

did not cover the full cost.<br />

“Many people tend to say that grants are not<br />

good but we saw it as an initial investment. Social<br />

and solidarity economy enterprises, like us, have<br />

to be economically sustainable and cannot be<br />

running on grants,” says Marketa .<br />

Looking ahead, the co-op plans to grow<br />

sustainably, roast more coffee and increase the<br />

number of employees.<br />

“We would like to expand our offer one day to<br />

neighbouring countries like Poland, or Slovakia,<br />

but there are many more opportunities to take<br />

in our own country first. The environment is<br />

much friendlier now. More people are aware<br />

of environmental issues, especially after this<br />

hot summer. They are also supportive of local<br />

economies. We combine global sustainability<br />

through our Fairtrade sourcing and transparent<br />

supply chains with local sustainability<br />

by providing jobs for local people and<br />

those disadvantaged,” says Marketa.<br />

Members of the Fair<br />

& Bio team enjoy the<br />

relaxed and friendly<br />

atmosphere that comes<br />

from its co-op ethos<br />

<strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong> | 35


Above and below: A<br />

co-operative training<br />

session in Malawi<br />

(Photo: Co-operative<br />

College)<br />

“The 21st century provides the African cooperative<br />

movement with exciting and critical<br />

opportunities as the continent becomes the world’s<br />

second fastest-growing region.” So wrote the<br />

Honourable Vincent T. Seretse, chair of the Africa<br />

Co-operative Ministerial Conference, introducing<br />

the International Co-operative Alliance – Africa<br />

Co-operative Development Strategy 2017-2020.<br />

“If the movement and governments work<br />

together to support the co-operative enterprises,<br />

the industry will realise sustainable growth and<br />

development, and inspire Africa’s performance in<br />

distinct segments of the movement.”<br />

However, for many years, co-operatives in Africa<br />

struggled with a legacy of government intervention<br />

from both the colonial and post-colonial period.<br />

As noted by Hazel Johnson (Development Policy<br />

and Practice, The Open University) and Linda<br />

Shaw (the Co-operative College) in their 2014 paper<br />

‘Rethinking rural co-operatives in development:<br />

introduction to the policy arena’, this legacy had<br />

an long-lasting impact on their performance and<br />

limited their effectiveness.<br />

“Many co-operatives functioned as para-statals<br />

and were frequently captured by local elites,” they<br />

wrote. “Liberalisation and structural adjustment<br />

further weakened co-operatives that were<br />

previously dependent on the state.”<br />

They add that African co-operatives have<br />

remained strongly marked by their colonial<br />

legacies – not only in terms of the legal and policy<br />

environment but also by the sectors in which<br />

they operate. In eastern Africa, until recently,<br />

the dominant types of co-op have been those<br />

specialising in export crops such as coffee and<br />

cotton.<br />

Dr Johnson and Dr Shaw highlight a study of<br />

contemporary co-operatives in Africa published<br />

by the International Labour Organization which<br />

“argues that the British, Belgian and French<br />

colonial regimes left behind distinct legal<br />

frameworks, which are still apparent today. The<br />


Over the last six years, the co-operative movement in Malawi<br />

has been working to develop a national apex body, known as<br />

the Malawi Federation of Co-operatives (MAFECO) ... writes<br />

Dr Amanda Benson, research and projects officer at the<br />

Co-operative College. Supporting this project, among<br />

others, has been the Co-operative College, firstly through its<br />

Supporting Co-operatives in Malawi project (2012-2015) funded<br />

by the Scottish government, and, more recently, through the<br />

CEPEESM project (2015-<strong>2018</strong>).<br />

On a recent visit to the country, we (myself and Dr Sarah<br />

Alldred) met with the Malawi government’s registrar of cooperatives,<br />

Wisikesi Mkombezi, and his team to discuss the<br />

ongoing development of the country’s co-op movement.<br />

According to Mr Mkombezi, there are great changes taking<br />

place in the regulation of co-operatives; the Malawian<br />

government has ambitious plans to double the numbers of<br />

co-op members, driven in part from the top by ministers who<br />

attended the National Agricultural Fair and were impressed with<br />

how co-ops have been performing, especially in rural areas.<br />

“Every politician is talking about co-operatives, especially<br />

when they have visited co-ops and have seen how they are<br />

changing people’s lives,” he says. “Then they see them as a<br />

vehicle to change people’s lives for the better.”<br />

However, he is aware that the co-operative movement<br />

needs to be independent and not hampered by politics, and<br />

acknowledges that one of its strengths is that it does work<br />

independently.<br />

But this message of independence also needs to be received<br />

by members of the co-ops: that they are the owners and<br />

decision-makers behind the co-op movement, and that it is not<br />

controlled by government – there is sometimes a misconception<br />

that co-operatives are another wing of the government.<br />

Mr Mkombezi emphasises that even MAFECO is memberbased,<br />

and the co-op movement can put who they want at the<br />

head of the board: it’s in their power to act. “But you can’t force<br />

a concept on the people,” he adds. “First they must understand<br />

what a co-operative is.”<br />

Co-operatives are still used as a tool by the government.<br />

Their popularity has in resulted in a boost of support in using<br />

co-operatives to build primary industry, and has united the<br />

efforts of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism, the<br />

Ministry of Water, Agriculture, Irrigation and Water and the<br />

36 | <strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong>

British model has been characterised as a ‘unified<br />

model’, for example, with one law for all types of<br />

co-operatives, a separate co-operatives ministry<br />

and a single national apex body.”<br />

They add: “Co-operatives were often co-opted by<br />

political parties. In socialist countries they became<br />

integrated into state-dominated agricultural<br />

systems while, in other countries, many<br />

agricultural co-operatives became dominated<br />

by big landowners and large scale farmers [...]<br />

However those agricultural co-operatives closely<br />

associated with the state suffered as a result of<br />

the withdrawal of state support and structural<br />

adjustment policies from the 1980s onwards<br />

with many failing or considerably reducing their<br />

activities.”<br />

The shift away from a government-led and<br />

controlled co-operative sector began in the<br />

1980s and 90s, with the liberalisation policies<br />

that started to remove government support and<br />

subsidy from co-operatives in many countries.<br />

And this was furthered in 1995 when, at its<br />

conference in Manchester, the International Cooperative<br />

Alliance adopted a Statement on the<br />

Co-operative Identity which firmly situated cooperatives<br />

as member-owned, democratically run<br />

and autonomous enterprises.<br />

In Africa, small-scale financial co-operatives,<br />

such as credit unions, developed later as<br />

relatively autonomous organisations – and more<br />

recently, the region has witnessed a ‘co-operative<br />

renaissance’, with the number of memberships<br />

and active co-ops growing significantly.<br />

According to the ICA – Africa, there are<br />

now three things that are fundamental to the<br />

future success of co-operative enterprises in<br />

the continent: data; cultural environment; and<br />

research and innovation.<br />

“We need a comprehensive, internationally<br />

comparable and consistent data set that adequately<br />

reflects the economic activity of the sector,” said<br />

outgoing ICA – Africa president, Stanley Muchiri.<br />

Mr Muchiri, who is also the chair of the Cooperative<br />

Bank of Kenya and vice-president of the<br />

ICA, adds that while “African governments now<br />

have a standard definition of what we mean by a<br />

Co-operative, they fail in providing guidelines on<br />

how it will be officially measured”.<br />

To resolve this, the Africa Co-operative<br />

Development Strategy 2017-2020 aims to engage<br />

governments to ensure government information<br />

accurately reflects all parts of the sector and does<br />

not exclude the large proportion of the industry<br />

that exports goods and services.<br />

“Diversity and innovation will define the future<br />

strategic growth of the co-operative movement,”<br />

he said.<br />

“This requires that we build on our long history<br />

of excellence in the arts and culture, sports, and<br />

the talent it nurtures, to develop an ecosystem that<br />

brings together co-operatives and culture with<br />

technology, research, and innovation.”<br />

Ministry of Finance to drive the rural industrialisation of<br />

Malawi. Mr Mkombezi acknowledges that one challenge facing<br />

the movement is resources.<br />

Co-ops have been singled out as a critical tool for Malawi’s<br />

development, but they are very under-resourced – and the<br />

resources that are available are spread out between lots of<br />

different organisations.<br />

John Mulangeni, our project manager in Malawi, said that one<br />

of the issues for the movement, and for joined-up approaches,<br />

is that there is no centralised point that holds data on cooperatives<br />

in the same way that data is collected on other<br />

enterprises (such as figures on membership, capital, how do<br />

they manage their post-harvest production activities etc).<br />

The ministry staff work in a very centralised way and this<br />

presents challenges when reaching out to the more rural areas.<br />

Mr Mulangeni believes the co-op movement in Malawi could<br />

learn a lot from the Tanzanian model, which is developing and<br />

moving forwards, especially as Malawi is currently updating<br />

its 1998 Co-operative Act. The draft Co-operative Bill is being<br />

debated and it is expected to be passed by the end of this<br />

financial year.<br />

The government’s policy is to promote co-ops, and while<br />

they still support other associations, they do emphasise<br />

that the preferred organisation is a co-operative one. A great<br />

recent example of this is the help that was given to a leather<br />

association. This enabled them to create a design studio, but<br />

also encouraged them to become a co-operative too. They<br />

certainly don’t hide their preference for organisations to be cooperatives<br />

to access support.<br />

<strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong> | 37




Across the world, we see economic inequality<br />

leading to disaffected populations. What is the<br />

role of co-operatives in offering an alternative<br />

to these people? Can co-operatives create a<br />

sense of belonging in these disadvantaged<br />

communities?<br />

We live in a time of enormous global challenges,<br />

in all kinds of areas: the environment, population,<br />

work, production, health and education. At<br />

the same time, we face challenges with citizen<br />

participation and political representation.<br />

For more than 120 years, the International<br />

Co-operative Alliance has upheld values and<br />

principles that promote the development of<br />

communities within a framework of democracy,<br />

justice and peace.<br />

"The world urgently needs<br />

forms of social organisation<br />

that prioritise caring for the<br />

environment and putting<br />

people at the centre of the<br />

economy. Otherwise, damage<br />

will be irreversible"<br />

With the aim of promoting strategic alliances,<br />

we’ve been talking to various international<br />

organisations. And by doing this, we have<br />

strengthened our relationship with the ILO and<br />

FAO – and we’re committed to the 17 Sustainable<br />

Development Goals.<br />

We know that there are more than one billion<br />

members of co-ops worldwide, and we have a<br />

presence on every continent and in almost all<br />

sectors of the economy.<br />

That's why we set out to improve region and<br />

sector integration; engage with members to better<br />

understand their suggestions and concerns, and<br />

make an impact on the public sector to create<br />

better policies and legal frameworks to develop<br />

co-operative enterprise.<br />

Additionally, we’re re-evaluating the role of<br />

data and statistics to get a better picture of our<br />

economic and social contribution in various parts<br />

of the world.<br />

Anca Voinea speaks to Ariel Guarco, president of<br />

the International Co-operative Alliance, and John<br />

Duda of US thinktank Democracy Collaborative,<br />

about the potential of the co-op alternative<br />

If we are an integrated movement, united<br />

in all its diversity, we will be in a stronger<br />

position for governments and other international<br />

organisations to listen to our proposals and<br />

warnings about the global situation.<br />

We can’t stress<br />

enough that the world<br />

urgently needs forms<br />

of social organisation<br />

that prioritise caring for<br />

the environment and<br />

putting people at the<br />

centre of the economy.<br />

Otherwise, social and<br />

environmental damage<br />

will be increasingly<br />

irreversible.<br />

Since the founding<br />

of the Alliance in<br />

1895, right up until<br />

today, co-operatives<br />

have transcended<br />

wars, economic crises,<br />

different political<br />

regimes and natural<br />

disasters. And in all<br />

these years they have<br />

demonstrated that,<br />

in the midsts of many<br />

different circumstances,<br />

they always serve people<br />

and their communities.<br />

In 2012, the United<br />

Nations recognised<br />

that co-operatives can<br />

help build a better world. We have demonstrated<br />

the ability to generate work, produce goods and<br />

services, distribute wealth and improve people’s<br />

quality of life. We do it with our own resources<br />

and tools, and sometimes in association with our<br />

governments.<br />

Clearly, the current economic model will<br />

not solve the inequalities that it has created,<br />

and governments alone cannot provide all the<br />

answers. So co-operatives remain a genuine and<br />

effective tool for achieving a sustainable world.<br />

Ariel Guarco, president<br />

of the International<br />

Co-operative Alliance<br />

38 | <strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong>


There is confusion over what populism is –<br />

some politicians use populist speeches but<br />

implement policies that help corporations –<br />

such as tax cuts. How would you define it?<br />

Populism is a response to a situation when the<br />

power to establish political reality shifts away from<br />

being managed entirely through elite governance<br />

and towards “the people”.<br />

That doesn’t mean that elites are necessarily<br />

out of the loop in a populist moment, it just means<br />

that the centre of gravity has shifted to a broader<br />

mass of people, and that elites can continue to<br />

do quite well by adopting strategies that ground<br />

legitimation for their programme in this mass.<br />

But populism isn’t always just a strategy of elite<br />

capture – the Populist movement in the late 19th<br />

Century in the US, for instance, was an impressive<br />

bottom-up movement for a systemic alternative,<br />

“the co-operative commonwealth”.<br />

Ultimately, it matters who “the people” are<br />

in a populist moment — and who is left out.<br />

Certainly, the more reactionary and xenophobic<br />

populist strategies on both sides of the Atlantic<br />

are terrifying. But after decades of a technocratic<br />

neoliberal consensus about the acceptable<br />

boundaries for the political imaginary, it’s a relief<br />

to see truly just and equitable systemic alternatives<br />

on the table as well — and it’s populism that’s<br />

made this possible: a moment of delegitimisation<br />

and danger that’s also an incredible opportunity.<br />

Are we witnessing a return of the “isms”? And<br />

does this pose a threat to liberal democracy?<br />

It depends on what “isms” you mean. Certainly<br />

a well-organised, well-resourced, and chillingly<br />

effective strain of authoritarianism is on the<br />

march: it’s a real threat to democracy, and should<br />

be confronted and fought.<br />

But I’m more ambivalent about liberalism, which<br />

is also, of course, an “ism”. The reliance on the<br />

market as the core institution of civil society has<br />

not proved capable of uniformly delivering results<br />

that are compatible with equity or democracy, let<br />

alone ecological survival. A return of some kind of<br />

socialism is not just compatible with democracy, it<br />

may well be the precondition for its survival.<br />

What’s needed is a re-envisioned political<br />

economy built around democratic outcomes as a<br />

consequence of its structure and operation – not<br />

trying to retrofit democracy on top of an economic<br />

system programmed to concentrate power.<br />

Because we are talking about a complex<br />

system with a lot of different operative scales,<br />

this means, for me, the least problematic of all<br />

the “isms” – pluralism. Democratised ownership<br />

and control of many kinds, interlocking and<br />

overlapping – nationalisation, municipal “sewer”<br />

socialism, worker co-ops, consumer co-ops, multistakeholder<br />

co-ops, public/co-op partnerships,<br />

and so on, all at different scales regrounding<br />

the economy in the lives of the public and in<br />

communities. Our current system is in crisis<br />

because a financialised liberalism can’t really<br />

deliver public welfare or sustain communities,<br />

so the choice increasingly becomes one between<br />

a politics based in reactionary hatred and fear<br />

defending what has yet to be stripped away,<br />

or a movement reconstruction of the economic<br />

foundations of democratic life.<br />

Can co-ops create a sense of belonging for<br />

alienated communities? Has this happened<br />

in Cleveland, where Democracy Collaborative<br />

helped establish the Evergreen Cooperatives?<br />

Certainly they can! Co-operatives are an economic<br />

foundation for democracy precisely because they<br />

carve out a space of autonomy and control that<br />

undercuts the fear inherent in precarious life in<br />

a failing system. But to do so, they've got to be<br />

designed with inclusion in mind.<br />

In Evergreen, there’s been a decision to include<br />

the excluded in the hiring and membership<br />

process. That mean working to develop pipelines<br />

and supports for people with barriers to<br />

employment – who may have been incarcerated,<br />

or are refugees, or have simply been long-term<br />

unemployed, with a job and additional benefits.<br />

The challenge is scale – Evergreen is growing,<br />

but it’s just a couple of hundred workers. If we<br />

want to truly work at the scale of communities, we<br />

need solutions that give everyone that same sense<br />

of economic security and agency. So that means<br />

more and bigger co-ops, certainly, but also all the<br />

other institutions of the democratic economy we<br />

can build, as quickly as we can build them.<br />

Democracy<br />

Collaborative hosted<br />

a roundtable in<br />

Cleveland, Ohio,<br />

which blossomed into<br />

birthed an economic<br />

inclusion strategy in<br />

the city’s low income<br />

communities known<br />

as the Evergreen<br />

Cooperative Initiative<br />

<strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong> | 39



This month, NCBA-CLUSA, the apex body for<br />

co-ops in the USA, hosts its Impact Conference –<br />

including a session on the way “communities of<br />

colour are increasingly utilising the co-op model to<br />

meet their needs and create their own solutions”.<br />

Conference organisers note: “The need for an<br />

economic renaissance is already dire, and the<br />

data shows that the racial wealth gap continues<br />

to grow. Innovative strategies are necessary to<br />

address complex disparities around access to<br />

food, housing, financing and employment.”<br />

The event brings together several co-ops<br />

from communities of colour including the<br />

Association for Black Economic Power (ABEP),<br />

which is working to establish the Village Trust<br />

Financial Cooperative, Minnesota’s only black-led<br />

financial institution.<br />

“The need for an economic<br />

renaissance is already dire,<br />

and the data shows that the<br />

racial wealth gap continues to<br />

grow. Innovative strategies are<br />

necessary to address complex<br />

disparities around access to<br />

food, housing, financing<br />

and employment”<br />

formed around Birmingham, Alabama in the<br />

1880s, a decade which also saw the Colored<br />

Farmers’ Alliance, grow out of populist labour<br />

organisations like the Knights of Labor.<br />

A key figure in the movement’s history, W E B<br />

Du Bois, rose to prominence in the early 20th<br />

century. A civil rights icon who helped found<br />

the National Association for the Advancement<br />

of Colored People in 1909, he carried out a study<br />

of black co-operation, and formed the Negro<br />

Co-operative Guild in 1918. More associations<br />

followed, such as the Young Negroes’ Co-operative<br />

League in 1930 and over the following decades,<br />

farmer’s co-ops, credit unions, buyers clubs,<br />

and health insurance mutuals were established.<br />

Formed in 1967, the Federation of Southern<br />

Cooperatives has helped create and/or support<br />

more than 200 co-ops and credit unions.<br />

If these co-ops were a response to troubled<br />

political and economic conditions, they often met<br />

with more oppression. Dr Gordon Nembhard has<br />

described how these efforts often met with hostility<br />

Black selfdetermination<br />

through worker<br />

co-operatives<br />

W E B Du Bois, a key<br />

figure in the history of<br />

African American<br />

co-operation<br />

Established last year “as a way to use our<br />

economic power as a form of resistance, to build<br />

the financial resilience of our communities, and<br />

insulate against extraction and divestment”,<br />

the project is a response to the fatal shooting of<br />

Philando Castile, a 32-year-old-black man, by a<br />

police officer in July 2016, in St Paul, Minnesota.<br />

Black co-operation is enjoying a resurgence in<br />

the US, with notable examples such as Cooperation<br />

Jackson, which is working to create a new economy<br />

in the Mississippi city.<br />

But, as academic Dr Jessica Gordon Nembhard,<br />

an expert on African American co-operation, has<br />

pointed out: “African Americans have a strong but<br />

hidden history of co-operative ownership in the<br />

face of market failure and racial discrimination.”<br />

This developed through the second half of the<br />

19th century, with co-ops such as the Chesapeake<br />

Marine Railway and Dry Dock Company,<br />

established in 1865. Black co-op villages were<br />

40 | <strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong>

– whether in the form of increased rents or refused<br />

bank loans, or acts of violence and murder.<br />

This is a situation which persists: in her foreword<br />

to Jackson Rising, a study of the Cooperation<br />

Jackson movement, Rukia Lumumba describes<br />

efforts by the Mississippi state government to<br />

“remove local control from the hands of the largely<br />

black city council of Jackson”.<br />

But efforts continue<br />

to create a co-operative<br />

city economy, run on<br />

radical lines, with black<br />

self-determination<br />

in Jackson. A leading<br />

light of the movement,<br />

Chokwe Lumumba,<br />

served briefly as mayor<br />

from 2013 until his death<br />

the following year. Last<br />

year, his son Chokwe<br />

Antar Lumumba was<br />

elected to the office.<br />

Just before his death,<br />

Chokwe Lumumba said: Chokwe Lumumba<br />

“We want to accomplish<br />

a revolutionary<br />

transformation. We are party to statistics which<br />

demonstrate that our people, black people in<br />

particular and probably the majority of the<br />

Mississippi population, are at the worst end<br />

of all the vital statistics. When it comes to the<br />

discussion of oppression in America, we’ve been<br />

experiencing the worst of it for a long time. What’s<br />

exciting to me is the prospect of going from worst<br />

to first in a forward-moving transformation which<br />

is going to take groups of dispossessed black<br />

folks here – and others – and make us controllers<br />

of our own destiny.<br />

“We are not foolish enough to think that it is a<br />

mission that can probably be accomplished here in<br />

the absence of fundamental movement in the rest<br />

the world, but we think we can start that movement<br />

and help carry it forward, and help advance it in a<br />

really powerful way. So that’s what excites us.”<br />

“ When it comes to the discussion<br />

of oppression in America, we’ve been<br />

experiencing the worst of it for a long<br />

time. What’s exciting to me is the<br />

prospect of going from worst to first<br />

in a forward-moving transformation<br />

which is going to take groups of<br />

dispossessed black folks here<br />

and make us controllers of<br />

our own destiny”<br />

Asked last year how the movement<br />

should respond to the Trump administration, Dr<br />

Gordon Nembhard said: “We can survive with<br />

strong Black organisations promoting and<br />

educating about co-ops and providing co-op<br />

business education and development at local<br />

levels; and by creating co-ops that support and<br />

supply each other regionally and nationally;<br />

and engage in federations that provide needed<br />

financial, educational, distribution, marketing,<br />

and policy support.”<br />

Below: Mandela<br />

Grocery was set up to<br />

in a neighbourhood<br />

in West Oakland,<br />

California, where there<br />

was a lack of healthy<br />

food stores<br />

<strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong> | 41



October <strong>2018</strong><br />

The Co-op Party hosts<br />

its annual conference<br />

from 12-14 October, to<br />

discuss ways to meet<br />

its goal of doubling the<br />

size of the co-operative<br />

economy.<br />

Earlier<br />

this<br />

year, the Party<br />

commissioned a report<br />

by the New Economics Foundation (NEF),<br />

Co-operatives Unleashed, which identified policy<br />

areas for achieving this target, and it will discuss<br />

these ideas further at the conference. .<br />

It will also present “a new generation of cooperatives<br />

who are expanding the co-operative<br />

movement into new and innovative areas of<br />

business and the economy”, alongside sessions on<br />

housing and energy, schools and social enterprise.<br />

On Brexit, members given a chance to vote on<br />

the Party’s policy. At a fringe breakfast event on<br />

Saturday, Andrew Adonis and Eloise Todd make<br />

the case for a people’s vote on the final deal,<br />

followed by a debate.<br />

Party chair Gareth Thomas MP told the News:<br />

“Given the significance for the country it’s only<br />

right our members should have a vote to give them<br />

a say.”<br />

He said the other the big issue on the agenda is<br />

the economy. “We’ll discuss the NEF report, plus<br />

our work on community wealth building.”<br />

The Party had taken shadow chancellor John<br />

McDonnell to Preston to see some of the being done<br />

work there under the co-op council model of local<br />

service commissioning, said Mr Thomas. “We’ll<br />

update on this in the economy debate.”<br />

He added: “The scale of inequality in the country<br />

is that something has got to change. The levels of<br />

inequality, is one of the contributory factors to the<br />

divisive politics we’ve got at the moment.<br />

“Part of the response, until we can get a Labour/<br />

Co-operative government, is encouraging local<br />

councils to do what they can to make a difference:<br />

the community wealth building being done in<br />

Preston is impressive. In government we will want<br />

to make it easier for councils to keep their wealth<br />

local.”<br />

Mr Thomas said the Party wanted to “democratise<br />

the utilities”, bringing mutual principles to the<br />

water and energy industries “reflecting what has<br />

happened in the US and Germany that would help<br />

keep more of the wealth that’s generated in local<br />

people’s hands”.<br />

He added: “We<br />

have dialogue within<br />

the shadow cab. John<br />

McDonnell said two<br />

weeks ago he would take<br />

on board our idea for<br />

companies with more<br />

than 250 employers to<br />

give an ownership stake<br />

to workers.<br />

“The NEF report is our<br />

effort to get some input<br />

into how you do that.<br />

We are now taking that<br />

document out to the rest<br />

of the co-op movement<br />

to see how you would do<br />

that on a practical basis.<br />

“That also involves<br />

talking to [shadow<br />

business secretary<br />

Rebecca Long-Bailey, to Jeremy Corbyn, about<br />

getting those ideas into the next Labour manifesto.<br />

We’re also getting those ideas a proper airing in<br />

Parliament, and it would be nice to get broadcasters<br />

to give us party political broadcasts so we can bring<br />

those ideas forward.<br />

“We’ve got good relations with the Labour Party<br />

to get those ideas adopted.”<br />

Keynote speakers at the conference are:<br />

Vaughan Gething AM,<br />

Welsh government cabinet secretary for health<br />

and social services<br />

Rebecca Long-Bailey MP,<br />

Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury<br />

Marvin Rees,<br />

Mayor of Bristol<br />

Paddy Lillis,<br />

General secretary, Usdaw trade union<br />

The main guest at the evening party will be:<br />

Carolyn Harris,<br />

Deputy leader, Welsh Labour<br />

42 | <strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong>

To find out more details of what's<br />

happening at the conference and to register<br />

for tickets, visit: s.coop/cooppartyconf18<br />


Claire McCarthy<br />

General secretary<br />

We always thought it would be tough to top<br />

our centenary conference but with the Party<br />

continuing to grow in size, profile and influence<br />

we look ahead to this year’s conference – entitled<br />

‘Unleashed’ - with ambition and purpose.<br />

The Party is unashamedly ambitious for<br />

the co-operative movement. We believe that a<br />

substantially larger co-operative sector in the UK is<br />

critical to building an economy where wealth and<br />

power are shared; and where the rewards for hard<br />

work are distributed more fairly. That is why, earlier<br />

in the year, we commissioned the New Economics<br />

Foundation think tank to do an independent<br />

report setting out a roadmap for doubling the<br />

size of the co-operative sector. Their report<br />

‘Co-operatives Unleashed’ sets out a radical but<br />

practical way forward.<br />

It has been exciting over the last few months<br />

to see the ideas in the NEF report being debated<br />

and adopted beyond the co-operative movement,<br />

including in the recent proposals from the<br />

Commission for Economic Justice. The power<br />

of collective ownership is coming into the<br />

mainstream – it is being unleashed.<br />

It is that sense of radical yet practical ambition<br />

that is our inspiration as a Party and is at the heart<br />

of this year’s conference. We want our delegates,<br />

visitors, speakers and other participants to come<br />

to the event ready to think big for our Party and<br />

our movement and to leave on Sunday inspired<br />

and equipped to make change happen.<br />

During the weekend, we will have an important<br />

discussion about Britain’s future relationship with<br />

our European neighbours. We will debate a detailed<br />

document that seeks to address the key issues for<br />

the movement, and for our communities, arising<br />

from some of Brexit scenarios. In addition, the<br />

Party’s NEC want to hear the views of our members,<br />

on how we should deploy our campaigning<br />

resources going forward, including whether the<br />

Party should support a public vote on the decision<br />

to leave the EU on the final terms proposed<br />

by the government.<br />

So, as we approach our first conference of our<br />

second century there is a great deal of work to<br />

be done, but also huge opportunities ahead.<br />

We wouldn’t have it any other way.<br />

<strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong> | 43



New plans<br />

would require<br />

all companies<br />

employing<br />

more than 250<br />

workers to set up<br />

ownership funds<br />

Labour has announced plans to require all<br />

companies employing more than 250 people to set<br />

up “ownership funds”, giving workers financial<br />

stakes in their firms and increasing their influence<br />

over how they are run.<br />

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell told the<br />

Observer newspaper the move would deliver<br />

greater equality by forcing an “irreversible<br />

shift in wealth and power in favour of<br />

working people”.<br />

Mr McDonnell, who said turmoil over<br />

Brexit could trigger another general election,<br />

"The aim would be to<br />

give more people a share<br />

of capital and to spread<br />

economic power and<br />

control in the economy<br />

by expanding the decision<br />

rights of employees in the<br />

management of companies”.<br />

wants to introduce the legislation in his first<br />

year as chancellor. He will outline the plans,<br />

which could mean workers receiving dividends<br />

to boost their incomes, in a speech to the<br />

TUC conference in Manchester on Tuesday.<br />

He said the move “will ensure that in large<br />

companies, in addition to rewarding workers with<br />

wages, they will reward them with shares that<br />

will go into a pool that will allow them to have an<br />

ownership role".<br />

Announcing his plans – which follow lobbying<br />

from MPs in Labour's sister party, the Co-op<br />

Party – Mr McDonnell cited a report published<br />

by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR)<br />

Commission on Economic Justice last week which<br />

included ideas to give millions of people “a greater<br />

stake and voice in their workplaces”.<br />

The IPPR said “the aim would be to give more<br />

people a share of capital and to spread economic<br />

power and control in the economy by expanding the<br />

decision rights of employees in the management<br />

of companies”.<br />

Alongside proposals to rebalance the economy,<br />

such as the establishment of a national investment<br />

bank and the creation of clusters of tech<br />

industries around the country, the IPPR says all<br />

IPPR also<br />

suggests having<br />

two worker<br />

representatives<br />

with companies<br />

with more than<br />

250 employees<br />

44 | <strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong>

"If the commission can attract<br />

pluralistic, non-partisan<br />

political support for its<br />

plan then there is real hope.<br />

We share the commission’s<br />

understanding of where co-ops<br />

fit into this wider agenda<br />

for economic reformation”<br />

The report can be<br />

downloaded at:<br />

www.ippr.org/research/<br />

publications/prosperityand-justice<br />

companies with more than 250 employees should<br />

have at least two worker representatives on<br />

the board.<br />

The report also suggests firms should be<br />

required to put a percentage of profits into an<br />

employee fund that would build up over time,<br />

giving the workforce an increasing say in key<br />

decisions. Workers would not be able to cash in<br />

shares, but could receive dividends from the fund<br />

to boost their pay.<br />

The discussion puts employee ownership<br />

models back in the spotlight. The Conservative<br />

Party had briefly flirted with the idea of worker<br />

representation on company boards, with<br />

Theresa May advocating the model during<br />

her leadership pitch before backtracking last<br />

year. And Labour had included plans for more<br />

democratic ownership structures in its 2017<br />

general election manifesto.<br />

The ideas in the IPPR report have already<br />

received support – with some caveats – from the<br />

co-operative movement.<br />

James Wright, policy officer at apex body<br />

Co-operatives UK, which was consulted for the<br />

report, said: “It was important to represent the<br />

co-op sector through our response to the<br />

commission's call for evidence – and we're<br />

delighted to see our positive influence manifest<br />

itself in the final report. We certainly applaud<br />

the commission for its ambition and for<br />

emphasising the intrinsic links between inclusive<br />

economics, ecology, productivity and wellbeing.<br />

"If the commission can attract pluralistic,<br />

non-partisan political support for its plan then<br />

there is real hope. We share the commission's<br />

understanding of where co-ops fit into this wider<br />

agenda for economic reformation.”<br />

He added: “We agree with some aspects<br />

of the policy prescriptions for co-ops; for<br />

example on legislative reform, buyouts and<br />

common wealth creation. But what's missing<br />

is a clearer emphasis on behavioural change<br />

and improving co-op knowledge and know-how<br />

in business ecosystems and communities.”<br />

The Employee Ownership Association said<br />

that having a greater range of business<br />

ownership structures is "key" to developing<br />

a thriving UK economy. It said: "Start by<br />

empowering the individual with a ripple effect<br />

on productivity and resilience for businesses,<br />

regional economies and the wider economy.”<br />

"What's missing is a clearer emphasis on behavioural change<br />

and improving co-op knowledge and know-how in business<br />

ecosystems and communities.”<br />

<strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong> | 45



The clock is ticking towards 29 March 2019<br />

when – barring a political earthquake – Britain<br />

will leave the EU.<br />

As uncertainty grows over what kind of deal<br />

– if any – will be forthcoming, leading figures in<br />

the co-op movement are taking steps to lessen the<br />

impact on the retail sector, where there is a fear<br />

profits will slump if supply chains dry up.<br />

Since the Leave vote in 2016, the Co-operative<br />

Group has kept a close eye on developments and<br />

has lobbied for a ‘co-operative Brexit’ – making the<br />

best of the situation while taking steps to mitigate<br />

the consequences on the movement as a whole.<br />

A spokesperson said: “We’re monitoring the<br />

progress of Brexit, as any responsible business<br />

would – but there is a lot of uncertainty in the market<br />

and it’s clearly in everyone’s interests for a deal to be<br />

agreed which is mutually agreeable to both the UK<br />

and the EU.<br />

“That said we believe the Co-op has some degree<br />

of protection, even from a hard Brexit. Our fresh<br />

meat is 100% British. That flows across ingredients<br />

and in some of the core areas like ready meals<br />

and sandwiches.<br />

“We are also working closely with suppliers on<br />

the contingency plans they have. This can give us<br />

assurance and also influence how we may adapt<br />

our promotions, offers and ensure that we can<br />

keep our shelves stocked as best we can in any<br />

degree of disruption that may emerge.”<br />

"Our analysis suggests the impact on co-ops<br />

of Brexit is not too different from the impact on<br />

business as a whole. But there are particular risks<br />

for key sectors in which co-operatives are strong,<br />

notably farming and retail, which does mean the<br />

challenge of Brexit is a challenge to the wider<br />

health of the co-operative movement"<br />

The Co-operative Group is also seeking<br />

approval from the government as an Authorised<br />

Economic Operator, giving quicker access<br />

to customs procedures and the right to fasttrack<br />

shipments through security both in<br />

and outside the EU, avoiding border delays<br />

in the event of a hard Brexit<br />

Jo Whitfield, CEO Co-op Food said: “Since the<br />

Leave vote was announced we’ve extolled the<br />

virtues of a co-operative Brexit, one which would<br />

“We have to co-operate in our supply chains,<br />

we have to co-operate to compete, we have<br />

to co-operate to go sustainable, and we have<br />

to co-operate to survive”<br />

provide clarity and fairness in terms of trade and<br />

labour movements between the UK and the EU.<br />

That view has strengthened over the subsequent<br />

months and our hope remains that a deal will still<br />

be reached.<br />

“If a no-deal Brexit occurs, the view from many<br />

industry commentators is there may be impacts to<br />

food supply over the short-term. As such we, like<br />

the rest of the retail sector, are taking prudent<br />

steps to mitigate the impact for our customers and<br />

members, over and above the existing protection we<br />

have in place.”<br />

Co-operatives UK secretary general Ed Mayo and<br />

his team have been lobbying government on behalf<br />

of members since the referendum, developing<br />

a positive scenario for how co-operatives can<br />

flourish in a post-Brexit UK and articulating a<br />

series of key forward-looking principles to be<br />

respected in negotiations.<br />

He says: “Our analysis suggests the impact on<br />

co-ops of Brexit is not too different from the impact<br />

on business as a whole. But there are particular<br />

risks for key sectors in<br />

which co-operatives are<br />

strong, notably farming<br />

and retail, which does<br />

mean the challenge of<br />

Brexit is a challenge to<br />

the wider health of the<br />

co-operative movement.<br />

“The retail sector<br />

faces the challenge<br />

of securing supply<br />

chains in the absence<br />

of information on what<br />

will happen to produce at the border. As a nation,<br />

we eat around half of what we produce. If crisis hit,<br />

we could produce maybe 70% but not all we would<br />

need to get by. At present, 80% of fresh vegetables<br />

and 30% of fresh fruit is imported from the EU.<br />

That is an opportunity for UK farmer co-ops and<br />

retail co-ops to connect.”<br />

He added: “The decision by the Co-op CEO, Steve<br />

Murrells, early in his leadership to move to 100%<br />

British meat in own-brand products, is looking<br />

Britain will<br />

leave the EU<br />

Uncertainty<br />

remains: will we<br />

strike a deal?<br />

No-deal is<br />

expected to<br />

have a dramatic<br />

instant impact<br />

on food supplies<br />

46 | <strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong>

like an inspired move, giving the Co-op something<br />

of an advantage.”<br />

Back in March, Co-operatives UK organised<br />

a roundtable so agri-co-ops could meet the<br />

farming minister, DEFRA and industry experts,<br />

and won the case for a new £10m fund for farmer<br />

co-operatives. According to Mr Mayo, the new<br />

Agriculture Bill mapping the future of farming<br />

outside the EU reflects both positive wins for the<br />

sector and continuing areas of risk.<br />

With the possibility of a no-deal Brexit looming,<br />

last month, Co-operatives UK issued guidelines for<br />

all co-operatives, large or small, recommending<br />

boards consider the risk of a “disorderly” Brexit.<br />

These include looking at sales, marketing,<br />

logistics, legalities, tax, HR and the implications<br />

of recruiting or employing EU nationals, as well as<br />

cross-border trade with EU countries and the risk<br />

of obstacles to supply chains.<br />

Official advice from the EU on Brexit and UK<br />

business echoes the call from Co-operatives UK<br />

for contingency plans and preparation for possible<br />

short or medium-term disruption to supply<br />

chains and revenues. Across the country that is<br />

now being taken on board by the co-operative<br />

movement with the focus on partnership working<br />

across the movement as key to survival in a<br />

post-Brexit world.<br />

Mr Mayo said: “A no-deal is expected to have a<br />

dramatic instant impact on food supplies in the<br />

UK. The retail sector is one of those which will<br />

be impacted and knock-on implications in terms<br />

of food availability and consumer behaviour are<br />

ones that start to move into uncharted territory.<br />

“There is no co-op crystal ball, and the effect<br />

Brexit negotiations seem to have had on experts<br />

is to leave them equally unsighted and uncertain<br />

on what will come next. At the same time, it<br />

is interesting and hopeful that a debate has<br />

started on the future of food and farming beyond<br />

Brexit – one we have contributed to on behalf of<br />

our members.<br />

“We have to co-operate in our supply chains,<br />

we have to co-operate to compete, we have to<br />

co-operate to go sustainable, and we have to<br />

co-operate to survive.”<br />

80% of fresh<br />

vegetables and<br />

30% of fresh<br />

fruit is imported<br />

from the EU<br />

The Co-op<br />

Group uses<br />

100% British<br />

meat in ownbrand<br />

products<br />

<strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong> | 47

BOOKS<br />

Travelling the world to find a new co-operative commonwealth<br />

Everything For<br />

Everyone:<br />

The radical<br />

tradition that is<br />

shaping the next<br />

economy<br />

Nathan Schneider<br />

(Nation Books,<br />

<strong>2018</strong>) £21.50<br />

Below: Prime Produce,<br />

is a cooperativelyrun,<br />

multi-use space<br />

in New York. (Photo:<br />

primeproduce.coop)<br />

Right: unMonastery.<br />

(Photo: unMonastery)<br />

The notion of a global co-operative effort to<br />

democratise economies and meet the economic<br />

and environmental crises facing the world is an<br />

exciting one – but it begs certain questions. For<br />

instance, how do we convince young activists<br />

looking for an alternative that co-operativism is the<br />

answer? How do we link the small platform start-up<br />

in Europe and an agri-co-op giant in the USA into a<br />

single movement?<br />

There are some answers in Nathan Schneider’s<br />

new book, where he looks for a new co-operative<br />

commonwealth. It’s a lively read, fizzing with<br />

ideas, mixing familiar reference points such as the<br />

Rochdale Pioneers with more obscure examples of<br />

co-operation, going all the way back to prehistory,<br />

but it never loses sight of the seriousness of the<br />

task in hand. “If we’re to take on existential market<br />

externalities such as poverty and climate change,”<br />

he warns, “we need companies capable of seeing<br />

the world in the way people do.”<br />

Times are promising for the co-op model.<br />

Schneider points out that it is well suited to digital<br />

ways of working, while grassroots activism has used<br />

the language of co-operation – from the Movement<br />

for Black Lives and environmental campaigners to<br />

the “upstart politicians” of the resurgent left like<br />

Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders.<br />

But he warns that while digital networks can<br />

empower peer producers, they are also leading to<br />

“unprecedented global monopolies and previously<br />

unimaginable feats of surveillance”. So how can<br />

the co-op commonwealth win the day?<br />

To answer that question Schneider goes searching<br />

through history, and around the world. He finds<br />

co-operative ideas woven into the early Christian<br />

church – and draws a line to the unMonastery, a<br />

commune of tech researchers formed in 2014, which<br />

installed itself, along Benedictine lines, in the<br />

ancient Unesco site of Matera in Italy, and tried to<br />

devise better ways of organising the world.<br />

The unMonks brought together a range of<br />

cultures – from art to protest – but although<br />

Schneider finds a lack of clarity to their project, he<br />

adds: “I don’t think we can ... imagine a co-operative<br />

future without these errant, fumbling stories”.<br />

He finds other historical models revived by<br />

co-operators alongside the monastic tradition,<br />

describing how New York non-profit Prime Produce<br />

harks back to the medieval workers’ guilds to create<br />

– in its own words – “wholeheartedly organised<br />

co-op supporting entrepreneurs, educators, and<br />

artists who share values of service and hospitality”.<br />

He ties these stories in with more familiar chapters<br />

from co-operative history – the radicalism of Robert<br />

Owen, George Jacob Holyoake or Horace Greeley;<br />

the co-operative response to the Great Depression<br />

in the 1930s; the strong element of co-operation<br />

in the African American civil rights movement, as<br />

inspired in the early 20th century by W E B Du Bois,<br />

and follows these threads to the present day, with<br />

platform co-ops and other co-op disruptors and<br />

entrepreneurs, or the activism of the Co-operation<br />

Jackson movement.<br />

Can these ideals coalesce into a new<br />

co-operative commonwealth? Schneider sees<br />

contradictions, pointing to the “unapologetic<br />

consumerism” encouraged by major players like<br />

Coop Italia’s Ipercoop stores, and to the subsidiaries<br />

of multinational worker co-ops like Bologna-based<br />

SACMI where co-op values are not promoted.<br />

But he adds: “Constructing a commonwealth<br />

means insisting on principles while tolerating<br />

compromise.”<br />

And he argues that old established co-ops offer<br />

lessons from across the years to a new generation.<br />

“Co-operators today neglect the local, diverse,<br />

compromised legacies at their peril.”<br />

48 | <strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong>

EXTRACT: The Fall of the Ethical Bank<br />

Paul Gosling’s The Fall of the Ethical Bank, has just been published by Co-op Press. In this extract,<br />

he examines the links between the Co-op Bank and government. He looks at lobbying efforts for new<br />

legislation to benefit the co-op movement - which had some unfortunate, unforeseen consequences when<br />

it came to the Bank’s ruinous takeover of the Britannia Building Society in 2009 ...<br />

The evidence that there had been long-term thinking<br />

behind [the Co-op Bank’s takeover of the Britannia<br />

Building Society] comes from the passing of the socalled<br />

Butterfill Act (properly called the Building<br />

Societies (Funding) and Mutual Societies (Transfers)<br />

Act 2007).<br />

This piece of legislation allowed, for the first time,<br />

different types of mutuals to merge. The proposer of<br />

the Bill was Sir John Butterfill. When interviewed by<br />

the author he declined to say who was behind the<br />

legislation, simply indicating that his constituency<br />

contained business operations owned by large<br />

mutuals, which needed greater flexibility.<br />

This was true – he represented Bournemouth,<br />

which was home to a very large call centre run by<br />

the Liverpool Victoria Friendly Society. However,<br />

Liverpool Victoria denied to the author that it had<br />

any involvement or interest in the Act.<br />

Sir John told me (for an article in Co-operative<br />

News) that the link-up between Co-operative<br />

Financial Services (CFS) and Britannia is “absolutely<br />

the type of thing we are looking at”. He added: “I<br />

don’t think you will find them alone.”<br />

But behind the scenes, one well-placed source<br />

said, it was the Co-op Group that had pushed to<br />

ensure the Bill was drafted and then enacted.<br />

And the Group (through its Co-operative Financial<br />

Services subsidiary, which owned the Co-op Bank)<br />

was one of only two institutions to use the Act.<br />

In fact, it might be said that the Act has been a<br />

disaster for the co-operative and mutual movement.<br />

While the intentions were good, the applications<br />

have been bad.<br />

It certainly seemed to make sense for friendly<br />

societies and building societies to merge, for<br />

example – except that there is no sign that there is<br />

any interest in those two sectors in coming together.<br />

The lesser-known application of the Butterfill<br />

Act involved the Kent Reliance Building Society,<br />

a struggling organisation that over-loaned in the<br />

boom times and then was at risk when the downturn<br />

came.<br />

While other damaged building societies sought<br />

rescues within the sector, Kent Reliance used the<br />

Butterfill Act in a very different way.<br />

The private equity business JC Flowers had sought<br />

entry into the UK’s banking market. In order to do<br />

this, it established a supposedly mutual subsidiary,<br />

which then effectively took over Kent Reliance. This<br />

combined business now operates as OneSavings<br />

Bank and is a FTSE 250 plc. The Butterfill Act had<br />

demutualised a building society – not at all what<br />

lawmakers had been told it would be used for.<br />

The second application of the Butterfill Act was<br />

the Co-op Bank’s takeover of the Britannia Building<br />

Society.<br />

The Fall of the Ethical Bank is out now. More details at<br />


<strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong> | 49

DIARY<br />

FROM LEFT: Lord Victor Adebowale CBE,<br />

Co-op Group director and CEO of Turning<br />

Point, is the keynote speaker at Cooperatives<br />

UK’s Practitioners Forum (22<br />

Nov); Rebecca Long-Bailey MP will speak<br />

at the Co-op Party Conference (12-14<br />

Oct); City Hall, Cardiff, is the venue for<br />

the Social Business Wales Conference<br />

(27 Sep); and Stir to Action’s What If We<br />

Ran It Ourselves? Community Ownership<br />

workshop is on 27 Oct<br />

27 Sep: Social Business Wales<br />

Conference <strong>2018</strong><br />

A free annual conference to support<br />

local businesses with aspirations to<br />

grow and be more sustainable. Speakers<br />

include Dai Powell (HCT Group), Guy<br />

Singh-Watson (founder, Riverford Organic<br />

Farmers) and Ken Skates (economy<br />

secretary for Wales).<br />

WHERE: City Hall, Cardiff<br />

INFO: wales.coop/sbwc<strong>2018</strong><br />

4 Oct: Co-operative Councils’ Innovation<br />

Network Annual Conference<br />

A chance to hear how co-operative<br />

councils across the country are working<br />

with local people to build strong and<br />

resilient neighbourhoods. Including a<br />

keynote from Steve Reed,MP – honorary<br />

president of the CCIN and shadow<br />

minister (digital, culture, media<br />

and sport).<br />

WHERE: Croydon<br />

INFO: ccin<strong>2018</strong>.eventbrite.co.uk<br />

12-14 Oct: Co-operative Party Conference<br />

A weekend of inspiring stories, practical<br />

ideas and skills you can use to begin<br />

transforming your communities,<br />

unleashing the power of ideas to<br />

build a fairer, stronger Britain.<br />

WHERE: Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel<br />

INFO: s.coop/cooppartyconf18<br />

13 Oct: Social Saturday<br />

Social Saturday champions social<br />

enterprises that are making a difference<br />

in communities, set up to trade for a<br />

social purpose and using business to<br />

create a more equal society. Events will<br />

be held around the country.<br />

INFO: socialenterprise.org.uk/<br />

socialsaturday<br />

18 Oct: International Credit Union Day<br />

A day to reflect on the credit union<br />

movement’s history, promote its<br />

achievements, recognise the hard work<br />

and share member experiences.<br />

The <strong>2018</strong> theme is ‘Find Your<br />

Platinum Lining’.<br />

INFO: woccu.org/events_and_<br />

engagement/icuday<br />

25 -28 Oct: Social Cooperative<br />

International School<br />

#SCIS<strong>2018</strong> consists of three thematic<br />

sessions and one international seminar.<br />

Each thematic session consists of a<br />

theoretic introduction on the topic,<br />

the presentation of best practices and<br />

a workshop to deepen the participants’<br />

knowledge on different aspects of<br />

social co-operative and social<br />

enterprise activities.<br />

WHERE: Hotel Royal Continental, Naples<br />

INFO: s.coop/2ai3t<br />

27 Oct: What If We Ran It Ourselves?<br />

Community Ownership<br />

What are community businesses and why<br />

are they on the rise? How can you work<br />

out if you could start one (or more!) in<br />

your community? How can you fund them<br />

to get going and keep going? And what<br />

challenges will you face along the way?<br />

Hosted by Stir to Action.<br />

WHERE: Restore, Oxford<br />

INFO: www.stirtoaction.com/workshops<br />

7-8 Nov: Locality Convention<br />

Join hundreds of inspiring members,<br />

partners and people working in the<br />

community, voluntary and social<br />

enterprise sectors to unlock the<br />

power of community.<br />

WHERE: Bristol Marriott City Centre<br />

INFO: locality.org.uk/events/convention/<br />

22 Nov: Co-operatives UK<br />

Practitioners Forum<br />

The Practitioners Forum offers<br />

professional training for people operating<br />

in key roles in co-operative businesses.<br />

The event is made up of a series of<br />

specialist forums: communications;<br />

finance; governance; HR; and<br />

membership. This year’s keynote speaker<br />

is Lord Victor Adebowale CBE.<br />

WHERE: The Studio, Manchester<br />

INFO: s.coop/29xlr<br />

50 | <strong>OCTOBER</strong> <strong>2018</strong>

Tickets<br />

from<br />

£120<br />

Practitioners Forum<br />

Training and networking for co-op<br />

professionals operating in communications,<br />

finance, governance, HR and membership.<br />

22 November, The Studio, Manchester<br />


Be in charge of your<br />

energy today<br />

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Have a say in the decisions your energy<br />

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