The Review 2018
The Co-operative News
Review 2018 1
2 Review 2018
Message from the Chair & Executive Editor
Most popular stories of 2018
Q&A – Ed Mayo
Q&A – Ariel Guarco
Technology: Polly Robbins
Healthcare: Carlos Zarco
Legal: David Alcock
Politics: Claire McCarthy
Channel Islands: Colin Macleod
Agriculture: Umberto Di Pasquo
Education: Simon Parkinson
Credit Unions: Matt Bland
Worker Co-op: Siôn Whellens
Energy: Mark Luntley & John Malone
Singapore: Dolly Goh
Wales: Derek Walker
Northern Ireland: Tiziana O’Hara
Africa: Dr Chiyoge Sifa
Australia: Melina Morrison
4 – 5
6 – 8
9 – 11
14 – 15
16 – 17
18 – 27
28 – 30
Review 2018 3
A message from the Chair,
I believe the UK is facing the biggest political crisis
of my lifetime. Whatever your personal beliefs and
opinions on the matter or your preferred outcome,
Brexit has caused uncertainty and infighting at
a time the country can ill afford it.
One thing that it has brought to light, however, is that
co-operatives can provide an oasis of calm in this storm.
Not only through the work that they do for members,
colleagues, and customers, but also in their very approach
to this work. We are stronger together – and together,
we need to remember that.
This philosophy doesn’t just apply to retailers,
housing co-ops, credit unions or worker co-operatives,
either. Core support agencies – such as your Co-op
News, sector body Co-operatives UK and educational
charity the Co-operative College – have a duty of care
and responsibility to work together for the good of
the wider movement.
Over the last few months Co-op News, Co-operatives
UK and the College have been working jointly to develop
a New Force for Co-operation – a plan of action to make
sure the different pieces of work each organisation does
is as efficient and effective for the wider movement
What does the co-operative movement actually want
and need from its support organisations? How can we
fulfil those needs to the best of our abilities, making
the most of our mutual skills, experience and networks?
How can we work better together to make this happen?
Feeding into this and informed by the ongoing New
Force work is our own strategy for the future of
Co-operative Press – the co-operative which publishes
Co-op News. In 2014 we developed a 3-5 year strategy,
prompted by significant changes in the movement;
we are now reviewing that strategy in light of further
changes and renewed expectations of what a modern,
thriving Co-operative Press should look like. How can
we best serve the 21st century co-op movement?
This strategy will explore digital solutions that
are immediate, accessible, personal and sustainable
(from both a financial and environmental perspective).
It will also look at the relationship we have with
our members, providing insight through engaging
our readers in dialogue, building knowledge
2018 has seen significant changes at Co-op News
– not least a change in executive editor following
the departure of Anthony Murray in the spring,
and the appointment of his successor, Rebecca Harvey.
But as we approach 2021 and our 150th anniversary,
we can look forward with confidence and clarity to
the next 150, and the challenges it will bring long after
Brexit has been and gone.
4 Review 2018
& the Executive Editor,
The co-op movement is a strange and wonderful beast,
populated by people doing some quite incredible things.
On 21 December 1844 – nearly 175 years ago – the Rochdale
Pioneers set out to change the status quo by opening the
doors to their co-operative store at 31 Toad Lane; today
that pioneering spirit is still demonstrated in every sector
and on every continent, driven by people doing things to
make a difference.
2018 has been a year of huge change at Co-op News,
as the organisation settles into new leadership and we,
as a team, strive to work more effectively and efficiently
with other co-operative support agencies. But one thing
that hasn’t changed is our commitment to connect,
champion and challenge the co-ops that make up our
movement around the world.
This includes the people behind them, too. So in
this review of 2018, we hand a lot of the pages over the
individuals working at the sharp end of co-operation.
The people working in co-operative education and
lobbying, in retail and politics – and in co-operative
communities that are separated by large distances,
but certainly not by their values or principles.
Over the last 12 months our journalists and analysts
have been giving voice to co-op stories around the world
– enabling mutual learning through the sharing of ideas,
information and best practice. Our networks of experts
have been working together to create content that is
relevant to our readers and members, feeding into a
forum of ideas to help grow the co-operative sector
around the world.
We’ll continue to do this in 2019, while we’ll also be
helping the Co-operative College celebrate its centenary.
The year after, in 2020, Co-operatives UK turns 150 and
then in 2021 it is our own 150th anniversary. That will be
a time of celebration as we look forward to the next 150
years, and the huge potential of co-operatives to pioneer
a new way forward.
Review 2018 5
A report by the IPPR
Commission on Economic
Justice suggests expanding
employee ownership trusts
to create three million
employee owners by 2030.
The Co-op Group
announces plans for 100
new stores with a £160m
a £50m put into price
cuts for everyday food
items, which the retailer
said could save shoppers
£120 a year, and a trial
delivery service in Greater
Manchester with Deliveroo.
Bruno Roelants is
general of the International
following the retirement
of his predecessor
discussions of tech co-ops
and public service mutuals,
and a keynote speech from
shadow business secretary
US$360m to settle a
money laundering case.
A subsidiary of the Dutch
it pleaded guilty after
an investigation into its
operations in California.
Student Co-op Homes,
a national body to address
problems in the housing
sector, is launched. It
aims to increase national
capacity from 150 to 10,000
beds in the next five years.
continue, Labour and Co-op
councils sign a charter
committing them to rooting
out exploitation in their
supply chains, at a round
table event with Labour
leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Japan’s co-ops reorganise
into a new federal body,
the Japan Co-operative
The Association of
British Credit Unions
(Abcul) AGM. Hot topics
include digital marketing
innovation and calls
by Nick Crofts from the
Co-op Group and Greater
Manchester mayor Andy
Burnham for credit unions
to work with co-ops and
local authorities to tackle
AGM, chief executive Steve
Murrells announces the
“Stronger Co-op, Stronger
which will see the retailer
invest in local community
The year also sees positive
results for independent
retail co-ops, with Central
England, Scotmid, Heart
of England, Southern, East
of England, Chelmsford Star
and Midcounties among
those reporting surpluses
despite the challenging
The Phone Co-op agrees
a transfer of engagements
to Midcounties Co-op at its
special meeting in Sheffield.
Operations will continue
from its existing office but
the deal brings an end to
the Phone Co-op as
a distinct entity with
a distinct board.
The Phone Co-op holds
its AGM, and finds its
growth strategy – which
involves major investments
– subject to fierce debate.
A special meeting is
scheduled for April.
The Ways Forward 6
Conference is held in
Manchester, with debate on
how the co-op model can be
used to transform the UK
economy. Sessions include
announces a £10m fund
for new forms of farmer
co-operation, as well as
the development of existing
Efforts by the movement to
eradicate modern slavery
The Co-op Group returns
to the black in its annual
results, with a pre-tax
profit of £72m, up from
a £132m loss the year
before. At the Group’s
Phil Ponsonby is named
new group CEO of
Midcounties after the
retirement of Ben Reid
6 Review 2018
At its annual conference,
the Co-op College hosts
discussions of issues
around co-op training,
plans for a co-operative
university, and how to
answer the challenges
of the digital age. Keynote
speakers include Ariel
of the ICA.
Mark Lyonette steps down
as CEO of the Association
of British Credit Unions
(Abcul) to take up a role
in the National Pharmacy
There are celebrations at the
Co-operative Party as the
local elections see a record
number of Labour/Co-op
candidates win seats.
Dan Jarvis becomes the
first mayor of the devolved
Sheffield City Region.
starts on 23 June, with the
launch of the Economy
Report highlighting the
strength of the co-operative
model, and co-ops
encouraged to show how
they make a difference.
Cyprus Co-operative Bank,
which was bailed out by its
government in 2013 after
running into trouble with
bad loans, is sold to the
A policy document
from the New Economics
by the Co-op Party,
is launched at Westminster.
Welcomed by shadow
chancellor John McDonnell,
the report calls for a portion
of large company profits
to be transferred into a
and formeasures to help
as their existing
The Community Energy
Conference 2018 in
Manchester brings the
sector together, with a call
to lobby the government
to produces a less hostile
legislative and regulatory
regime for community
Congress in London,
the Co-operatives of the
Year awards go to London
creative co-op The Service,
the Foster Care Co-op,
Midcounties Co-op and
Platform co-ops are
discussed at the
Open 2018 Conference
in London, organised by
the Open Co-operative,
with discussion of co-op
ways the movement can
encourage grassroots rivals
to online tech giants.
A question mark hangs
over the mutual status
Direct after it agrees a
merger with the Football
A new council body will
look at options for the new
organisation in early 2019.
The government releases
its Civil Society Strategy
and a green paper on
social housing, both
of which focus on
But the documents meet a
mixed reception from the
The UK Society for Co-op
Studies holds its annual
conference in Sheffield,
reporting positive financial
results and discussing
issues such as the Worker
Co-op Solidarity Fund
and modern slavery.
The Co-op Group
announces strong interim
results and a return to the
pharmacy sector, with the
purchase of prescriptions
app Dimec. It also beefs
up its ethical policy with
a crackdown on single use
plastics – but also receives
protests from shop workers
over low staffing levels on
As concern mounts over
climate change, dairy
co-op Arla agrees to
give all of its 2018 profit
to farmers affected by
drought in the 2018
heatwave – while in the US,
electric co-ops scramble to
Review 2018 7
u help communities hit by
Another UK thinktank
issues a report advocating
The Institute for Public
Policy Research document
calls for increased worker
representation on company
boards – and comes as the
Labour Party unveils plans
to require all companies
with more than 250 workers
to set up ownership funds.
The Platform Co-op
Conference in Hong Kong
hears stories from tech
co-ops around the
world and calls for the
development of a global
commons, and co-op
hardware to support it.
The Co-operative Councils
meets in Croydon to
discuss mutual models of
service delivery and local
democracy, and how these
can be used to meet the
challenges of austerity
and Brexit, and move the
UK towards a co-operative
ideas to reshape the
economy are discussed
at the Co-op Party
Conference in Bristol and
– at the end of September
– the Social Business
Wales 2018 conference.
Social Saturday, on 13
October, celebrates the
work of social enterprise
in the UK. In Manchester,
actor and comedian Chris
Addison joins the Co-op
Group and Social Enterprise
UK for a tour of social
enterprises in the area.
reports a 10% increase in
trading surplus in its
On 18 October, the
movement marks Anti
-Slavery Day with more
co-op councils signing up
to the Co-op Party’s charter
on modern slavery and the
Co-op Group continuing
its campaign with national
gathers in Buenos Aires
for its General Assembly,
announcing a US$250,000
fund for young co-operators
and releasing its annual
World Co-operative Monitor,
which reveals the world’s
top 300 co-ops have
a combined turnover
The US co-op movement
holds its annual Co-op
IMPACT conference, as part
of National Co-op Month,
celebrating the role of the
country’s 40,000 co-ops in
creating stable jobs and a
Central England Co-op
appoints Debbie Robinson,
managing director of Spar,
as its new chief executive,
following the retirement
of Martyn Cheatle.
Co-operatives UK hosts
the Practitioners Forum
in Manchester, where
discussed digital marketing,
key performance indicators
and youth engagement.
A deal is struck with
the Internet Corporation
for Assigned Names and
Numbers to renew the
.coop domain. The domain,
an initiative of the National
Association and the
Alliance, will remain the
exclusive domain name
for the movement for
another 10 years.
Suma Wholefoods Co-op
launches new branding
and logo by Pearlfisher
to create a more coherent
visual identity and
emphasise its worker
8 Review 2018
Most popular stories of the year
From energy drinks to robotic wolves, Co-op News
readers enjoyed a lot of very different stories in 2018.
Several of the most popular focused on activities of
the Co-op Group, but there were a lot of international
stories which were popular, too. Fairtrade, and issues
of climate change and inequality were some of the most
read – while politics, credit unions and the gig economy
also got a look in.
CO-OP GROUP BANS SALE OF ENERGY
DRINKS TO CHILDREN
The Co-op Group is to impose a voluntary ban on the
sale of energy drinks to under-16s, amid health concerns.
The age restriction, which will apply to 39 products
containing more than 150mg of caffeine per litre,
will come into force in March 2018. Once the ban is
implemented, customers wishing to buy these products
will need to show appropriate ID.
Michael Fletcher, commercial director at the Group,
said: “There is growing concern about the consumption
of energy drinks among young people and we recognise
that we must act. It’s a balance between offering choice
whilst doing the right thing and we have listened to
parents and teachers who want to limit young peoples’
access to high caffeine drinks.”
The age restriction will be applied in 2,700 Co-op Group
stores and over 1,000 independent co-op society stores.
The move follows growing concern over possible health
risks from the high caffeine and sugar content of energy
drinks. A 2014 report from the World Health Organization
concluded: “As energy drink sales are rarely regulated
by age … and there is a proven negative effect of caffeine
on children, there is the potential for a significant public
health problem in future.”
LONDON TAXI CO-OP LAUNCHES NEW APP
TO CHALLENGE THE GIG ECONOMY
Taxiapp UK, the non-for-profit app run by London’s
black cab drivers, has launched a new and improved app
following a surge of interest in its ethical business model.
The app is the first of its kind, with the stated intention
of “providing a sustainable and socially invested
alternative to the widely scrutinised transport platforms
that continue to shake the foundations of London’s
The tech, funded and run by a co-operative
of drivers, aims to modernise the black cab sector.
It is fully accredited by Transport for London and uses
black cab drivers fully versed in ‘The Knowledge’, the
famous London taxi test which calls on them to commit
25,000 of the capital’s streets to memory.
Founder member Sean Paul Day said: “This a crucial
time for tech starts-up like Taxiapp, who continue to
prove more self-sufficient than established alternatives.”
Review 2018 9
OXFAM REPORT ON GLOBAL INEQUALITY
CRISIS POINTS TO CO-OPERATIVE SOLUTIONS
HOW MUCH DIFFERENCE DOES
A key part of Fairtrade is that a minimum price is paid
to certified producers for certified products. Minimum
prices are set and adjusted periodically for specific
regions, based on a methodology estimating the average
cost of sustainable production. They are designed as
a safety net for producers when market prices are low.
But when Fairtrade-certified producers enjoy higher
prices than non-certified farmers, it can be hard to isolate
the factors behind this differential Price mechanism.
Oxfam’s new report, Reward Work, Not Wealth, says
co-ops can offer a solution to the world’s “inequality
crisis”. It shows that last year a new billionaire was
created every two days, with dangerous, poorly paid
work supporting the extreme wealth of the few. 82% of all
wealth created last year went to the top 1%. This amount
was enough to end world poverty seven times over.
Women overwhelmingly experience the worst working
conditions, it says, while nine out of 10 billionaires are
men. But the report adds that co-ops are one of the most
important of the alternative models available for designing
a fair economy.
JOHN MCDONNELL ANNOUNCES
FORMATION OF COMMUNITY WEALTH UNIT
The Labour Party is setting up a Community Wealth
Building Unit to support co-operatives and mutuals
as a means of driving local economic growth.
Speaking at an event in Preston, shadow chancellor John
McDonnell said Labour would work with the Co-op Party,
trade unions and thinktanks to implement the community
wealth building model across the UK.
Over the last couple of years, Preston City Council
–inspired by the example of Cleveland in the USA –
has been pioneering the model in the UK, through
collaboration and procurement practices.
DESJARDINS ADOPTS POLICY TO COMBAT
Canadian financial co-op Desjardins Group announced a
series of measures to help it tackle climate change, with a
new set of targets set to go into its team annual report from
2018 onwards. With assets of CAD $276.3bn, Desjardins is
the country’s largest co-operative financial group and the
largest association of credit unions in North America.
“As a financial co-operative, we can lead by example
and encourage the transition to a greener economy,”
said Guy Cormier, president and chief executive.
10 Review 2018
US SENATOR STIRS DEBATE OVER TAX
EXEMPTION FOR FEDERAL CREDIT UNIONS
Credit unions in the USA are defending their right
to federal tax exemption, following questions raised
by Senate Finance Committee chair, Orrin Hatch.
Federal credit unions across the country are currently
exempt from federal corporate income tax on the grounds
that they operate on a not for profit basis, are organised
without capital stock, and operate for mutual purposes.
However, state credit unions pay unrelated business
income tax on income from activities not related to
their tax-exempt purpose. The tax exemption is valued
at $2.9bn a year, according to the Joint Committee
FARM CO-OP USES SOLAR POWERED
‘SUPER MONSTER WOLF’ TO PROTECT CROPS
A robot wolf tested by Japan Agricultural Co-ops as
a way of protecting crops is going into mass production.
The Super Monster Wolf, a 65cm-long, 50cm-tall
animatronic beast, is powered by solar-rechargeable
batteries. With realistic-looking fur, sharp fangs and
glaring red eyes, it was developed to scare wild boar
away from rice and chestnut crops. When it detects an
approaching animal, its eyes start flashing and it lets
out a range of terrifying howls.
COMPETITION MARKET AUTHORITY
OPENS INQUIRY INTO CO-OP GROUP TAKEOVER
The Competition Market Authority has started an
investigation into the anticipated acquisition by the
Co-operative Group of Nisa Retail Limited.
Launched on 22 February, the first phase of the inquiry
is an invitation to comment, which will be open until
9 March 2018.
The regulator is examining whether the transaction,
if carried into effect, would result in the creation of a
relevant merger situation which might cause “substantial
lessening” of competition within the markets. The CMA
will take a decision by 23 April.
Nisa members approved the Co-op Group’s offer to buy
the business for £137.5m in November last year but the
offer requires the approval of CMA.
Nisa is a brand and buying group of independent
retailers and wholesalers in the UK.
The Group became the exclusive bidder for Nisa after
Sainsbury’s dropped out, arguably due to concerns that
CMA could block the acquisition.
Also a mutual, Nisa includes members who own
convenience stores, with their stake based on how many
stores they own. It provides a franchise model for 3,466
convenience stores owned by 1,300 members. At the
time the deal was reached, Nisa chair Peter Hartley said
the Group would add buying power and product range
to the mutual’s offering, while respecting its culture
of independence. The Group would also take on Nisa's
existing debt of £105m.
Last year Nisa reported annual sales totalling £728m
for the 26 weeks to October 2017, up by 12.4% from the
Review 2018 11
East of England Co-operative
The retailer can trace its roots to March 1868, when local
people in the region came together to set up a shop selling
quality food at affordable prices.
Today’s society is an amalgamation of smaller societies
from across East Anglia, including the Clacton, Coggeshall
and Maldon societies. Now East of England has over 230
stores and branches across Suffolk, Norfolk, Essex and
Cambridgeshire, over 4,000 employees and
The society traces its roots back to March 1868,
when there was a preliminary meeting at the town’s
Workingman’s Hall to establish the Radstock Co-op
and Industrial Society, to look after the interests
of mining families.
It began trading the following year from a purpose
-built store at 3 Wells Road – still the location of the
current head office.
OTHER NOTABLE MILESTONES
Burgesses' and Trades' Poor
Box of Anstruther-Easter
Kingston Unity Friendly
Assurance Society Limited
Agricultural And Dairy
South Norwood Allotment
Gwinear Holdings, Graiseley
and District Co-operative
Allotment Society, Coseley
Allotment and Smallholders
Limited, Torquay Allotment
and District Allotments
Victoria Club and Institute,
Hayes Working Men's Club
and Institute Limited
Mudeford and District
Markets Limited, Greenwich
Leisure, London Federation
of Housing Co-operatives,
Mzough U Tiv Uk Benevolent
Society, Flamesavers Credit
Union, Calderdale Credit
Union, Tees Credit Union,
Plane Saver Credit
Union, All Flintshire Credit
Union, St John's Hill Credit
Union, First Choice Credit
Union, Castle & Crystal
Credit Union, Partners
Credit Union, Steam
Ahead Credit Union, South
Credit Union, Irlam and
Cadishead Savings and
Credit Union, Lagan Valley
Credit Union, Lecale Credit
Union, Star Credit Union,
Union, South Fermanagh
Credit Union, Muckamore
12 Review 2018
BILL HALL, 86
Died on 3 January
Bill Hall served as main
board member of the former
Derby & Burton, East
Midlands, Central Midlands
and Midlands Co-operative
Societies, and was chair
of the Derby Co-operative
Party over several decades.
JACQUI FORSTER, 55
Died on 22 April
A legal practitioner, Jacqui
Forster was a leading light
in the supporters’ trust
movement. A lifelong fan
of Altrincham FC, she
helped set up a supporters’
trust for the club and later
became its vice president.
Her involvement in the
co-op movement started
in 2003, when she joined
Supporters Direct. As
head of casework and
she worked with supporters
to purchase and develop
In December 2015,
she was given just months
to live but continued her
work. In January 2017
she set up Women at the
Game, to bring women fans
together to attend matches.
69 Died on 1 April
As director general of the
Alliance from 1988-2001,
Bruce Thordarson played
a leading role in drafting
the Statement on the
Co-operative Identity, which
was released in 1995. He
also served in various in the
Canadian co-op movement.
BURT CROSS, 97
Died on 15 May
Burt Cross joined CWS in
1937, rising through the
ranks from his first role in
the postal department and
taking an economics degree
through a Co-operative
In 1966 he became head
of marketing for CWS and
was involved in the rollout
of the iconic cloverleaf logo.
OF MACCLESFIELD, 80
Died on 1 July
A former managing
director of the Co-op
Bank, he established
a new approach to
the organisation to its
customer-led ethical policy
in 1992. Paul Monaghan,
chief executive of the
Fair Tax Mark and former
head of sustainability at
the Co-op Group, said:
“Before him, the UK’s co-op
movement was shrinking
into irrelevance... but
he demonstrated what
co-operative values and
principles looked like in
a modern context.”
STANLEY MUCHIRI, 72
Died on 6 October
A former president of the
Alliance’s regional office
for Africa (ICA Africa),
Stanley Muchiri was first
elected in 2003.
Under his mandate,
the ICA held its 2013 Global
Conference and General
Assembly in Cape Town.
It was the first time in the
organisation’s long history
that the event took place on
the continent. At the time
of his death, Mr Muchiri,
who dedicated four decades
of his life to Kenya’s co-op
movement, was attending
the Ministerial Conference
of ICA Africa.
LEO BARCHAM, 96
Died on 6 October
Leo Barcham helped
found Queenslanders Credit
Union in Australia in 1963
after noticing colleagues
struggling with their
finances. His efforts were
later honoured with a
Pioneer Award at the
SIR DENNIS LANDAU, 91
Died on 27 October
Sir Dennis joined the CWS
in 1970 as food controller
and was deputy chief
executive from 1974 to 1980
and chief executive from
1980 to 1992. As deputy CEO,
he played a leading role in
of CWS’s activities in
the 1970s, with efforts to
modernise production and
As chief executive,
he tried to improve CWS’s
performance by increasing
integration of the its retail
activities, developing closer
links with the retail societies
and renationalising its
Review 2018 13
Q&A – Ed Mayo
Co-operatives UK is the umbrella organisation for
the sector, representing Britain’s thousands of co-op
businesses. Ed Mayo has been leading the organisation
since 2009, when he took over from Pauline Green. Prior
to this, he was chief executive of the National Consumer
Council and director of the New Economics Foundation.
Here he examines what 2019 could bring for co-ops
across the country – the challenges posed by Brexit,
as well as potential opportunities for co-ops to present
themselves as alternative business models.
How was 2018 for Cooperatives UK?
We had a tremendous year with more co-ops than
ever in membership, some important policy wins and
pioneering innovation and growth within the movement.
Together with our members, we’ve helped develop the
UK’s first platform co-ops, launched a new body (Student
Co-op Homes) and supported over 160 groups through our
co-op development programme, The Hive – which this
year received extended support from The Co-operative
Bank until 2020. This is in line with the National
Co-operative Development Strategy.
We influenced farming policy with the creation of a
£10m collaboration fund, safeguarding farmers’ ability
to co-operate through amendments to Brexit legislation.
A commitment was secured from government to review
legal regulations for societies, while our campaigning
resulted in the FCA proposing to abolish annual fees for
societies – with potential savings of up to £495 a year
Every year Co-operatives UK publishes a report on
the country’s co-operative economy. What did this year’s
report reveal about the state of the sector?
In 2018, we identified that new co-ops are almost
twice as likely as start-up companies to survive their first
five years. Just 44% of companies survive the difficult early
years while 80% of co-operatives are still going strong.
Co-operatives are resilient and sustainable businesses
and the Co-op Economy data reinforces that view.
The report also showed that the UK’s 7,226 independent
co-operatives contribute £36.1bn a year to the UK economy
and employ 235,000 people. The number of active members
continues to grow, reaching 13.1 million.
How did co-operatives make a difference in 2018?
We’ve seen continued growth in community benefit
societies launching successful community share offers
to save local shops and pubs, finance renewal energy
schemes, transform community facilities, support local
food growing, restore heritage buildings and much more.
In 2018 we were delighted to award the 100th Community
Shares Mark to Eden Rose Community, an organisation
benefiting people with life limiting conditions. We’ve
supported 33 inspiring community groups with nearly
£1m in supplementary investment income through the
Power to Change-funded Booster programme.
What will be the main challenges for co-ops in 2019
and what can they do to prepare for these?
The B word is unavoidable, sorry! Brexit and the
uncertainty it brings will be a challenge for co-ops
– and businesses of all types. We’re now lobbying for
co-ops as government designs the UK’s replacement for
EU funds. As we move into 2019 we’ll be campaigning
alongside partners for more government spending on
programmes which broaden ownership in the economy.
In terms of preparation, the first step for any co-op is
to identify and review key risks to decide what your co-op
should do in a range of scenarios. It’s not all doom and
gloom, as we all know that co-ops often spring up as a
solution to broken markets and there is an opportunity
to ‘do it ourselves’ in 2019.
14 Review 2018
Credit: Co-operatives UK
Q&A – Ariel Guarco
Ariel Guarco took over as president of the International
Co-operative Alliance following his election at the
organisation's General Assembly in Kuala Lumpur
in November 2017. He has been a board member
of the Alliance since 2013 and is also president
How was 2018 for you and for the global co-operative
sector more generally?
We are at the end of a very positive year in which
we were able to carry out many of the actions we had
set out to do. I am very satisfied with the performance
of the Alliance’s staff headed by its director general
In the same sense, we are achieving the desired synergy
between the board, the regions and the sectors. Through
a meeting that took place during the first months of the
year we were able to get a clear picture of the issues and
needs of our members and we are laying the groundwork
for elaborating a ten-year strategy. Furthermore, we have
increased our membership, going from 305 to 313 members
spread across 110 countries and 5 continents – and have
been in contact with many of them. Personally, I travelled
to 20 countries, sharing with colleagues the vision of the
role we need to play as a global movement. I also met with
leaders of other organisations, such as the ILO, the FAO
and IFAD. This helped us position ourselves more clearly
within the framework of the 2030 agenda of the United
Nations and become a key figure in the Global Sustainable
What were the most important events for
co-operatives in 2018?
There were numerous events and we value each
meeting that will enable us to strengthen the integration
and presence of co-operatives at local, regional and global
levels. Personally, I was touched by participating in the
International Day of Co-operatives celebration at the
United Nations again, along with the Committee for the
Advancement and Promotion of Co-operatives (Copac).
This, along with other exchanges, confirmed that the
International Co-operative Alliance is valued and listened
to at the United Nations.
We also arranged four board meetings in Brussels, Paris,
Birmingham and Buenos Aires, which were very important
for generating action plans within the framework of the
of Cooperar, the Co-operative Confederation
of Argentina. Co-op News caught up with him to
find out how his first year in this role was and what
the movement should look forward to in 2019.
2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and setting
out a strategy for the next decade. I would like to also
highlight that in Buenos Aires we brought together some
of the strongest co-operatives and co-operative groups from
across the world to launch the International Co-operative
Entrepreneurship Think Tank. Finally, I shared many good
moments with colleagues from many countries I was able
to visit, such as Nepal, India, Germany, the UK, France,
Spain, Italy, Denmark, the USA, Brazil, El Salvador, Puerto
Rico, Mexico, Jamaica, Uruguay, Paraguay, Dominican
Republic, Ecuador and Bolivia, among others. Next
year, we will organise our General Assembly in Rwanda,
Africa, which will be a great opportunity to showcase the
continent’s co-operatives and help to position the African
co-operative movement on the global scene.
What will be the main challenges for co-ops in 2019?
Co-operatives exist within the same world as
other enterprises and suffer the same consequences.
But how they face these challenges is what sets them
apart. Intercooperation and creating strategic partnerships
are perhaps the greatest challenges as a movement.
Could you give us any details about the Alliance’s
projects for 2019?
Efforts to increase the visibility of co-ops as sustainable
development goals (SDG) actors will be central to our work
in 2019. It is something our members have asked for in the
survey we carried out at the beginning of this year and we
have taken that into account. The ICA team is working on
building a multi-year campaign until 2030 focused on this
theme. And in June we will organise a conference in Geneva
with the ILO, which will be themed around The Future
of Work, within the framework of the centenary of the
Alliance. A few days after, on 6 July, all co-operators will
celebrate the International Day of Co-operatives. Guests
are invited! In October we will be in Kigali for our Global
Conference and General Assembly, which will be focused
on sustainable development.
16 Review 2018
Credit: The Co-operative College
Technology: Polly Robbins
Co-working space and events manager at tech worker co-operative Outlandish
How was 2018 for your co-op and the tech co-op
sector in general?
Good for collaborations: our CoTech network
continues to grow and we are able to take on bigger and
more complex projects by teaming up with other co-ops
with different specialisms. Collaborations this year include
new iterations of washdata.org and schoolcuts.org.uk
Travel abroad: one of our members spoke at the UN in
Istanbul about a technology we are using; another spoke
in Norway to share learning about how the co-operative
We have faced a serious challenge around banking,
though – we have struggled to find a bank that
understands our co-op structure. The Co-op Bank itself
only recently started catering for organisations with
our particular legal structure, and still then is not very
confident dealing with it. We are also struggling to find
accountants who understand the company and the logic
While the CoTech network has a lot of potential,
it's also challenging as few of the co-ops have enough
work or financial growth to put the money and/or time
into growing the initiative.
we can continue to provide low and no-cost space to
people who need it).
Getting ready for an election, particularly with the
campaign sites that we win. We're talking to the Labour
Party and policy makers about what co-ops are, and why
they support the economy, so that when there is a new
government co-ops will be supported to grow.
How did your co-op make a difference in 2018?
We grew Space4, our co-working and events space.
We have brought more than 500 people to the space
through events and workshops, all of whom have learnt
about what co-ops are, and that the tech co-op sector
exists. This initiative has also supported the development
of four new co-ops, which are given free space, plus
advice and support to become a co-op.
London Tech-Week – we hosted a big event with
publicity alongside it. This attracted people from the
UK government, international governments and the
corporate tech sector. We showed them that co-ops are
capable of creating amazing technology and services.
How is your co-operative preparing for the
Continuing collaborations, so that we draw on
the strengths of the whole co-operative sector.
Looking into alternative funding for Space4, so that
we're not reliant on sales in order to grow (meaning
An event held by Outlandish. Credit: Soda Visual
18 Review 2018
Healthcare: Carlos Zarco
President of the International Health Co-operative Organisation (IHCO)
How was 2018 for IHCO and the global health
It has been an important year for the health co-op
sector. The study we did in collaboration with Euricse
confirmed that around 100 million places across the
world have access to health services through co-ops
and over the past 30 years the sector consolidated in
response to the difficulties faced by health systems,
having to come with an increase in demand and
We have examples such as Unimed in Brazil, which
boasts 345 health co-ops and 114,000 doctors, which this
year alone has served 38% of the country’s population.
Another relevant case study is in the Philippines,
where 1Coop Health reached an agreement with a network
of health centres to provide affordable health plans and
services, which facilitates the access to health services
for more and more people.
Health co-operatives share a strong presence in
Europe as well. In Spain, which according to a report
by Bloomberg has the most efficient health system on
the continent, more than 2.2 million people have benefited
from healthcare from a co-operative. This helps ease
pressure on public services, which in turn benefits
the general public.
Could you give us any details about IHCO’s
projects for 2019?
In our working plan for 2019 we have included
actions to reinforce collaboration with international
bodies such as the World Health Organization (WHO),
the International Labour Organization (ILO), the G20
and B20 and the Alliance for Health Promotion, with the
objective of improving the visibility of the values of health
co-operatives. We want to be present and participate in
the relevant forums to ensure the IHCO and its members
are well represented.
We also want to raise awareness about the role
health co-operatives play in the UN’s Agenda for 2030
and their contribution to attaining universal health
coverage. More specifically, we are working with the ILO
and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation
to create a platform to raise awareness about health
co-operatives, which will include case studies of good
practices and training tools as well as a database on
health co-ops, which can bring their experience in the
development of co-operative healthcare in low and
middle income countries.
What will be the main challenges for health
co-operatives in 2019?
Health co-operatives must use their full potential
to position the co-operative model on the agenda
of governments as an important tool in dealing with
issues such as an ageing population, the chronification
of diseases and the sustainability of healthcare systems.
Health co-operatives are an enterprise model that are
economically viable, which compete on the market to the
same extent if not more than other types of enterprises,
and which are also socially responsible and have a
long-term perspective, which favours sustainability.
For decades, health co-operatives have proven their
ability to adapt to different socio-economic contexts,
to respond to the new necessities that emerge in society
and bring resources that would otherwise not be allocated
to health and wellbeing.
Review 2018 19
Legal: David Alcock
Partner at Anthony Collins Solicitors LLP
How was 2018 for your organisation and the co-op
sector in general?
For Anthony Collins Solicitors, 2018 was a good year;
we are opening an office in Manchester, which we are very
excited about. It’s the first time we’ve had a base outside
Birmingham and represents a real step change. We were
also delighted to get the Co-operatives UK legal surgery
contract this year – it’s already meant that we’ve been
able to support many more co-ops.
For the sector in general, I think it’s a really mixed
picture. Trading conditions are tricky for all sorts
of organisations and while co-ops are very resilient,
I think it’s been a challenging time. But there’s been
lots of interest in mutuality and better ways of doing
business, so that’s great.
What were the key legal issues co-ops have
campaigned for this year?
It’s been an interesting year from that perspective.
Particular sectors have been very busy; co-operative
and community-led housing organisations have been
successful in lobbying for the Community Housing
Fund, which is very significant for that movement
and gives some real opportunities in the next two
years. It’s a short timescale but worth a go!
More generally, it was good to see Co-operatives
UK talking to the sector about possible legal changes
across the board. At ACS we have argued strongly for
the introduction of an “indivisible reserve” for societies,
ensuring that part of the value generated from a co-op’s
work can be held for the growth of the movement or
With Brexit due to take place next year, what
challenges will co-ops face in terms of legislation?
I think the immediate implications (depending on
what kind of deal we get) are practical rather than legal.
All we know for certain is that the legal framework itself
will not change on 1 April 2019, as the EU Withdrawal
Act takes EU law just before we exit and applies it to
our law the following day – just so the law doesn’t
fall off a cliff.
Beyond that, as the change starts to take effect, we
will see very major changes in agricultural policy and
subsidy, which will significantly affect co-ops in that
sector. We’re also likely to see changes in consumer
protection law and policy, employment law, and
many other areas where EU involvement has been
very significant. Essentially – watch this space.
It’s going to be an interesting ride.
20 Review 2018
Politics: Claire McCarthy
General secretary of the Co-operative Party
How was 2018 for the Co-operative Party?
The Co-operative Party had another busy and
successful year. We continue to grow our membership
and our impact.
We have continued to drive forward on the growth
agenda. We were delighted to commission the New
Economics Foundation to write an independent report
on what steps it would take to double the size of the
co-operative sector. Co-ops Unleashed sets out an exciting
blueprint for future action. Our implementation group has
begun consulting the movement on the proposals in the
report, not least what a co-operative development agency
for England would look like.
We made another big step forward in our work in
local government this year. A record number of Labour
& Co-operative councillors were elected across England
in May – including more than 200 in London, where we
now have more Councillors than the Lib Dems. The Labour
& Co-operative Metro Mayors – Andy Burnham and Dan
Jarvis – have both begun work to investigate the full
potential of co-operation in their city regions.
More than 70 local authorities across Britain have
signed up to the Party’s charter against modern slavery
ensuring that there is no place to hide for exploitation
in council supply chains. This includes councils run
by the Conservatives and the SNP and in many cases
approval for the charter has been passed unanimously
in council chambers.
government, led by Co-operative politicians, including
the London Assembly, Welsh Assembly, Scottish
Parliament, Westminster and the European Parliament.
What are the main challenges ahead for 2019
and how is the Party preparing for them?
It’s hard to look ahead without mentioning Brexit.
The Party is working with the movement to make the case
against a damaging No Deal Brexit; as well as working to
ensure co-operation can play a bigger role going forward,
most recently in the passage of the Agriculture and
Beyond Brexit, there is important work to do that we
won’t neglect. One focus will be working with our newest
organisational member – Usdaw – and the retail societies
on strengthening the protections for shopworkers that are
threatened or attacked during the course of their work.
Shopworkers do an important job for us all in enforcing
the law and we must collectively have their backs.
What were the key issues Co-op Party MPs have
campaigned for this year?
Labour & Co-operative MPs, peers, Welsh Assembly
Members (AMs) and Members of the Scottish Parliament
(MSPs) were active across a wide range of issues of
importance to the movement including community
energy, the expansion of credit unions, the regulatory
environment for co-ops, support for employee ownership
and employee share ownership, the contribution of the
co-op sector to the British economy and Fairtrade.
In addition, they have played a key role in our
campaigns on tackling modern slavery and, in just the
last few weeks, on tackling violence against shopworkers.
During our month of action against modern slavery
in the autumn there was activity at every level of
Review 2018 21
Channel Islands: Colin Macleod
Chief executive of the Channel Islands Co-operative Society
How was 2018 for your co-op and your sector?
Despite challenging trading conditions and the
introduction of Morrisons to the islands we are fortunate
to have had another year of solid progress. Our food and
travel businesses delivered a strong uplift in sales and
our care businesses (medical, pharmacy and funeral)
continue to grow.
We opened two new convenience stores, Locale
Charing Cross in Jersey and Locale The Bridge in
Guernsey, and we continue to invest in our society
to ensure that our range of services are relevant and
appealing to our pan-island members.
How did your co-op make a difference in 2018?
In early 2018 we launched our ‘Belonging is
everything campaign’. Believing in the value of belonging
has shaped our society since opening our first store in
the Channel Islands in 1919 and making a difference to
the communities we serve is at the heart of everything
In 2018 we:
• returned £8m to local member owners in dividend
• purchased £11m worth of goods from over 40
• donated £230,000 to over 500 local community projects
• have phased out the use of single-use plastic carrier bags
and, are working alongside the Co-op Group and local
suppliers to reduce the amount of plastic usage
and increase recycling opportunities.
How is your co-operative preparing for the
Following a significant strategic planning exercise
in 2018 we are very much looking forward to bringing
our Belonging message to life. Next year, significant
investment in transformation will start to yield benefits
as we become far better equipped with insight. We believe
we have a clear and compelling view on how to build
emotional connection with our owners in the digital
age and we are excited about the future.
22 Review 2018
Agriculture: Umberto Di Pasquo
Senior policy advisor at European agri-cooperatives and farmers apex body Copa-Cogeca
How was 2018 for your organisation and European
agri co-ops in general?
2018 was a productive and dynamic year here.
Together with our members, staff worked with dedication
and ambition to keep EU agri-co-operatives and farmers
informed and their positions heard and represented.
We have continued pushing for a strong and sustainable
future CAP that benefits our farmers, their co-operatives
and consumers, ensuring vibrant rural areas across the
EU. In particular, we have advocated for a truly common
CAP with a strong budget, because EU farming can make
a significant contribution to combating climate
change – but only if we can ensure the economic
viability of farmers. The use of new technologies, better
functioning agri-food value chain and investments to
ensure competitiveness of the sector in the eyes of the
young are just some elements that we are focusing on
in this regard. Additionally, we are also encouraging
the creation and development of professional, well-run
and competitive processing and distribution structures
operated by producers and their co-operatives.
Recognising the specificities of the agricultural sector
and allowing farmers to work collectively to pursue their
economic objectives are two essential preconditions for
strengthening farmers’ position in the food supply chain
and thus improving their bargaining power.
We succeeded with our advocacy for EU legislation
to counter Unfair Trading Practices (UTPs) in the Food
Supply Chain, while another focus was on the opening of
new markets and promoting our high European standards
of production abroad. In the secretariat during the past
year we have actively
followed and contributed
to all EU trade negotiations
and engaged in talks with
our respective counterparts
across the world.
Finally, Brexit has
certainly been one of the
main topics on the Brussels
agenda this past year and
in Copa and Cogeca it
was no different. The UK
represents a significant
part of the EU single market. Additionally, besides the
many international European agri-co-operatives that have
proceeded with classical foreign investment strategies in
Great Britain and Northern Ireland (exporting, licensing
and franchising, strategic alliances, joint ventures and
FDI), some agri-co-operatives have established either
supplier relations or even co-operative member relations
with British farmers in the UK. Several transnational
co-ops have mother companies in Northwest Europe,
particularly in the Republic of Ireland, the Netherlands
and Denmark. The combination of small home markets
and high market integration with neighbouring UK
has often driven the internationalisation strategies
of these organisations. Economic ties between the UK
and continental EU are strong. European farmers and agri
co-operatives from the EU and the UK will be hit hard by
Brexit. We have been following the developments very
closely and met the EU chief negotiator Michael Barnier
and his team on numerous occasions to be fully informed
about the negotiation process and to raise our concerns.
How did agri co-ops make a difference in 2018?
Agri-co-operatives are businesses that survive or fail
based on their ability to provide services or goods to their
farmer members, who own the enterprises.
They are entrepreneurial and must compete with other
forms of business. They have ensured the sustainability
and competitiveness of the sector, by serving farmer
members and understanding consumer demand, by
supporting farmers in rebalancing their position in the
food chain, by pooling existing processing assets and
keeping them in the hands of their farmer members,
by moving the sector from resilience to anti-fragility,
by creating job and boosting growth in rural areas.
How can co-ops prepare for the challenges ahead?
Agri-cooperatives should focus their strategic
operational priorities on: a) continuing to empower farmer
members by providing tools to thrive in a circular, resilient
and innovative agricultural economy; b) going beyond
resilience or robustness and learning how to gain from
unexpected stress or from volatility; c) creating value
-added economies of scale, increased market position
Review 2018 23
Education: Simon Parkinson
Principal and chief executive of the Co-operative College
How was 2018 for your organisation and your sector?
2018 was an exciting year for the Co-operative College.
We extended our charitable registration to Scotland
and have expanded our UK project base throughout
the year. We have also re-positioned and re-established
our accredited learning offer and have delivered a
number of new courses in the UK and internationally.
In a year where there were serious concerns raised about
the practices at a number of international development
NGOs, we have worked with other members of the
European Co-operative Development Platform (ECDP)
and the International Co-operative Development
Platform (ICDP) to demonstrate the benefits a co-op
approach to can bring. Education has been at the core
of all our activities throughout 2018 and we’re determined
to change things for the better. We believe that the funding
model for higher education in the UK is broken and we’re
committed to doing something about it. That’s why we’re
working on developing a Co-operative University that
places students right at its heart, and we’ve made huge
strides so far. We want to challenge the current status
quo, shake up the sector and offer something that’s
How has the College made a difference?
As the education charity of the UK movement,
our impact is clear, with project work that transforms
the lives of individuals here in the UK and across the
globe. Our work with young care leavers and young
people with learning disabilities has seen the confidence
of all those involved improve drastically, offering
them new opportunities that not only transform their
lives but also have a hugely positive effect on their
local communities. Our established programme of
international work also continues to yield incredible
results, as highlighted by our Co-operative Pathways
project in Malawi. Since 2012 we have now directly helped
over 30,000 people as they establish or improve their
own co-operative enterprises, a stunning impact that’s
transformed communities right across the country.
What are you most looking forward to in 2019?
Founded in 1919, next year marks our 100th birthday,
a landmark moment in our history. We have a series
of events planned, all building towards our Centenary
Conference at Rochdale Town Hall in November. We want
to use our centenary to build on existing relationships and
partnerships, while establishing new relationships across
the UK and internationally. We need the support of the UK
co-operative movement more than ever in our 100th year
and there are a huge number of ways to get involved. From
joining us as an individual or organisational membership
to attending one of our new accredited courses, there has
never been a better time to join our fight in building a
fairer world for everyone.
Can you tell us more about any of the College's
Our Together Enterprise project in Scotland starts
early next year and will transform the lives of young
people in some of the most deprived areas of the country.
We will also be launching an Anglo/German partnership
with DGRV (the apex association of German co-operatives)
to expand our work in Malawi. Our strong partnerships
with organisations such as the Co-operative Foundation
and the Potterspury Lodge Trust will also ensure that
our charitable work goes from strength to strength,
however we will need the support of the co-operative
movement and beyond to ensure we can continue
empowering people to make a real positive difference
in their communities.
24 Review 2018
Credit unions: Matt Bland
Head of policy and communications at the Association of British Credit Unions Ltd (Abcul)
How was 2018 for your organisation and your sector?
It’s fair to say that 2018 has been a challenging
year for the credit union sector. Though credit unions
continue to grow and strengthen overall, very sadly
there has been a higher than usual number of failed credit
unions. This demonstrates the challenging environment
credit unions are operating in as regulatory burdens
increase, the expectations of consumers expand and
technological innovation becomes ever more imperative.
For Abcul it has been a year of change as we
welcomed a new chief executive (Robert Kelly) and a
new president of the association’s board (Karen Bennett).
With new leadership there are new ideas about how to
take the sector forward and there are exciting
opportunities on the horizon.
How did British credit unions make a difference
Credit unions continue to be the primary vehicle
for the delivery of inclusive financial services in the
country. We have conducted analysis this year on those
credit unions that use our subsidiary’s ALD credit decision
tool which demonstrates the depth and breadth of credit
unions’ lending to those at the margins of the financial
system. Credit unions are lending heavily, for instance,
into all of the 10 most deprived communities according
to the indices of multiple deprivation and consider loans
that few other lenders would in terms of amount or
applicants’ credit scores while charging considerably
less than any other lender to these groups. We also see
patterns of improvement among the credit profiles
of credit union borrowers.
2018 was an exciting year given the profile and
prominence of issues of financial exclusion and
over-indebtedness from government, the regulatory
authorities and people like Michael Sheen and
his new End High Cost Credit Alliance. There is a
groundswell of support for action to promote the likes
of credit unions and we are keen to see the warm words
and rhetoric of 2018 turn into concrete action in 2019.
What are the key challenges for credit unions in 2019
and how can they prepare for these?
Credit unions’ big challenge is that of relevance.
We know that credit unions’ values resonate with
millennial consumers but today too many credit unions
fall short of that generation’s expectations in terms of
digital accessibility and convenience. Transforming the
way that credit unions can be accessed by their members
will be critical to securing their future. But there are
lots of exciting developments in the fintech space which
present opportunities for credit unions to tackle this
For Abcul we have some ambitions in the policy space
to provide an environment in which credit unions can
flourish and we are hopeful 2019 will be a year of progress
in that respect. We’d like to see government legislate to
enable credit union innovation in lending, the Bank of
England review its upper capital requirements to unlock
latent growth in the sector and the proposed new Financial
Inclusion Organisation to begin investing in ambitious,
growing credit unions.
Credit unions have much to be optimistic about despite
the many challenges they face. Abcul will be launching
a major town hall consultation at our annual conference
in March to set the vision for the next five years of our
movement and to provide clarity of purpose in terms of the
sector’s ambition, our shared strategy for achieving it and
the ways in which those with a stake in our future
can support us to get there.
Review 2018 25
Worker co-op: Siôn Whellens
Member of Calverts design and print co-operative
How was 2018 for your co-operative and your sector?
Exciting and a bit nervous-making! We’ve done some
great creative work, including designing and producing
Co-operatives UK’s strategy pack. The mood among our
members is upbeat. There are big challenges, because
the market for high-end print – one half of our business
– has shrunk so much. Few of our local competitors are
left, so we’re up against businesses outside London and
elsewhere in Europe. We’re still very much a ‘movement’
communication design and production house. We’re doing
less with charities and campaigns, which have switched
their investment towards web-based communication.
On the other hand, we’re increasingly working
with niche brands in sectors like fashion and jewellery.
We’re also doing more in the higher education and
radical publishing sectors.
Calverts is a contributing member of the Worker
Co-op Solidarity Fund. How has the fund made
a difference in 2018?
Solidfund proved it’s possible for co-operators to
generate resources for development using web-based tools.
The new Principle 6 platform was inspired by it. Secondly,
it increased the confidence and autonomy of the worker
co-op network. Over 600 members have generated more
than £110,000 – all individuals, not co-ops, which is
significant. And not all Solidfund supporters are worker
co-operators, so it’s shown that there’s wider support
for industrial democracy and worker self-management.
Solidfund supported a number of projects in 2018,
including the Barefoot Coop Developer days aimed
at creating a new generation
of worker co-op organisers.
It also supported
individuals to attend
trainings and conferences
such as Open:2018, and
made small but important
donations to underresourced
startups like Creative
Workers Coop in Belfast,
and Kitty’s Laundrette
in Liverpool – a workercommunity
co-op which is creating a social and arts
space, as well as a decent eco-laundry, in a deprived
part of the city.
How is Calverts preparing for the challenges ahead?
We’ve mainly focused on improving our strategic
marketing focus and activity. We built a completely new,
and rather fantastic, website that we think articulates
Calverts’ values and commercial proposition in exactly
the right way, with a strong focus on visual content
and a design that embodies our claim to be a creative,
authoritative and expert resource for our clients.
In October we recruited Sarah Jackson, a brilliant
marketing communicator, to lead on Calverts’ new
business strategy, and we’re always looking to bring in
new ideas and talent – both as a succession strategy and
to be able to think sideways about how we not just survive
but thrive in a very competitive industry.
Left: Sion Whellens, above: Paper Doll printed by Calverts
26 Review 2018
Energy: Mark Luntley & John Malone
Director and development director at Energy4All, an umbrella body facilitating new energy co-ops
How was 2018 for you and your sector?
The whole energy sector is undergoing massive shifts
as technology allows societies to change from dirty fossil
-fuelled power generation to clean green energy.
The pace of that transition is accelerating.
There are now 228 active community energy
organisations in England, Wales and NI – which is
great news. However the growth of community energy
groups has stalled in the UK, largely because of a less
supportive government framework.
2018 was also an incredibly busy year at Energy4All.
We’ve raised over £4.6m in capital in the last two years.
We have a series of projects in Scotland where the national
government is more supportive of community energy.
In spite of the hostile government framework there’s
a real sense of enthusiasm and entrepreneurialism among
our existing and new co-operatives. We’ve developed two
hydro schemes, and refinanced a key scheme at Mean
Moor. We’ve also been elected to the board of European
co-ops and have been supporting their work.
How did renewable energy co-ops make a difference
Community Energy England highlight that in 2017,
community energy capacity in England, Wales and NI
totalled around 169MW – with 33.5MW added in the
year. That’s enough to power 67,000 homes.
But co-operatives make more difference than the
energy generated: co-operatively owned community
projects put people, typically local people, in genuine
control of how their money is used to create democratically
controlled energy. This is in sharp contrast to the
existing models which seek to relegate citizens to the
role of passive, uninformed consumers. We believe that
community ownership is creating a growing band of
people informed about how their energy is generated,
and interested in making other changes in their lives
as a result. We are supporting independent academic
research to establish just how strong this relationship
is among the Energy4All co-ops and their members.
Renewable energy is one of the most popular ways
of generating electricity and community projects are
even more popular. If we want more projects to go
ahead, one key way of achieving this is to make sure
they are genuinely community owned.
How can renewable energy co-ops prepare for
the challenges ahead?
Putting individuals at the heart of the energy
transition is key. Umbrella organisations like
Energy4All help individuals and communities to
take control of energy generation by sharing skills
One opportunity is that the grid is becoming smarter
and energy storage is becoming cheaper. If we want
the public to embrace these technologies, we should
put communities – through co-operatives – at the heart
of these changes, as is happening in several other
John Malone, and Mark Luntley
Review 2018 27
Singapore: Dolly Goh
Chief executive of the Singapore National Consumer Federation (SNCF)
How was 2018 for you and your organisation?
2018 has been a year of changes. The Singapore
National Co-operative Federation (SNCF), through
discussions with its affiliates, provided feedback to
the regulator which impacted the final outcome of the
amended Co-operative Societies Act which came into
operation in April. Some of the positive outcomes are that
the number of individuals needed to set up a co-op has
been reduced from 10 to five; and outdated membership
prohibitions and rules were amended to help facilitate
development of the co-operatives to encourage formation
of new co-ops.
SNCF has also been steadily nurturing Singapore’s
youths in understanding co-operatives and that the
co-operative path is a viable and fulfilling one. Our
youth programmes – such as co-op clubs, Learning
Journey to Co-ops, SCOOP Trail – help foster students’
interests. In 2018 we reached out to over 40,000 youths.
In 2019, Singapore will commemorate its bicentennial.
As part of the celebrations, SNCF is organising a series
of activities themed Coming Together As One Through Art,
from September 2018 to October 2019. This will show how
the man in the street has benefited from the social and
economic impact that co-operatives have created. It will
also promote co-ops as an alternative you can turn to in
times of need, and inspire people, particular youth, to use
the co-operative model in doing well. SNCF worked with
our credit affiliates to launch the first pop-up art event
in September 2018 which focused on the topic of money
and the social issues related to it, such as money-lending
and financial inclusion. The event drew more than 7,000
people – 10% posted their visit on Instagram.
How did co-ops in Singapore make a difference
In 2018, co-operatives provided job opportunities for
more than 18,000 people in Singapore, and they continue
to deliver social impact. SNCF, together with some of the
affiliates from the credit sector, celebrated International
Credit Union Day by volunteering at NTUC Health
Co-operative’s Nursing Home. SNCF also worked with
other affiliates to support Silver Caregivers Co-operative
(SCCL) in its first Caregivers Carnival in November 2018.
SSBEC launched their first ever community outreach
initiative, “Giving Back to the Society” in September 2018,
and NTUC FairPrice Co-operative donated S$1.2m to the
FairPrice Food Voucher scheme to help more than 20,000
needy families alleviate their daily cost of living in 2018.
How are co-ops preparing for the challenges ahead?
Challenges will continue to plague businesses,
more so for those who serve social needs of communities.
Social needs evolve over generations so while co-ops
prepare themselves to overcome business challenges,
they also need to be in touch with the changing social
needs of communities and keep connected, adaptable and
possess the political will to ensure co-operatives are kept
relevant to run sustainable businesses for social good.
Co-operatives in Singapore will continue to drive
support for the Sustainable Development Goals,
will explore regional and international collaboration
and use technology for efficiency and increased
productivity. This will help co-operatives serve their
members more effectively especially with a younger
generation of membership.
Therefore, SNCF and its affiliates will focus more on
more effective use of social media to reach out to
28 Review 2018
Wales: Derek Walker
Chief executive of the Wales Co-operative Centre
How was 2018 for your organisation and
co-operatives in Wales?
2018 was a good year for the co-op movement in
Wales. Highlights include an emerging strategy for the
future growth of co-operatives to deliver social care.
In addition there has been excellent progress in taking
forward the concept of a community bank of Wales to be
owned by its members, on a one-member, one-vote basis,
offering current accounts and making funds available
locally to small businesses.
Programmes delivered by the Wales Co-operative
Centre continued to do well and to attract support.
Over the past 12 months we have helped create a more
prosperous Wales through the expert support we give
to co-ops and social businesses. This year we were
instrumental in managing the conversion of national
TV Production company, Cwmni Da, to an employeeowned
trust. The managing director wanted to ensure
Cwmni Da remained in the hands of the 50 strong
workforce who have all contributed to its success.
Wales is also more equal as a result of our
pioneering work to end digital and financial exclusion.
Our communities are more cohesive because we bring
people together to tackle the issues that matter to them,
from building new housing to keeping open their local
pub, shop or leisure centre. You can find out more about
our work in our latest Impact Report.
from the Welsh Assembly Commission. Transport for Wales
has also stipulated the use of this factory for their signage
requirements, and meetings are currently underway for
opportunities during the mobilisation stage of the new
train operator contract.
What are the challenges ahead?
In 2019 the Wales Co-operative Centre will be working
with partners to develop a vision for the sector for the next
10 years. We believe there is a need for a new vision and
an action plan to unite and steer the social economy sector
in Wales to address challenges, seize opportunities and to
foresee and capitalise on future trends. We want to create
a positive vision for Wales’ future, clearly demonstrating
where and how the social economy can contribute.
The timing is good as Wales has a new first minister,
Mark Drakeford. In his leadership manifesto he stated he
believes “our most radical days are ahead of us”. On the
economy he has nailed his colours to the mast and has
firmly committed to building a socially just economy and
a common partnership for inclusive growth. He has also
made a firm commitment to stepping up efforts to promote
co-operative provision in social care. So 2019 promises to
be a year of opportunity for the co-operative sector
What were the key issues you have campaigned
for this year?
One of the campaigns we have stepped up this year
has been about persuading public sector bodies to buy
from social enterprises and co-operatives. The Wellbeing
of Future Generations Act has created much more
enthusiasm from Welsh public bodies to ‘buy social’.
Watch out for a new initiative to launch in spring.
EBO Signs is an example of this greater appetite for
social value from public bodies. EBO Signs is a social
enterprise in Ebbw Vale that employs local people with
disabilities. It produces traffic and commercial signage
such as highway signs, street nameplates, safety signs
and hoarding boards. Extra demand for their products
has already resulted in orders placed with the factory
from two local authority main contractors as well as
Review 2018 29
Northern Ireland: Tiziana O’Hara
Founder member of Co-operative Alternatives
How was 2018 for co-ops in Northern Ireland?
This year Ballymacash Sports Academy, a community
benefit society, and Loveworks Co-operative, a worker
co-operative, have both raised the profile of co-operatives
at the Northern Ireland Social Enterprise Awards 2018,
one of the largest events in the region. The co-operatives
have been recognised respectively in the newly
established category for the innovative way in which
they raised share capital and in the education, training
and jobs category for offering dignified and sustainable
jobs within worker owned enterprises. The established
Coalisland Credit Union was also recognised, being
named credit union of the year.
Supporting Emerging Co-operatives, the five-year
progress report published by Co-operative Alternatives,
helped to provide a clearer picture on how co-operatives
have sprung up in a variety of sectors and the needs that
they now have to continue to prosper and develop. This
also confirmed the view that a co-operative development
agency in Northern Ireland is essential to the emerging
of Ireland, replaced the previously existing single
market SEM and went live on 1 October 2018. On one
hand, this will have undefined consequences on
market linked electricity prices under a Brexit scenario,
but on the other hand, this is a decision motivated by
the necessity for sharing and optimising resources
between north and south with the view of benefiting
the economies of both subregions despite the looming
events. The farming sector is also concerned about what
would be our future relationship with Europe in general
and not only for the cross-border activities that they
perform daily. However, the biggest impact in 2018 in
Northern Ireland on the co-operative sector has been
the absence of a national executive; without a devolved
Assembly in Northern Ireland for almost two years,
important decisions on budgets and priorities for the
economy of the region have not been taken.
What were the key issues co-ops have campaigned
for this year?
The main event for co-ops in Northern Ireland has
been the migration of the registration function, until
now performed within the local Department for the
Economy, to the Financial Conduct Authority in London.
This brought the introduction of an annual fee based on
assets (which was beforehand balanced out by higher
administration and registration fees compared to the rest
of the UK) but also triggered the long-waited final updates
to the Co-operatives and Community Benefit Society Act
(2016) Northern Ireland.
With Brexit due to take place next year, how
can co-ops in Northern Ireland prepare for the
Great uncertainty is dominating the years ahead.
Brexit will undoubtedly change trading and relationships
on this island. The situation on the ground is complex
and interdependent. For instance, the new electricity
market I-SEM or Integrated Single Electricity Market,
the wholesale market for electricity for the island
30 Review 2018
Africa: Dr Chiyoge Sifa
Regional director, International Co-operative Alliance-Africa
How was 2018 for you and your organisation?
2018 was a year of mixed feelings, both to me
personally and for our organisation. We started the year
on a high note emanating from good results – both
financial and benefits-wise – to our members, which
resulted in increased membership for the region. We
also had a new chairperson for our Africa Ministerial
Co-operative Conference and for the regional board.
However, three days after the by-elections which saw our
long serving regional board chairperson, Stanley Muchiri,
retire, he passed on. This was a big loss both to our
organisation and to myself as we lost a great co-operator
and wonderful mentor.
How did co-ops in the Africa region make
a difference in 2018?
The big difference they made was to serve their
members better with limited resources and renewed
impetus. As we offered
experiences and capacity
building to our members,
this in turn was translated
into improved services.
How are co-ops
preparing for the
We have learned a lot
through these past years.
We have a new vision
anchored in our Abuja 2018 Declaration and we do
believe that the conclusions and recommendations from
our Regional Assembly and Africa Ministerial Co-operative
Conference are robust and able to make final strides to our
turnaround strategy for the continent.
Australia: Melina Morrison
Chief executive of the Australian Business Council for Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM)
How was 2018 for co-ops and mutuals in Australia?
2018 was a great year for co-operative and mutual
businesses in Australia. After 2017, which saw the
demutualisation of Murray Goulburn, one of our largest
co-ops, the sector has seen a resurgence in 2018.
We have seen significant progress in the flagship
project to implement legislative reform allowing mutual
businesses to raise external capital. We came tantalisingly
close to seeing the legislation enter parliament this year,
and hope that this will be finalised in early 2019.
In another first, the BCCM developed the first set
of bespoke governance principles for Australian co-ops
How did co-ops make a difference in 2018?
There has been a resurgence in interest in the
business model to support regional and rural
communities, especially in the delivery of local jobs,
a sustainable local economy and provision of health
and other vital services in thinner markets. Organisations
working in social services have also continued to thrive to
support vulnerable people. Co-operatives have emerged
as a new business model for consumers trying to exercise
choice and control with personalised budgets for disability
and aged care.
How can co-ops prepare
for the challenges ahead?
mutual businesses are
ideally placed to address
future challenges. As a
business model that takes
a long-term, sustainable
view, they will be able
to weather challenges in
the domestic and global
Review 2018 31
32 Review 2018