Thursday 16 December 2010

Is the co-operative business model one you could emulate?

The Co-operative Group is the UK’s largest mutual retailer and they are changing what’s normal.

In the UK they are the fifth largest food retailer, the third largest retail pharmacy chain, the number one provider of funeral services and the largest independent travel business. The Co-operative Group also has strong market positions in banking and insurance. The Group employs 120,000 people, has 5.5 million members and around 4,800 retail outlets.

I read the following on The Co-operative Group’s website:

The Co-operative model

Like any business, we want to be a commercial success. However, even more important to us is the way that we do business, and the way that we use our profits. We believe that we should offer our customers both value and values. Which makes us a bit different.

Our members are our owners; they tell us what is important to them and we listen and act on it. It’s part of our model: as a consumer co-operative, we run our business for the benefit of our members. That means our members are involved in democratic decision-making, and we re-invest in our business – share of the profits - sharing profits with our members. Our members also set a social and campaigning agenda that we support. In fact - because our members wanted it - we’ve become pioneers in areas such as fairtrade and combating climate change. Of course, the more commercially successful we are, the more we can do to give back to the communities we serve and to influence the wider world.

In an article by Adam Jupp in the Manchester Evening News 14th December (see full article here) Chief Executive Peter Marks is quoted as saying The Co-operative Group is aiming for 20 million members by 2020. Achieving this goal would mean this organisation would be serving a third of the UK’s population!

What principles of a co-operative could you emulate in your business?

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