It is always inspiring to hear about co-op success stories, and the successes of some of the world’s largest co-ops is the theme of this morning’s session at the ICA General Assembly. The Global 300 is the ICA’s list of the world’s 300 largest co-ops, ranked by annual revenue, and four of those co-ops are being showcased this morning.
The first presentation was by Len Wardle, chair of The Co-operative Group in the U.K. The Co-operative Group represents about 90 per cent of the co-op business in the United Kingdom, and is one of the U.K’s 30 largest companies. While grocery stores have long been a mainstay of The Co-operative, its business also includes banking, travel, legal services and funerals. And The Co-operative is the U.K.’s largest single farmer, producing food that is sold in its stores.
But the story of The Co-operative is special for another reason. After a 40-year decline, it has turned itself around, largely as a result of a branding strategy that has given The Co-operative a modern, cohesive look and feel. As Len Wardle explained this morning, there used to be no single brand – co-op stores used a variety of looks and logos, which he described as “confusing and chaotic”. So The Co-operative decided to invest in a single look and a single brand: and the strategy worked. Membership and revenues have soared, and The Co-operative is looking forward to a very bright future.
For Wardle, having co-operative values and being a highly successful business are not mutually exclusive. “We have learned a great deal about being not only ethically driven, but commercially focused.”
– Donna Balkan