THE UK Co-operative Movement's showpiece event will this year be celebrating the diversity and dynamism of the £ 25 billion sector in a three day event at Manchester's New Century Hall.
Meg Munn MP, Minister for Women and Equality at the Department for Communities and Local Government, has been elected as this year's Congress President and will lead the debate through conference sessions, workshops, seminars and fringe meetings.
A wide range of speakers from co-operative and like-minded organisations include Ian Bretman, Deputy Director of The Fairtrade Foundation, Erik Bichard, CEO of The National Centre for Business & Sustainability and Stuart Raistrick of Shared Interest, the world's leading fair trade finance organisation.
This year's Congress is sponsored by Dairy Farmers of Britain, the UK's leading dairy farmers' co-operative, and will showcase the latest developments and initiatives from across the sector. The focus will be on fair trade, sustainability, equality and diversity.
"As Minister for Women and Equality," says Meg Munn, "I believe that co-operatives have a great deal to offer women and minority groups, because power lies directly with the individual members that own or work in them. Democracy and equality are core co-operative values."
For the first time at this year's Congress, data about the social impact of co-operatives will be included alongside the financial results in the Movement Performance Report.
In a new initiative to be launched at Congress, Co-operatives UK has linked up with the Carbon Trust to enable its members to significantly reduce their carbon emissions. A landmark new report on waste management, "A Better Way to Recycle", will also be unveiled.
"Corporate social responsibility is on the lips of many businesses these days," says Dame Pauline Green, Chief Executive of Co-operatives UK. "However, co-operatives have an in-built advantage as they have a set of social objectives at their heart.
"At this year Co-operative Congress we will be looking at what more we can do to reduce our environmental and social impact – whether by cutting harmful emissions, improving waste management or continuing to take the lead in developing fair trade initiatives."
Congress is open to everyone with an interest in co-operation. To find out more and to book a place visit www.congress.coop.