Co-operatives UK, the apex body representing Britain’s thousands of co-operative businesses, has launched the first ever census of the UK sector.
There are nearly 7,000 co-operatively run organisations in the UK, ranging from multi-billion pound brands to volunteer-run allotment societies. There are co-ops operating in agriculture, banking, energy and more, but before now, the data around them has been limited to what is reported to Companies House or the Financial Conduct Authority, and misses out information on many smaller ‘hidden’ co-operatives that perhaps do not use the term.
With the uncertainties of Brexit ahead, Co-operatives UK says the aim of the census is to “get under the bonnet of these businesses”. It wants to discover “what’s working, what the challenges are, where they would like to be and what they need to get there”, and is encouraging all co-operative organisations to take part.
“We know the co-operative sector is performing well. Commercially we’re resilient, our membership is on the rise, and we’re making a difference across the UK,” said Co-operatives UK secretary general, Ed Mayo.
“This census – the first of its kind – will give us so much more information, allowing us to see where we’re likely to see co-operative innovation and growth, where we can expect major challenges to come, and most importantly, where we are best focusing all of our energies.”
Earlier this year Co-operatives UK set up a Strategic Reference Panel, chaired by Dame Pauline Green, to oversee the delivery of a National Co-operative Development Strategy. During Co-operative Congress in June, delegates took part in sessions exploring three themes around co-operative development (co-operative excellence; co-operation among co-operatives; and innovation), and proposed a series of ideas for the strategy.
The results of the census will also feed into this strategy, and will help to direct the sector’s approach to supporting and growing the UK’s co‑operative businesses.
“Co-ops give people a say over things that matter to them,” said Mr Mayo. “The aim of this census – and the strategy more widely – is to provide a plan for the sector as a whole to extend the benefits of co-operative ownership more widely still.”
- Co-operative organisations can complete the census online at www.uk.coop/what-if.