A new report on the size of New Zealand’s co-operative sector shows that the country’s top 30 co-operatives had a joint revenue of NZ $42bn in 2020, accounting for 13% of New Zealand’s GDP.
This represents an increase from $41.3bn in 2015 but is lower than the $ 47bn joint revenue reported in 2018, says the report. But even with significant changes faced over the past 12 months, the sector continues to grow and new players are entering the market, it adds.
Launched on 9 September, the New Zealand Co-operative Economy report covers the top 30 co-operatives and mutuals based in New Zealand. It was commissioned by apex body Co-operative Business New Zealand and completed by PwC.
The largest co-operative by revenue in the country is Fonterra Co-operative Group with a revenue of NZ $20.2bn.
According to the report, co-operatives have 1.5 million members and 41,000 employees. Around 72% of these are in the agri-food sector and have achieved increased revenues of around 10% since 2015.
“These agri-food co-operatives have been performing well with strong growth in revenue and assets, indicating a resistance and strong response to the economic impacts of Covid-19,” said Cooperative Business NZ CEO Roz Henry.
The insurance sector has also experience revenue growth of over 40% since 2015.
“The past 18 months have shone the light even brighter on how essential these businesses are in keeping New Zealand moving forward,” added Ms Henry.
New Zealand is home to over 331 member-owned businesses that operate in a variety of sectors, from agriculture and insurance to retail and wholesale.
“The vast spread of sectors outlined in this report shows how versatile the model is,” said Ms Henry. “Not only that, it brings to the forefront that some of New Zealand’s most enduring businesses are co-operatives. They’re multi-generational, sustainable and community-focussed ensuring profits, and their businesses’ positive social and environmental impacts, continue to be circled back into New Zealanders’ lives.”
The report also looks at some of the key challenges facing the co-operative sector included raising capital, labour shortages, changing consumer trends, and reducing emissions to comply with the Climate Change Response Act 2002.
“There are fantastic opportunities to work closely with the New Zealand government, educators and business community to address these and ensure New Zealand’s co-operatives continue to thrive,” said Ms Henry.
“This report also recognises the opportunity for future businesses to be established using the model. It shares why understanding and supporting New Zealand co-operatives is important and how Cooperative Business NZ can implement this with various partners.”
Taking into account the main findings, the report calls on New Zealand’s government, educators and the business community to work together to help the sector grow and support new businesses wishing to set up as co-ops.