The top 300 co-operatives and mutuals in the world had a joint turnover of US$2.17tn in 2020, down from $2.18tn in 2019, according to the latest edition of the World Cooperative Monitor.
Released on 1 December, the monitor lists the top 300 co-operatives and mutuals based on turnover and sector rankings, employment data, and includes a chapter on the challenges and opportunities brought by digitisation.
In its 11th edition, the report is produced by the International Cooperative Alliance with the scientific and technical support of the European Research Institute on Cooperative and Social Enterprises (Euricse).
The 2022 edition is based on 2020 financial data. Ranked in first place by turnover is Groupe Crédit Agricole from France ($88.97bn), followed by retailer REWE Group from Germany ($77.93bn), the Cooperative Financial Network from Germany (BVR) ($58.02bn), agricultural co-op Zen-Noh from Japan ($57.69bn), and ACDLEC Leclerc from France ($54.83bn).
Most enterprises in the Top 300 by turnover are producer co-ops, mainly representing agricultural and retailers’ co-ops (126, to which is added one producer/consumer), followed by mutuals (84) and consumer/user co-ops (71). Eleven of the top 300 are non-co-ops controlled by co-ops, while only five are worker co-operatives and two are multi-stakeholder.
The results are similar in the Top 300 based on turnover over GDP per capita, but there are more consumer/user co-ops than mutuals, respectively 84 and 67 organisations. The countries with the most enterprises in the top are USA (71), France (42), Germany (31) and Japan (22).
The co-op topping the ranking based on turnover over gross domestic product (GDP) per capita is the Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited (Iffco) from India. A producer co-op, Iffco is followed by another Indian business, the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation; financial co-op Groupe Crédit Agricole; healthcare co-op Sistema Unimed from Brazil; REWE Group from Germany.
In the Top 300 by turnover over GDP per capita the agriculture sector is predominant with 101 organisations. The insurance sector has 85 enterprises in the top 300 while the wholesale and retail trade has 57. The financial service sector is more prominent in this ranking with 41 enterprises with compared to 26 enterprises in the Top 300 by turnover.
Leading the sector rankings based on turnover are: the Japanese Zen-Noh (agriculture and food); Spain’s Corporación Mondragón with (industry and utilities); Germany’s REWE Group (wholesale and retail trade); Japan’s Nippon Life (Insurance); France’s Groupe Crédit Agricole (financial services) Brazil’s Sistema Unimed (education, health and social work); Italy’s worker co-op Manutencoop (other services).
Special focus on digitisation
The monitor also explores the impact of digitisation, particularly in the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis. The findings are based on a survey of co-ops in 27 countries, carried out by the ICA’s International Cooperative Entrepreneurship Think Tank.
Respondents to the survey said they are aware of the importance of digital tools that cut across different functions of corporate life and recognise that “something fundamental has changed in the way co-operatives are managed”. About one in ten co-operatives considers itself to be poorly digitalised.
Eight out of ten co-operatives interviewed said it was important or essential to use digital tools to sell goods and services online and manage relationships with customers and suppliers. A quarter of the respondents consider these only “quite important”.
The key areas for co-operatives regarding the use of digital tools are IT system security (70%), management software (48%), e-commerce (41%), cloud computing and remote management of services and infrastructure (41%), and communication and web and social media content creation (37%).
The survey found all co-operatives have activated online modes of participation in their general meetings. The chapter notes that although digital tools have ample potential in engaging members unable to attend the meetings in person, they have also shown limitations in engaging certain categories of members unfamiliar with the use of technologies. Over half of the co-operatives surveyed also see the potential of digital tools to involve members in the co-creation of services and goods and to promote interaction among members.
The chapter concludes that while digitisation does not seem able to “radically reshape the way co-operatives relate to their members”, digital tools can facilitate the involvement of co-op members in some situations, especially when they are placed side by side with traditional methods. Furthermore, it adds, large co-ops are aware of the impact of digitisation on the world of work and focus on “ensuring sustainable growth and decent work for all”.
ICA director general Bruno Roelants said: “Thanks to the co-operative business model, which is based on democratic participation and control, we can see how to take advantage of the positive effects of digitisation and mitigate the negative ones.”
Gianluca Salvatori, secretary general of Euricse, said: “We are experiencing an exciting new season of visibility for the social economy. All over the world, initiatives that give visibility to this approach to economic activities are multiplying: from the European Social Economy Action Plan to the OECD Recommendation and the ILO Resolution.
“It is, therefore, increasingly important that the social economy and its actors, including co-operatives, be recognised for the scale of their impact. This is a further confirmation and challenge for the WCM – to help build a more accurate understanding of the social economy and, more specifically, the co-operative sector.”
The full report is available at monitor.coop.