World’s top 300 co-operatives had a joint turnover of US$2.4tn in 2021

The figures were confirmed in the 2023 edition of the World Cooperative Monitor, released today by the ICA

The world’s largest top 300 co-operatives continued to grow in 2021, registering a joint turnover of US$2.4tn, up from US$2.17tn in 2020.

Released on 25 January, the latest edition of the World Cooperative Monitor includes the top 300 alongside sector rankings, employment data and a special report on member benefits. 

In its 12th edition, the monitor aims to provide visibility to the movement by monitoring and demonstrating the impact of large co-operatives, from an economic and a social perspective. Produced by the International Cooperative Alliance with the scientific and technical support of the European Research Institute on Cooperative and Social Enterprises (Euricse), the 2023 edition takes data from the fiscal year 2021.

The Monitor provides two different top 300 and sectoral rankings: one based on turnover and the other based on the ratio of turnover over gross domestic product (GDP) per capita.

Most enterprises in the top 300 by turnover operate in agriculture (105 enterprises) and insurance (96 enterprises), followed by wholesale and retail trade (57 enterprises). The agricultural sector is also strong in the top 300 by turnover over GDP per capita with 103 organisations. Insurance counts 87 enterprises, followed by wholesale and retail trade (56 enterprises). The financial services sector has a stronger turnover over GDP per capita ranking with 39 enterprises, compared to 27 enterprises in the top 300 by turnover.

In terms of the most prevalent type of co-ops, most enterprises in the Top 300 by turnover are producer co-operatives – mainly agricultural co-operatives and retailers’ co-operatives (130, to which is added one producer/consumer), followed by mutuals (80) and consumer/user co-operatives (72). Eleven of the top 300 are non-co-operatives controlled by co-operatives, while only five are worker co-operatives and two are multi-stakeholder. Meanwhile, in the Top 300 based on turnover over GDP per capita, there are more consumer/user co-operatives than mutuals, respectively 80 and 71 organisations.

Rankings

Ranked in first place by turnover is Groupe Crédit Agricole from France ($117.901bn), followed by retailer REWE Group from Germany ($82.03bn), the Groupe BPCE from France ($66.06bn), Nonghyup (National Agricultural Cooperative Federation – NACF from the Republic of Korea ($61.17bn), and ACDLEC Leclerc from France ($60.56bn).

The co-op topping the ranking based on turnover over GDP per capita is producer co-op Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited (Iffco) from India, which 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; and Copersucar SA, also from Brazil.

Leading the sector rankings based on turnover are Nonghyup (National Agricultural Cooperative Federation – NACF) (agriculture and food); Spain’s Corporación Mondragón (industry and utilities); Germany’s REWE Group (wholesale and retail trade); Germany’s Talanx Group (Insurance); France’s Groupe Crédit Agricole (financial services), Brazil’s Sistema Unimed (education, health and social work); and Germany’s DATEV (other services).

Meanwhile, the sector rankings based on turnover/GDP per capita are topped by Iffco from India (agriculture), Corporación Mondragón from Spain (industry and utilities), REWE Group from Germany, Nippon Life from Japan (insurance), France’s Groupe Crédit Agricole (financial services), Brazil’s Sistema Unimed (education, health and social work) and Manutencoop from Italy (other services).

Co-operative member benefits

This year’s WCM includes a thematic analysis of the co-operative member benefits carried out in collaboration with the International Cooperative Entrepreneurship Think Tank (ICETT).

For this research, the WCM team analysed 76 out of 81 organisations in the top 10 sector rankings both by turnover and by turnover over GDP per capita from the World Cooperative Monitor 2022.

They found that more than 80% of the co-operatives and mutuals in the study explicitly state their identity as co-operative or mutual insurance, often specifying sectors and organisational forms. And over half of the examined entities explicitly declare the values and principles of co-operatives and mutuals on their websites.

The study categorises member benefits into tangible and material aspects (services and products, economic advantages) and intangible aspects (participation, contribution to the community). It points out that while co-operatives and mutuals extend benefits to their members through their business activities, some co-operatives provide additional services unrelated to their main business, such as discounted prices for services and products from partners, insurance services, consulting services, and education and training programmes.

Another finding was the fact that the term “dividends” is used by some co-ops to explain the distributed surplus based on transactions that members made with their co-operative, while others use it to indicate the distributed surplus (or profit) on members’ share capital. The study warns that this can create confusion among members.

The chapter concludes by arguing that the research demonstrates that large co-operatives and mutuals do explicitly convey their identity as co-operatives or mutuals, albeit to varying degrees and that the soul of co-operatives and mutuality is firmly presented to the public.

However, it adds that the research is grounded in the information available on the websites of the analysed co-operatives and mutuals and the true impact will be realised through the concrete manifestation of these arguments in their organisational structures, day-to-day practices, and the people involved, including leaders, members, and employees.

The results were presented during a webinar hosted by ICA and Euricse.

“WCM has been a significant tool to evaluate our positioning as co-operatives,” said ICA director-general, Jeroen Douglas, during the webinar. “It’s also a highlight for many co-operatives to show their importance to the public and policymakers around the world. It’s also a one-of-a-kind report, offering us quantitative data that allows us to measure and also celebrate the successes of co-operatives worldwide.

“The 12th edition of the World Cooperative Monitor serves therefore also as an action to stakeholders, and most importantly, it is a piece of tangible evidence of why it makes sense to again have an International Year of Cooperatives.”

Gianluca Salvatori, secretary general of Euricse, argued that co-ops “sit on a gold mine” by being people-based enterprises that serve their communities. This, he argued, ensures co-ops have access to valuable insights and data, which, in turn, gives them an advantage over corporations that have to rely on surveys or buy data from specialised companies to gain the same knowledge.

He added that globally the co-op movement has not yet truly embraced the importance of producing quality data.

“There is a need to bring co-operatives face to face with the topic of the data economy,” he said. “We need an ambitious programme to spread the culture of data within the co-operative world.

“We must abandon the idea that all this is just a secondary issue, something to be done when we have time or when there is nothing more urgent to do. We must recognise that it is the very essence of modern and effective business practice,” he added.

Salvatori also recalled that the first edition of the WCM was launched in 2012, the International Year of Cooperatives. With the UN proclaiming 2025 as an International Year of Cooperatives, he thinks the movement has an opportunity to demonstrate that it is capable of asserting its role in this new scenario of the knowledge and data economy. He concluded by encouraging co-ops and co-op federations to collect data and reach out to Euricse if they need support during this process.

The full report is available at monitor.coop.

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