18% of New Zealand GDP is generated by co-operatives

30% of the country’s population are members of a co-op

Research from PwC has revealed that Aotearoa (New Zealand) remains one of the most co-operative economies in the world, with 18% of its GDP generated by co-operative businesses. 

The findings were presented at Cooperative Business New Zealand (CBNZ) Annual Leaders’ Forum in May, where governors, senior leaders and educators met to discuss key challenges faced by co-operatives and explored how to collaborate on ways to move the business model, and New Zealand, forward. 

The country is home to  331 member-owned businesses (co-operatives, mutuals, friendly societies and credit unions) that employ over 50,000 staff and have over 1.5 million members – 30% of its population. 

The event was opened by Hon Grant Robertson (deputy prime minister), who acknowledged the significant contribution co-operatives play within the New Zealand economy.

Speakers and panelists throughout the day discussed topics around the theme ‘Co-operatives, climate and capital’. It was agreed there was a critical need for co-ops to have access to capital to reinvest in their businesses, a need for innovation to remain competitive into the future, and a need for New Zealand businesses to focus on sustainability in their practices, with the emphasis being on measuring of ESG (environmental, social and governance) responsibility. 

Delegates also heard how, for New Zealand to keep its spot on the global stage as a small but thriving economy punching above its weight, the focus on sustainable choices across the entire business must be part of a business’s DNA. 

Fraser Whinerary, COO of dairy co-operative Fonterra, said: “It’s now about the how rather than simply the what of your product,” adding that trends in consumer behaviour globally show that the attention to sustainable practices, from supply chain decisions to employment equality and governance diversity of thought, is becoming more critical during the decision-making process for potential consumers, shareholders and investors.

“Covid opened the door to demonstrate the importance of New Zealand’s co-operatives to our economy,” said Roz Henry, CEO of CBNZ. “Our government, educators and business community need to collaborate to build a better understanding of the model and how it can be leveraged to support New Zealand’s unique value proposition.”