The Co-operative Group aims to be the most sustainable business in the UK by 2020 paving the way for others to follow, according to its Chief Executive Peter Marks.
Marks took global co-operative leaders in attendance at the ICA-organised leadership sessions in New York on November 1 through the extraordinary transformation of the Co-operative Group from its “flirtation with extinction” in the 2000s through to its strong market position with six million members and annual revenues approaching $US21 billion.
A lifetime co-operative professional, Marks explained that the transforming moment for the business was consolidation within the co-operative sector which allowed it to win better supply deals and streamline management and operations.
In 2007 the two largest co-operatives in the UK, The Co-operative Group and United Co-operatives, merged freeing up about $USD160 million which was re-injected back into the business, consolidating its branding into a single, ethically-based but commercially-run business.
Now, through prudent management, a flight to co-operative banking care of the 2008 global financial crisis and improved standards, the Co-operative Group was positioned to capitalise on cross-border opportunities.
Marks highlighted however that it was imperative to have each co-operative movement in each country or region functioning effectively in order to encourage cross-border co-operation.
If cross-border co-operation was to work it required centralised decision-making, disciplined operations and ruthless efficiency. It also needed to be based on a clear, common vision and a unified brand which functions across different countries.
If the challenges to cross-border co-operation, even in the tough economic climate at present, could be overcome, then Marks saw the co-operative movement as being in a position to take centre stage.
There were, of course, other challenges still facing co-operatives including the biggest – finding access to capital. Marks talked of finding a co-operative way of raising capital.
In a sense, Marks was encouraging the international co-operative movement to embrace some of the techniques The Co-operative Group and the UK movement had used in order for it to take its rightful place in the global economy.
He said he would like to look at the launch of the international year as something truly exciting that would be reflected on as the moment at which the international co-operative movement got its act together.
Source: ICA News