New Canadian survey gives high marks to co-ops

A new public opinion survey shows that Canadians rate co-ops much more highly than other businesses in such areas as customer service, employee relations, support for community values...

The vast majority of Canadians say co-operatives provide better customer service than other types of businesses, treat their employees better, have more environmentally sustainable practices and support community values and the local economy.

Those were some of the results of an Abacus Data survey commissioned by the Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA) and conducted on May 15 and 16, 2012. The survey was commissioned as part of CCA's activities around the International Year of Co-operatives. 

The survey was conducted online with 1,008 respondents across Canada using an internet survey platform. A random sample of panelists was invited to participate in the survey from a larger representative panel of some 150,000 Canadians.

According to the survey:
• 85 per cent of respondents have heard of "a type of business called a co-operative."
• 65 per cent describe themselves as "very familiar" or "somewhat familiar" with co-operatives. This is significantly higher than the result of an Ipsos Reid survey commissioned by CCA in 2010, possibly because the Abacus survey made specific reference to credit unions.
• 41 per cent said they were a member of a co-operative and/or credit union.
• 84 per cent were able to name a co-operative in their community. Desjardins and Mountain Equipment Co-op were most frequently mentioned.

Abacus then asked respondents to compare co-ops with other businesses on a variety of factors.
• 84 per cent said co-ops are more likely to support the community's values.
• 83 per cent said co-ops are more likely give people a say on how the business is run.
• 82 per cent said co-ops are more likely to support the local economy.
• 81 per cent said co-ops are more likely to sell locally produced products.
• 76 per cent said co-ops are more likely to treat their employees better.
• 72 per cent said co-ops are more likely to have environmentally sustainable practices.
• 70 per cent said co-ops are more likely to have better customer service.
• 53 per cent said co-ops are more likely to have lower prices.

The only factor in which other businesses were rated more highly than co-ops was convenience of location; 74 per cent said other businesses have more convenient locations than co-ops. However, assuming price, service, product quality and convenience are equal, 83 per cent said they would prefer to shop at "a locally-owned business that shares its profits among member-owners" than "a privately owned company that is part of a larger chain."

Only five per cent of those surveyed were aware that 2012 is the International Year of Co-operatives; the figure was highest (12 per cent) in the Prairie provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan (referred to as "central" in the survey report).

Go to to download the survey report.

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