Global policy makers have been called upon to recognise the economic and social value of co-operatives on the International Day of Co-operatives.
The International Co-operative Alliance (ICA), the global voice for co-operatives, said this is especially significant in 2012, the United Nations-designated International Year of Co-operatives.
Values-based and member-controlled, co-operatives are a compelling, scalable alternative to shareholder capitalism, at a time when the values and accountability mechanisms of today’s prevailing corporate models are increasingly being questioned.
Co-operatives employ over 100 million people worldwide, 20% more than multinational corporations. In 2008, the largest 300 co-operatives generated $1.6 trillion in revenue, as much as the world’s ninth largest economy. In sectors from agriculture and fisheries to banking and credit unions, from housing and healthcare to industry and insurance, co-operatives create decent jobs, spur growth, enjoy greater trust among consumers, and last longer than other forms of enterprise.
“Co-operatives put people at the center of the economy – not at its mercy,” said Dame Pauline Green, ICA President. “Most public policy and regulation favors the investor-owned corporation. This is doing our economy and society no favors. We want to see full recognition of the specific legal and financial needs of co-operatives to enable a level playing field.”
Through 2012 so far, countries and world leaders have pledged their support for the co-operative model. India has amended its constitution to make forming a co-operative a fundamental right, while Russia passed legislation that includes more effective measures to protect member rights and reinforce the economic sustainability of co-operatives. And in a speech earlier this week, UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg revealed a number of strategies to raise awareness of mutual and co-operative models, including the formation of a new FTSE Employee Share Ownership Index.
“The world is calling for a more accountable way of doing business that delivers real value to more people,” said Chuck Gould, Director-General, ICA. “Because co-operatives are member-owned and values-based, they are far better placed than other businesses to deliver on Adam Smith’s vision of the free market, where businesses have a social as well as commercial role within communities and the interests of owners and managers are as one.”