Panel members participating in the case study “Doing business our way – Winning strategies for doing business differently” clearly emphasized four common values—trust, justice, fairness and efficiency. They were unanimous: a balance of these four values will be the growth barometer and driving force behind cooperatives. To achieve this optimal balance, however, cooperatives must enhance and toughen up their decision-making processes, and even step outside of their comfort zones and make harsh decisions at times. According to Denis Richard, President of La Coop fédérée, Canada, this means that cooperatives must improve their operational efficiency.
Huguette Labelle, Chair of the Board of Transparency International Canada, and Charles Gould, Director General of the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) in Switzerland launched the debate by discussing governance. According to Ms. Labelle, taking measures to promote governance standards will be a priority for the cooperative movement. One of these measures calls for better transparency to help cooperatives retain trust among their communities and, as a result, prevent corruption.
In closing, Mr. Gould explained that proper governance will give cooperatives a competitive advantage, as long as they clearly define their legal structures accordingly. He states that reforms must follow this structure, but he also believes that although transparency is a key factor, it plays a less significant role than the overall commitment of cooperative members.
Contributing to this debate were, Isabelle Santenac, Global Assurance Chief Operating Officer for Ernst & Young, France, as well as other panelists, including Clemente Jaimes, Executive President of La Equidad Seguros from Colombia, Martin Lowery, Executive Vice-President of External Affairs for The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association in the United States, and Peter Marks, Chief Executive of The Co-operative Group from the United Kingdom.
All participating panel members agreed that in these times of economic and financial uncertainty and instability people are less and less inclined to trust governments, large capitalist businesses and other key players of the world. They also collectively acknowledged that, despite the current crisis, the cooperative movement maintains a certain level of trust and that it should use this trust to show the world how the cooperative model differs from the business models of other corporations. The cooperative movement should harness the power of this difference and kick-start the pendulum swing.