Co-operatives UK was recently named as one of the top 500 Superbrands in the UK, a listing of the brands that are most admired by business leaders and the public at large.
We are obviously delighted to join the list, also occupied, of course, by The Co-operative, the Co-operative Bank and Nationwide. But we also recognise that this is not about Co-operatives UK — as we don't spend a single penny advertising — but about the whole of the co-operative sector being a super brand.
There are, I'm sure, lots of reasons why. Here, let me suggest, are five.
1. The financial crisis. Strange to say, but the global financial crisis and the lack of trust in business, have highlighted the fair, ethical way of doing business that co-operatives exemplify. Trust in co-operatives is high — 66% of people trust Co-operatives compared with 29% for PLCs and 75% think we are fair compared to only 18% for PLCs. As a result more and more people turning to co-operatives. The activist led Move your Money campaign is an example of this.
2. Innovation. Co-operatives have been ahead on many dynamic innovations — Fairtrade, of course, but also in energy, where Midcounties, the 2012 Co-operative of the Year, are a challenger business based on fairness; and renewable energy more widely where co-operatives large and small are leading the way.
3. Growth. The sector as a whole has kept on growing, despite the tough climate — by nearly 20% since the start of the credit crunch. High profile mergers and acquisitions such as Somerfield and Britannia by the Co-operative Group, as well as the organic growth of co-operatives like Edinburgh Bicycle Co- operative, Dulas, HF Holidays, Benenden and others.
4. Co-operatives Fortnight. Over the last three years, co-operatives across the country have campaigned together under the common messages of Co-operatives Fortnight, raising awareness of co-operatives amongst the public, influencers and the media. Before the first 'Fortnight' in 2010, public awareness of co-operative businesses in the UK was 67% and we have collectively increased this to 75% awareness. Coupled with Co-operatives UK's lobbying of government on key changes to legislation for co-operatives and support for employee ownership, joint campaigning is changing the way co-operatives are perceived.
5. Communities. And across the UK we have seen the growth of communities using co-operatives to save vital shops and services — supported strongly by the Plunkett Foundation. There are now more than 300 co-operatively owned and run village shops and a growing number of football trusts, pubs and green energy projects that are co-operatives.