A new guide will help co-operative businesses measure themselves against 'the triple bottom line'. Launched by Co-operatives UK at its 2013 Practitioners Forum, ‘Simply Performance’ has been designed to help co-ops report not only their financial performance, but also their environmental and social impacts.
Introducing the guide, Philip Monaghan of Infrangilis told delegates how co-operatives cover all sectors, so identifying a handful of indicators that were relevant to all co-operative businesses was a challenge.
‘Simply Performance’ includes case studies on co-operative performance from Greenwich Leisure, Suma Wholefoods, Anglia Farmers and Midlands Co-operative, which between them turn over £1.1bn.
Mr Monaghan said each business had different priorites: "For Suma it's about treating staff great and paying a premium wage," he said. "For Greenwich Leisure it's how do they justfy their pricing policy to their members.
"Being self critical and being challenging is important," he added. "If you're focused on being excellent, performance measurement flows from that."
Simply Performance identifies the need for co-operatives and mutuals to adopt a set of indicators that interrogate how they deliver value to their members and puts forward ways to measure this ‘co-operative difference’.
The research behind it reviewed current measures of impact, such as the Canadian-based Co-op Index and the Global Reporting Initiative for triple bottom line reporting. Working in partnership with Lincolnshire Co-operative Society, the LM3 methodology for measuring local economic impact was also investigated, showing that every pound spent in a co-operative shop is recycled five times before the last penny leaves the local economy.
The guide builds on the work of Co-operatives UK and the Co-operative Performance Committee, chaired by Prof John Arnold.
Commenting on the launch, Ed Mayo, Secretary General of Co-operatives UK, said: “Co-operatives need to satisfy themselves that they know their members, understand what's important to them, and that they can keep track of a tangible difference they are making.
“More than ever, co-operative businesses need to strive for excellence in everything they do. This publication covers the traditional measures of success that conventional businesses monitor, but it also considers what is unique about co-operatives – namely delivering value to the members of the co-operative over time and at least cost. As each co-operative is unique, so too will be the things that members value, and these may not be measured via a traditional balance sheet.”