Euro Coop encourages European co-operatives to share best practices

Having just been appointed secretary general of Euro Coop, the European Community of Consumer Co-operatives, Todor Ivanov highlighted the importance of innovation and exchange of best practices between...

Having just been appointed secretary general of Euro Coop, the European Community of Consumer Co-operatives, Todor Ivanov highlighted the importance of innovation and exchange of best practices between European consumer co-operatives.

Mr Ivanov, who comes from the Central Co-operative Union (CCU) of Bulgaria, where he was active in its International Affairs Department, gave delegates an insight into Euro Coop’s structure and objectives.

Euro Coop represents consumer co-ops from across 20 states, which turn over €76bn. It has three working groups in food retail, sustainability and co-operative identity.

Euro Coop also keeps members informed about existing European legislation while lobbying EU institutions.

“Eurocoop is looking at attracting new members from all regions in Europe,” said Mr Ivanov.

Consumer co-operatives exist in every single country in Europe, he added. To build on the success of national co-operatives such as Coop Italia and the Finnish SOK Corporation, Euro Coop is encouraging members to share ideas and best practices. He spoke of his ambition to create a database, enabling members to buy products from each other.

Another priority is harmonising legislation at national level. “The co-operative business model is the most sustainable,” he said. “But in order to be successful we need to talk to each other, be on the same page and speak the same language in terms of legislation.”

Although individually co-operatives are not leading the retail chain in Europe, if all co-operative retailers in Europe combined their sales, they would rank first in the largest European retailers’ index.

 

A European buying group

 

Asked whether the prospect of having a European co-operative was feasible, Mr Ivanov said that the issue is being followed by European co-operative organisations in Brussels, particularly by Cooperatives Europe, the regional office of the International Co-operative Alliance.

In December 2011 the first European co-operative society was registered between the Central Co-operative Union of Bulgaria and Cantine Siciliane Riunite, which will facilitate bilateral trade relations between the two organisations.

According to Euro Coop president Duncan Bowdler, who was also present, the organisation has facilitated a number of meetings between business leaders to look at the possibility for a close buying collaboration. The Co-operative Group has led the project, asking PricewaterhouseCoopers to assess the benefits of a potential collaboration. The study revealed that there was an opportunity in the purchase of food, carrier bags, freezers and other products.

The initiative received positive responses from some co-operatives in Europe, while others were not interested in the project as they were already in a buying group.

More from the conference:

James Walton: ‘There is no room to be complacent’
Professor Tim Lang: ‘I have a very sober view of the food system’
Lukáš Nemcik: ‘Get to know the Customer’
Professor Johnston Birchall: Governance lessons from the world’s largest co-operatives
Steve Murrells: ‘We have fallen out of love with food’
Neil Turton: ‘We are a business-owned co-operative’

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