Pete Westall, general manager of co-operative social responsibility at Midcounties Co-operative
Arguably, the co-operative movement’s greatest social achievement over the last thirty years has been its development of Fairtrade – which is now a £1.8 billion industry in the UK. Co-operatives (big and small) were intimately involved in leading the production, manufacture, distribution, retail and finance of goods and services. Our leadership not only changed the world for the better, it created a positive halo around the UK for all co-operatives.
Fair Tax offers the same opportunity, and then some. In February 2014, the world’s first Fair Tax Mark (FTM) was launched – with pioneering support from Midcounties Co-operative, Unity Trust Bank and The Phone Coop. The FTM certifies that a company is making a genuine effort to be open and transparent about its tax affairs, and pays the right amount of corporation tax at the right time and in the right place. The FTM has been constituted as a Society for the Benefit of the Community.
Co-operatives have another, once in a generation, opportunity to grasp an issue and render it their own – demonstrating that our model is inherently a more social form of business. No issue concerns people more: polling from the Institute for Business Ethics has found that tax avoidance is now the number one concern of the public when it comes to business conduct. People understand that a socially responsible approach to paying corporation tax is the most sizeable community investment a business is ever likely to make.
It is therefore proposed that all co-operatives give real consideration to progressing the Fair Tax Mark, with a view to ensuring that this new certification schemes in intimately associated with the co-operative movement – both now and into the future.