The Co-operative Bank can retain its co-operative name, according to Co-operatives UK.
Helen Barber, head of co-operative advice at the UK’s sector body, said it has been working with the International Co-operative Alliance to determine a draft set of guidelines where a non-co-operative organisation can use ‘co-operative’ in their name.
The agreed criteria outlines that those organisations should:
- Exist in order to promote co-operative activity and be recognised by the co-operative movement in relation to this role
- Operate in line with co-operative values, and not discredit the co-operative business model
- Not use the term in ways that serve to mislead others as to whether the organisation itself is in fact a co-operative.
Last year, the Co-operative Bank separated from the Co-operative Group, which still retains a 20% stake in the organisation. The rest is held by institutional and private shareholders. The bank became a member of Co-operatives UK in its own right in May.
Following the recapitalisation of the bank, Co-operatives UK said it re-assessed the bank against the criteria for defining a co-op. “While co-op values and ethics have indeed been embedded in the bank’s constitution, these alone do not make it a co-op and, as an investor owned business, it does not meet the full principles of the ICA,” said Ms Barber in an update to members.
“It is important to recognise that the immediate requirement in 2013 was to secure the future of the bank as an ethical alternative to other high street offerings. Now, with a new leadership team in place and real progress being made to turn things around, Co-operatives UK has been working with the bank to agree a way forward that reflects the ethical, values-driven intent of the organisation alongside the principles of co-operative identity.”
The bank will be monitored by Co-operatives UK to ensure it is compliant with the criteria. “Co-operatives UK will monitor the bank’s compliance on an ongoing basis and, if anything varies, our view on the continued use of the name may change,” said Ms Barber. “In the meantime, the wider co-op sector must acknowledge that a commitment to making good on the intentions expressed by the bank is welcome.”
Co-operatives UK will also consult with members by the end of the year on the issue of co-operative identity to look at the draft criteria set out.
Added Ms Barber: “One of the principles of the co-operative movement is co-operation between co-operatives and, as such, Co-operatives UK has wanted to be supportive of the Co-operative Group in relation to the bank.
“At the same time, this could not be at the long term cost of the integrity of the co-operative identity. We have therefore had to consider whether there are circumstances in which use of the word ‘co-operative’ in the bank’s name may be appropriate.”