2014’s helpful tips to help run your co-operative business

Throughout 2014, Co-operative News published a wide-ranging number of thought-provoking articles and research to help people better run their co-operative business. From sustainability and ethical finance through to...

Throughout 2014, Co-operative News published a wide-ranging number of thought-provoking articles and research to help people better run their co-operative business. From sustainability and ethical finance through to membership and identity, the latest insight was provided from around the sector. Find out what we learned this year . . .


Communicators Guide to Co-operative Identity

The Communicators Guide to Co-operative Identity, sponsored by domains.coop, shows a different way to promote your co-operative. The Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade from the International Co-operative Alliance argues that greater visibility for the co-op model will lead to great awareness by consumers choosing co-operative products and services over their alternatives – and this guide will help with the next steps.

Subjects covered included how to work with other co-operatives to promote identity, how to use the seven co-operative principles in marketing messages and seven ways to promote your co-operative difference.

Ethical Finance

The public is becoming increasingly concerned over the issues surrounding the money they spend and invest. This hub, sponsored by Ecology Building Society, provides the latest ethical finance updates, such as new funds available to co-operatives and how others are taking advantage of raising new capital. The series of articles also look at the different areas of finance in the social economy and a focus on investment in co-operatives.

Legal advice

Anthony Collins Solicitors put together a series of articles that analysed and gave advice on a range of legal issues that affect the co-operative sector. Articles looked at how to deal with misconduct in co-operative board members; how to protect your co-operative name; and how ownership and leadership should be handled.

Membership and Campaigns

The membership hub, sponsored by the Co-operative Group, brings together insight and information from co-operative professional from around the world. With a focus on best practice and advice, a series of articles looks at how to best implement the co-operative difference. Topics covered include different ways of member engagement, why education is important, as well as a series of case studies looking at campaigns and how co-operatives did it.


‘Sustainability’ is a difficult concept. It implies care for the environment, looking after the community, contributing towards a resilient economy, and making a business work – all at once. Not surprisingly, it’s become one of the most used but perhaps least understood terms in business today. With The Southern Co-operative, this hub has started to look at what sustainability is and what it means for co-operatives. Other areas of discussion include how co-operatives are already putting sustainability policies into practice, how co-operatives are different, and what other companies outside the sector are doing.


Community Impact Index

The first Community Impact Index, in association with Midcounties Co-operative, looked at how co-operatives make an impact in the areas they serve. It found that co-operatives are investing in communities at a much greater rate than its mainstream rivals. On pre-tax profits, co-ops invest 6.3% of pre-tax profits, compared to only 3.7% by the main supermarkets. The research also looked at small and large community co-operative champions, as well volunteer hours and how co-ops help other co-ops.

Director pay

The release of the Myners Review highlighted the need for professional directors. But do they make a difference to profitability and how much extra will they cost? Co-operative News looked into and analysed different pay ratios of non-executive directors of large UK co-operatives in agriculture and retail alongside plcs. In the first look at director pay, the research found there was no simple correlation between the level of remuneration and business performance. It also discovered that the co-operatives that grew their gross sales the most over the past three years tended to be those that compensated their non-executive directors at a lower level.

The Digital Co-operative Report 2014

Research from Co-operative News French researcher Olivier Frey identified the major trends in how the world’s co-operative businesses are using digital technology to engage their customers, members and employees. It found that co-operatives use social media primarily to engage customers, involve members, build brands and manage reputations; and that the use of social media by the world’s largest 300 co-operatives lags behind the Fortune 500.

It also discovered that co-operatives are less likely to use data to highlight their ethics or support membership, but many co-ops do use technology in innovative ways to enhance governance by involving the wider membership in decision-making.

Student’s Guide

A one-off introduction to the co-operative model for students, the guide explained how a growing movement of young people are forming co-ops to take control of the big things in their lives, such as housing, food and transport. Sponsored by Co-operative Education Trust Scotland, it outlined the main steps to starting a co-operative – alongside films, links and case studies.

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