People working together to improve livelihoods and communities is unsurprisingly a regular theme in Co-operative News.
Even more so in this edition, which shows how far co-operation has come over the past 20-30 years. It’s clearly not just about food retail now.
Supporter Ownership week will be with us next week, which celebrates the achievement and accomplishment of football fans holding their clubs to account and in some cases fully taking ownership of the team.
It’s also an excellent example of how to use the co-operative model as a pressure group, with the scale to take over a club – if desired/possible.
A unique partnership has also come out of Plymouth, where the local and co-operatively-minded council has part funded two bencoms to provide renewable energy. This is a different way for co-operatives to access capital (and an obvious partnership). Support from the council has also quickly seen the project grow compared to other energy projects that take longer to get off the ground.
The importance of employee ownership is also underlined – especially in today’s economy that sees more people fending for themselves (we’ve previously looked at the rise of freelance workers). John Lewis wouldn’t be John Lewis without the workers, says its chair Charlie Mayfield in this edition. And as the election nears he also talks about the shifting political landscape, and how it is more important than ever to embed mutual values into the workplace.
It’s not just workers at home that are benefiting from co-operation. The expansion of Fairtrade is also a success story around the world – with co-op values deep in its heart. Co-operatives are the main players within the supply chain, so look likely to benefit from a relaxation of Fairtrade sourcing rules.
At the same time that co-operators are accepting a broader concept of co-operation in business (as opposed to 100% pure co-operative), Fairtrade is also allowing manufacturers to produce products that are not 100% Fairtrade. Understandably, the likes of Divine Chocolate are miffed at big corporates such as Mars taking the Fairtrade name with less of a commitment to the values.
But Divine and other co-operatives are in a position of strength to shout about these values that are so pivotal to the operation of a social business.
In this issue we welcome Dr Steven Glynn from the Sustainable Change Co-operative who will be writing over the coming months about how co-operatives can be smarter ethical businesses. Looking first at seven co-op values, he looks at how these are aligned with 50 common cultural values – and how co-operatives can use this insight to their advantage.
Fundamentally, the story of how a business can help people and communities is the story of the co-operative model – and it should be a simple one to tell.