To be a trendsetting ethical organisation you should embrace the troubles facing communities today.
And there is no place better to look for inspiration than well-publicised advocacy organisations that spring up to right a wrong.
One such organisation is the Living Wage Foundation, which is currently raising awareness through its annual Living Wage Week, which in 2015 is running from 1-7 November. This is something so close to co-operatives, which were set up for the sole purpose of bettering living standards
This includes fighting for fair pay, and was further affirmed in 1906 when Co-operative Congress passed a minimum wage scale that was adopted by more than 240 retail societies over an eight year period.
So how is it that so few co-operatives have self-declared that they pay the Living Wage? Looking through the list of more than 1,800 organisations certified by the Living Wage Foundation there are around 30 co-ops listed.
This isn’t to say there aren’t many more co-ops paying a fair wage. With the majority of co-operatives being on the smaller side with few employees there should be hundreds (if not thousands) of other co-ops actually paying a living wage, or at least not having too much work to match the fair wage. The bigger co-operatives face problems of the rising minimum wage, which may be more of a focus than the living wage.
The most prominent pioneers currently include co-operative schools and credit unions. The co-op schools connection is partly thanks to a partnership between the Schools Co-operative Society, Co-operative College and Unison in 2013, which made an action plan to encourage trust schools to adopt the living wage.
Recently, Co-operative Press, publishers of the News, joined a few other smaller co-operatives, such as the Belfast Cleaning Society and Revolver Co-operative, in receiving Living Wage accreditation.
So, with this pledge towards fair pay being entrenched in our history, what can we do to ensure co-operatives are widespread practitioners and pioneers of fair pay? And what are the benefits?
It’s only a small thing, but co-ops are one of the few collectives of ethical businesses that can actually make a combined impact and become a force on the issues of today.
If the majority of Living Wage employers were co-operatives, then this is one way to shift public perception and be another way to promote the co-op model. By attaching ourselves to other causes that are already receiving mass media attention, co-operatives can share some of that exposure.
We need to show that co-operatives are different – just like the sector does by being pioneers of the Fair Tax Mark.
With the upcoming national co-operative development strategy being delivered by Co-operatives UK next year, it’s time to think how we can grow the sector.
And this scheme can encourage the sector’s businesses to collectively campaign and join up on the issues that matter. When new co-ops are formed, could it be feasible that ethical badges such as Living Wage and Fair Tax are automatically applied for, for example?
By being the biggest business model in ethical badge schemes, such as Living Wage, co-operatives can have more influence over the issues that matter and greater kudos from the general public. It’s all about showing the co-operative difference.
In this article
- Belfast Cleaning Society
- Co-operative College
- CO-OPERATIVE Group
- Co-operatives UK
- Consumer cooperative
- Living wage
- Living Wage Foundation
- Minimum wage
- Revolver Co-operative
- Social Issues
- The Co-operative Group
- United Kingdom
- Top Stories
- From the editor