Irish Co-operative Organisation Society launches guide on how to start a co-op

The Irish government is also planning ‘a complete overhaul’ of the existing legislation on co-operatives

A new guide on how to start a co-operative is available to investors and communities across Ireland.

Created by the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS), the guide was launched by minister for trade promotion Robert Troy and ICOS president Jerry Long on 1 September.

Mr Troy said: “I am fully aware of the continuing importance of the co-operative movement throughout Ireland, particularly to local and rural communities. This is particularly important in these current challenging times and I look forward to the co-operative movement playing its part in the ongoing recovery from the Covid-19 situation.

“I welcome this initiative by ICOS where their member organisations can already point to industries that originally started small but now currently provide a €14bn (£12.47bn) contribution to the Irish economy, most notably in the dairy and agri-food sector but also other sectors across 130 co-operative enterprises in Ireland.”

The minister said his department was working on “a complete overhaul” of the existing legislation on co-operatives. “This very substantial piece of work is well advanced and I intend to bring proposals to Government in the coming months which will provide for a modernised and effective legislative framework for co-operatives,” he added.

James O’Donnell, vice president of ICOS and chair of the ICOS Rural Business Committee said in a statement: “The establishment of co-operative businesses, where members work together to back and support a mutually owned enterprise, is a successful and proven approach particularly during times of market failure.  Possibilities exist in digital services, e-commerce, renewable energy, tourism, housing, sports clubs, media ownership, restaurant services including delivery, social care provision including homecare and nursing home provision, and solutions for the increased number of remote workers who will require adequate facilities to work as effectively as if they were in the office. New businesses could set up as a co-operative or existing businesses could collaborate with a number of similar enterprises to create economies of scale, provide a wider range of services in a more reliable, efficient and cost effective manner and, as a result, retain customers and stay in business.

ICOS President, Jerry Long added: “Co-operative businesses can provide a more equitable economic model while also supporting growth and development, locally, regionally and nationally.

“A unique aspect of the Covid-19 crisis is that businesses may close, making workers unemployed despite there still being demand for the services they provided through their former employer. In such situations and with some support and guidance, these workers could form a co-operative and get back to work, providing important services in a structure that will allow them to generate sustainable revenues, assist economic recovery and prevent further erosion of the vibrancy of our cities, towns, villages and rural communities.

“The more existing businesses we can save and the more new businesses we can create, the greater the level of return there will be to the Exchequer. The stimulation of indigenous enterprise has never been more important. We would like to see a strong and meaningful commitment to the promotion and development of the co-operative model, as a means to reboot the Irish economy, including completion of the ongoing legal review and modernisation of legislation surrounding co-operatives.

Mr Long believes the co-operative model can provide solutions to issues being faced by people and businesses as a result of the Covid-19 Emergency.

“The practical and economic benefits of co-operative entrepreneurship and enterprise are widely to be seen and can be realised even further. We will work with Government, communities and all interested parties to promote co-operative enterprise as a means for the renewal and recovery of society and the economy,” he concluded.

The guide can be accessed online.