For all the troubles that have hit the Co-operative Bank, as earlier with other banks, there are over six thousand co-operatives across the UK, owned in turn by 15.4 million people.
Co-operatives are businesses that are owned by the people that are involved in the everyday life of the business. One new co-operative starts every working day.
The survival rate for new co-operatives is also far higher than for business at large. One in three conventional businesses goes out of business within three years of starting. For co-operative enterprises, that is only one in twenty.
For five successive years the co-operative sector has outperformed the UK economy, growing by 20% since 2008. Across the nations of the UK, our turnover is now £36.7 billion. Worldwide, the co-operative sector has a turnover 54 times the global turnover of Coca-Cola.
Examples of this commercial success story are:
- In farming, 65% of all farmers in Scotland, an expanding sector, are now members of an agricultural co-operative.
- Co-operative schools have doubled their number every sixteen months, with now over 500 co-operative schools in England.
- There are now one million members of credit unions in Britain. These are financial co-operatives, lauded most recently by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who asks all churches to work with their local credit union.
- Co-operative Energy is challenging the big six retail energy giants. The percentage of UK consumers who would recommend their energy supplier is 30% overall but an amazing 97% for Co-operative Energy.
It is a strength of co-operative businesses like this that they benefit by being more inclusive. For example, 37% of directorships are held by women in co-operatives, compared to 13% of leading companies.
We are in tough competitive markets and we use our co-operative model as a source of competitive advantage.
Co-operatives benefit from high levels of customer and workplace loyalty. They give a voice to employees and customers, creating space for their ideas for product and service innovation.
Research comparing co-operatives shows that the more participatory the business is, the more productive it is.
There are over six thousand co-operatives in the UK and we are still confident, savvy and growing.