Covid-19 and how we have dealt with it has shone a spotlight on the huge divisions that scar our economy and society. One positive thing to come out of this time has been the spontaneous outpouring of co-operative community activity to support those in greatest need. The challenge for all of us is how do we maintain this spirit and ensure it is channelled into sustainable co-operative businesses?
Earlier this month, we in Co-operatives UK published our annual Co-op Economy Report. Despite many challenges for the sector it showed steady progress with turnover growing to £38.2 billion creating employment for 241,714 people. You can read our report here.
This is no mean feat. We are less than 1% of the economy so it is a testament to the sheer hard work and resilience of the businesses that generate this turnover and the support of their 14 million members that they not only survive but prosper. Often however this is no thanks to the wider business environment that pays little heed to the requirements of the co-operative business form.
Yet just as this pandemic has shown weaknesses in our society it has shown the strength of the co-operative business model. It has been heartening to see how co-ops driven by their underlying values have risen to the challenge of delivering goods and services to their members and customers at this time. Now we know that serving the communities in which we sit and being socially responsible is not just being good but good for business too. Our evidence also shows that once formed co-ops are more resilient and sustainable than conventional businesses.
So as we emerge from this lockdown surely what we all want to see are more socially responsible more resilient businesses? That’s why I am delighted to see from this report from the Co-operative Party, ‘Owning the Future’ that the wider public share our aspiration for a fairer more democratic economy.
We must not let down that amazing volunteer effort and give those mutual aid groups the tools and support they need to develop sustainable co-operative enterprises welcoming them into the co-operative family.
‘Owning the Future’ is a significant contribution to this process as it offers us a route map to that more socially responsible, sustainable, more co-operative economy that the British public say they want. We all deserve to live in a more resilient, more just, less unequal society. Where communities are served by businesses in which we all have a stake. It is only when we have that stake and we can have our say that we can we honestly begin to rebuild better!