Today, MPs are debating a private members bill from Labour’s Anna McMorrin MP, which aims to create a level playing-field for co-operatives and mutuals seeking to raise funds for environmental projects, while adding protections against demutualisation.
Co-operatives have a huge potential to deliver sustainable and inclusive economic growth. As the many hundreds of community energy projects around the country demonstrate, our movement has a great enthusiasm for tackling the climate crisis head on. From solar energy on rooftops and innovative electric car sharing schemes to leading the way in co-operative stores to reduce the carbon footprint of food, co-operatives are already developing the practical solutions that are urgently needed.
However, there remain barriers to co-operative growth. This bill would be an important first step in addressing one of these: the ability to raise external capital for growth and sustainable investment.
Opportunities to change the law are rare, and updates to the rules governing co-operatives are long overdue if we are to significantly grow the sector and ensure co-operatives play a bigger role in the economic recovery after Covid-19. The Bill includes a new equity share that is repayable at the option of the society rather than withdrawable at the option of the member, an optional lock on non-distributable capital surplus and an optional lock on conversion to a company – measures which have widespread support from the sector.
We hope that MPs will support the passage of the Green Shares Bill to Committee Stage, where we have an opportunity to work with the movement to amend, improve and ultimately pass much needed changes into law that help to create a greener, fairer, more inclusive economy.