The benefits of being part of a co-operative
WHAT do Lionel Messi and John Chillcott have in common? They both work for a co-operative.
Messi – widely touted as the best footballer in the world – plays for Barcelona FC, a Spanish football club owned by their fans.
John Chillcott is chief executive of Anglia Co-operative, the Peterborough-based retail Co-op owned by its members.
Co-operatives and their business style and ethics will be very much in focus when the first-ever Co-operatives Fortnight runs from June 19 to July 3.
Anglia Co-operative is one of seven founding sponsors for the fortnight. During those 14 days co-operatives and community initiatives of all sizes up and down the country will be showing how they work – under the banner There is an Alternative.
Anglia Co-operative is a shining example of the co-operative model, with more than 300,000 members having a say in how it is run and enjoying a share of the profits.
Based at Burch House in Saville Road, Peterborough, it is the sixth largest consumer cooperative in the UK, employing 3,200 people across businesses as diverse as foodstores, furniture stores, department stores, funeral homes, travel agencies and opticians.
Mr Chillcott said: “We originated over 130 years ago in 1877, born out of the cooperative principles of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy and equality. But these 19th century values are still highly relevant to the chal- lenges for sustainable and fair socio-economic development in the 21st century.”
Anglia Co-operative is taking a lead role in helping other businesses, communities and individuals get involved in the co-operative way of doing business.
It is promoting a business networking event on July 2 to throw the spotlight on co-operatives and there is also help available for those wishing to explore the potential of a co-operative further.
There are more than 4,800 independent co-operatives in the UK, covering a variety of areas, including healthcare, housing, farms, football clubs, credit unions and community-owned shops and pubs.
They are businesses, not charities, and often do better by working together. Rather than rewarding outside investors, a co-operative shares its profits amongst the members.
Across the UK, co-operatives are owned by more than 11 million people – but this mix of self-help and mutual aid has made co-operatives an international force. There are 100 million people around the world employed by co-operatives and 800 million people are members. In Kenya, for example, smallholders can trade their coffee for a fair price only because they are members of co-operatives. In France nine out of 10 farmers maintain their livelihood by being part of a co-operative. Mr Chillcott added: “Co-operation is ‘good business’ and ‘good for business’ in the 21st century and that’s why we are committed to demonstrating the co-operative philosophy to as many people as