Did you know that 2012 was the UN International Year of Co-operatives? No, me neither, I’m afraid. But that’s a pity – turns out Co-operatives are bigger business and far more important than most of us may have imagined.
Did you know, for example, that worldwide one billion people are members of Co-operatives? And although many of these are self-employed, co-operatives actually directly employ 100 million people – that’s 20% more than multi-nationals employ.
The worldwide turnover of these Co-operatives is over one trillion dollars and one way or another they provide livelihoods to over 3 billion people.
And you thought the capitalist economy was the only show in town, eh?
When a group of workers, businessmen and craftsmen got together in Rochdale in 1844 to set up a co-operative retailing business to provide cheap, good quality food and provisions to the people of the town, they in fact sowed the seeds of the massive worldwide movement we see today. They have now gone down in history as the Rochdale Pioneers.
Co-operative businesses are continuing to grow and, undamaged by the banking crisis, their turnover in the UK has grown by 21% since 2008, to reach £36 billion.
About 75% of all Fairtrade goods are produced by co-operatives enabling 887,000 smallholders in developing countries to earn a fair wage. The majority of Spanish olive oil, champagne and parmesan cheese are co-operatively produced – and the sector is important in activities as diverse as brewing, farming, finance, retailing and dairy products. Brand names you may have heard of are Lurpak (butter), Ocean Spray (cranberry and other fruit juices) and Sunkist (raisins and sultanas).
Co-operatives are nearer than you might realise – not only are there branches of the Co-operative Society in every town in the UK but one of Europe’s largest co-operatives is completing a large milk processing plant not far from Tring in Aston Clinton.
Why not join in? Sign up as a member at your local Co-op store. You’ll earn divi too!
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