The benefits of co‑operatives

Ownership matters. Giving people ownership of the businesses that they are closest to - whether as employees, as customers or as suppliers - has a triple effect.

Sharing ownership gives people a stake, creating greater engagement, interest and concern for the long term interests of the business. This applies as much to customer or employee owners of large retail businesses as it does to local people, who together own valued local enterprises such as pubs or football clubs.

Sharing ownership boosts productivity by making employees and suppliers more likely to work harder to support the business. Studies consistently show that the commitment ownership brings boosts productivity because people are invested, emotionally and financially, in the business.

Sharing ownership harnesses innovation, by giving those who understand the business best a reason to contribute to its development. There has been a move towards participation across the business world, as companies try to harness the ideas of those closest to the frontline - the employees and customers. When these people are also the owners there is an incentive, and a reward, for contributions.

But while business ownership matters, people have a sense of powerlessness about the economy. In Britain, 58 per cent of people say big businesses are out of control and 57 per cent say they have no influence over the economy.

Co-operatives offer a solution. They give people control of the businesses they are closest to - whether they shop at them, work at them, or supply them. And they give people control over things that matter to them, in process boosting productivity, harnessing innovation and giving them a stake. That is the co-operative advantage.

“The co-operative movement is a dynamic, creative mindset that roots long-term social value inside financial value. When you accord each individual the dignity of ownership you unleash creativity and innovation on a scale few traditional business leaders dare dream of.” Margaret Heffernan, A Bigger Prize, 2014