"In the last few decades, the diversity of forms of business organisation has diminished and we need to reverse that trend.” John Kay, Financial Times
Ownership gives people control over things that matter to them. Without it, they have less of a stake in society and in the economy. The effect on business is detrimental, slowing down key determinants of economic success, like productivity, innovation and entrepreneurialism.
Concerns about ownership are echoed by the British public, who feel they have no control – in their workplaces, over big business, or over the economy as a whole.
Co-operatives offer a solution. On the outside they might look like any other business; it’s what goes on inside, because of the way they are owned, that makes the difference.
From high street retailers to farmer controlled businesses, credit unions to community pubs, co-operatives are mutual businesses that are owned and run together by their members, whether those members are the employees, the customers, local residents or suppliers.
They operate in the interests of the members, who have an equal say in how the business is run and decide how its profits are used. They give people control over things that matter to them and help them pull together.
The secret of success is… sharing it.
The co-operative advantage
By giving the people involved in a business – employees, customers, residents, suppliers – a stake in it, co-operation has a triple effect.
- Sharing ownership boosts productivity. The potential boost from co-operation to the UK economy of higher employee engagement alone is estimated to be at least £59.4bn.
- Sharing ownership harnesses innovation. Innovation accounts for 70% of long-term economic growth in the UK. The most common sources of innovation are employees and customers.
- Sharing ownership drives entrepreneurship. Data on growth businesses shows that entrepreneurs are motivated to build businesses and ‘create change through co-operative relationships’, rather than acting as lone entrepreneurs
"Innovation trends are encouraging more economic collaboration. This is co-operating in order to compete.” - Ed Mayo, editor, The Co-operative Advantage: Innovation, co-operation and why sharing business ownership is good for Britain
The UK co-operative economy 2015
The UK co-operative sector is diverse. Thousands of independent businesses work across the economy, from sports to social care. They range from micro enterprises and community organisations to famous brands and big businesses. What they share is that they are owned and run together by their members.
Contributing to the economy
Media reports over the last 18 months have pointed, superficially, to challenges in the co-operative sector. Whilst concerns at the Co-operative Group may have stolen the headlines, the sector as a whole has been performing well. Growth at customer and employee owned retailers like Midcounties Co-operative and the John Lewis Partnership have led to an overall growth of the co-operative sector’s turnover over the last five years.
Increasing business ownership
Co-operatives give people control over the businesses that affect them. Since 2010, more and more people have become members of co-operatives, whether customers owning the large retailers they use, fans owning their football clubs or local people owning nearby shops and pubs.
Co-operative are bubbling up everywhere, from local residents starting up community owned energy projects, to young people forming co-ops in the creative industries, residents saving their much loved local pub and employees buying their workplace. There are, now, nearly 7,000 independent co-operative businesses in the UK.
“Most entrepreneurs are not motivated just by money and those who are motivated for collaborative ends, to make a difference, tend to be more successful.” Rebecca Harding, The Collaborative Entrepreneur
Business resilience: co-operatives and the rest
Starting a business is risky. Only four in ten new businesses in the UK survive their first five years, according to the Office of National Statistics latest analysis. Co-operatives buck this trend, however, with eight out of ten co-operatives created in the last five years still going strong. A combination of sharing risks, harnessing the ideas of many and the stake members have, means co-operatives demonstrate significant business resilience.
Co-operatives across the country
Co-operatives are everywhere, from Ipswich to Inverness, with co-operatives performing well in each of the UK nations. Like many models for innovation, clusters of co-operatives form when the idea, and the success, of shared ownership spreads. There are co-operative hotspots in cities like Brighton and Bristol, and rural areas like Cornwall and the Highlands.
Co-operatives work across the economy. Three sectors in particular are performing well, seeing significant growth. The second largest part of the co-operative sector, farmer co-operatives has grown by almost a third, whilst co-operatives operating in health and social care have grown by half again. The biggest area of growth is in energy, an increase powered by the combination of a flourishing renewable energy co-operative sector and the start-up of Co-operative Energy in 2010, which now supplies 213,000 customers.
Co-operatives across the economy
The co-operative sector has always been strong in retail and agriculture, where a small number of businesses generate a significant amount of turnover. Yet co-operatives operate across the economy, from sports to social care. Whilst 2014 saw the strength of co-operative banking drop, it was balanced by the success of credit unions at a local level as well as growth in sectors from energy to education.
The UK Co-operative 100, 2015
Each year, Co-operatives UK publishes the top 100 co-operative businesses in the UK. It is largely dominated by businesses in two sectors, retail and agriculture. Consumer owned retail co-operatives account for 11 of the top 100 and have a £14.9 billion turnover. the other significant retailer is the employee owned John Lewis Partnership, which has for the first time become the largest single co-operative in the country, following The Co-operative Group's recapitalisation of the business through the sale of 80% of the Co-operative Bank. Half of the top 100 are agricultural co-operatives, showing the large role they play in the co-o-operative economy.
|Position||Organisation Name||Number of Members||Turnover|
|1||John Lewis Partnership PLC||93,800||£10,942,600,000|
|2||Co-operative Group Limited||8,400,000||£10,813,725,000|
|3||The Midcounties Co-operative Limited||504,000||£1,209,693,000|
|4||Central England Co-operative Limited||1,410,608||£956,522,000|
|5||United Merchants Public Limited Company||0||£939,594,217|
|6||Openfield Group Limited||3,893||£709,820,000|
|7||National Merchant Buying Society Limited||761||£684,303,000|
|8||First Milk Limited||1,317||£610,500,000|
|9||Fane Valley Co-operative Society Limited||1,974||£533,935,000|
|10||Arla Milk Link Limited||1,562||£454,263,000|
|11||United Dairy Farmers Limited||1,721||£443,155,000|
|12||Scottish Midland Co-operative Society Limited||260,977||£436,442,000|
|13||Mole Valley Farmers Limited||-||£407,793,000|
|14||East of England Co-operative Society Limited||276,879||£388,097,238|
|15||The Southern Co-operative||151,000||£350,505,000|
|16||Lincolnshire Co-operative Limited||231,435||£285,892,000|
|17||Anglia Farmers Limited||2,919||£241,988,883|
|18||Berry Garden Growers Limited||59||£212,851,452|
|19||Scott Bader Company Limited||-||£198,688,000|
|20||The Channel Islands Co-operative Society Limited||120,969||£187,829,000|
|21||Atlasfram Group Limited||1,126||£184,536,378|
|22||United Oilseeds Marketing Limited||0||£180,390,065|
|24||Tullis Russell Group||738||£158,585,000|
|25||ANM Group Limited||£149,866,000|
|26||Housing Finance Corporation Limited||7||£143,960,000|
|27||Greenwich Leisure Limited||1,165||£133,169,694|
|28||Agricultural Central Trading Limited||4,168||£116,114,659|
|29||Woldmarsh Producers Limited||793||£113,484,182|
|30||United Oilseed Producers Limited||-||£110,093,731|
|31||Chelmsford Star Co-operative Society Limited||76,298||£104,509,438|
|32||United Farmers Limited||21||£100,123,470|
|33||Heart of England Co-operative Society||255,342||£94,551,000|
|34||International Exhibition Co-operative Wine Society Limited||0||£90,473,000|
|35||Organic Milk Suppliers Co-operative Limited||-||£88,710,000|
|36||Brandsby Agricultural Trading Association Limited||4,234||£78,399,633|
|37||Ballyrashane Co-operative Agricultural and Dairy Society (1990) Limited||222||£77,847,305|
|38||G's Growers Ltd.||-||£74,340,000|
|40||Scotlean Pigs Limited||89||£68,068,951|
|41||Tarff Valley Limited||1,019||£64,011,648|
|42||Yorkshire Farmers Livestock Marketing Limited||267||£59,378,937|
|43||Telford Co-operative Multi Academy Trust||-||£59,011,000|
|44||Grand Union Housing Group Limited||8||£56,871,000|
|45||Farm Fresh PO Limited||8||£55,751,242|
|46||Long Clawson Dairy Limited||126||£54,860,000|
|47||Rochdale Boroughwide Housing||2,957||£53,177,000|
|48||Clynderwen and Cardiganshire Farmers Limited||6,304||£50,003,984|
|49||RCT Homes Limited||5,449||£46,435,000|
|50||Speciality Produce Limited||13||£45,828,686|
|52||Greenfields Community Housing Limited||5,463||£39,406,525|
|55||Bron Afon Community Housing Limited||1,876||£36,769,000|
|56||Radstock Co-operative Society Limited||7,013||£36,127,912|
|57||Phoenix Community Housing Association (Bellingham and Downham) Limited||2,620||£32,659,000|
|58||South Caernarvon Creameries Limited||111||£31,683,778|
|59||Surrey County Cricket Club Limited||8,290||£30,665,481|
|60||Watford Community Housing Trust||2,724||£28,818,000|
|61||HF Holidays Limited||34,118||£27,959,000|
|62||B A K O (Western) Limited||1,438||£27,162,493|
|63||Cornwall Farmers Limited||4,028||£26,262,179|
|64||South Armagh Farming Enterprises Limited||30,003||£25,933,692|
|65||Owner-Drivers Radio Taxi Service Limited||1,316||£24,844,000|
|66||Carmarthen and Pumsaint Farmers Limited||8,749||£23,880,980|
|67||Community Gateway Association Limited||3,899||£23,433,848|
|68||Tamworth Co-operative Society Limited||18,238||£23,269,000|
|69||North Country Primestock Limited||411||£21,656,246|
|70||Local Care Direct Limited||328||£20,957,855|
|71||London Bakers Buying Association Limited||540||£20,676,096|
|72||Infinity Foods Co-operative Limited||87||£20,495,385|
|73||Society of Growers of Topfruit Limited||18||£20,186,593|
|74||Aspatria Farmers Limited||803||£20,127,651|
|75||Bedfordshire Growers Limited||37||£19,968,293|
|76||Argyll Community Housing Association Limited||290||£19,269,000|
|77||Lancashire County Cricket Club Limited||5,880||£19,148,419|
|79||Best Western Hotels||-||£18,657,000|
|80||Hay and Brecon Farmers Limited||1,122||£18,298,187|
|81||North East Grains Limited||82||£18,149,906|
|82||Dengie Crops Ltd.||-||£18,096,779|
|83||Anglia Home Furnishings Holdings Ltd||175||£17,959,000|
|84||East of Scotland Farmers Limited||330||£17,795,683|
|85||Weald Granary Limited||190||£16,787,387|
|86||South West Lancashire Farmers Limited||581||£15,930,821|
|87||Camgrain Stores Limited||473||£15,792,525|
|88||St Clere's Co-operative Academy Trust||-||£15,260,000|
|89||Galloway And Macleod||-||£15,228,000|
|90||Kent Wool Growers Limited||3,788||£15,144,969|
|91||The Green Pea Company Limited||230||£14,930,714|
|92||Coastal Grains Marketing Limited||99||£14,369,154|
|93||Watmos Community Homes||13||£13,960,000|
|94||Salford Community Leisure Limited||384||£13,684,075|
|95||Furness and South Cumberland Supply Association Limited||843||£13,677,493|
|96||Littleton and Badsey Growers Ltd||-||£13,467,275|
|97||Essential Trading Co-operative Limited||76||£13,388,445|
|98||Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club Limited||7,288||£12,253,585|
|99||Hampshire Grain Limited||104||£12,169,415|
|100||Torridge Vale Limited||17||£11,970,034|
Explore the data now
Following extensive work on data over recent years, we are releasing this on an open data platform and welcome the engagement of members and partners in the development of our knowledge base on the co‑operative sector.