In May 2016 Cabinet Office launched its review of mission-led businesses. Co-operatives UK has made it a priority for co-ops to be properly understood within this developing agenda.
What is a mission-led business?
We think that intuitively the vast majority of people would take a mission business to be a commercial trading entity with a clear mission or purpose at the heart of what it does. Co-ops, mutuals and social enterprises are clearly mission-led, and should also be understood as such.
However, Cabinet Office is using a very particular definition of a mission-led business. It says these are businesses with the following characteristics:
- Fully profit distributing
- Clear binding commitment to making a positive social impact
- Reports on its mission to stakeholders
So Cabinet Office is really interested only in a subset of mission-led businesses which are fully profit distributing, but which have do have governance and reporting measures in place to commit to a clear social impact. B Corps in particular spring to mind.
What about co-ops?
The Minister for Civil Society, Rob Wilson MP, has personally encouraged Co-operatives UK to promote a better understanding of co-operatives through this review and we are excited by the possibilities it presents. We know there are many businesses that are fully committed to a range of economic, social and environmental missions, but do not necessarily meet the accepted definition of social enterprise or cannot make use of the ‘regulated social enterprise’ legal forms.
We particularly think that consumer co-ops and worker co-ops using the co-operative society and company legal forms share the characteristics of mission-led business proposed by Cabinet Office.
This is an opportunity to get a better understanding of the nature and needs of these of co-ops.
Our response to the review
On behalf of our members we have submitted a written response to the review.