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TV broadcaster, BAFTA-supported actor and politicians speak up for a more co-operative future

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26th June 2021
Last updated
8th July 2021
Andy Burnham
Andy Burnham spoke on a panel with young people

Co-op Congress saw a group of high profile speakers share their support for co-ops.

A plethora of high profile names including BAFTA-supported actor, Melissa Johns (BBC One drama LIFE, ITV’s Grantchester, Coronation Street) and TV presenter and environmental campaigner Chris Packham (BBC Springwatch, Blue Planet Live) came together with Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham and Mayor of Sheffield City Region Dan Jarvis to speak up about ‘the UK’s best kept secret – co-ops’!

Heading up an impressive line up of speakers at Co-op Congress, the flagship conference for the UK’s co-operative sector, TV Presenter and environmental campaigner Chris Packham delivered his recipe for positive social change in the post-Covid world.

Praising the staff at his local co-op store in Ashurst for their resilience during the pandemic and recalling fondly childhood visits to The Co-op with his mum (a fan!), Chris urged the audience never to forget that "co-operatives have a great history of social campaigning."  

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Co-operatives have a great history of social campaigning.
– Chris Packham, naturalist, broadcaster and environmental campaigner
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Hear from some of the delegates and speakers at Co-op Congress 2021!

Whilst exploring the importance of successful campaigning, Chris focused attention on tangible examples of co-op triumphs, including the development of the first compostable plastic bag, tackling increased violence against shop workers during the pandemic and encouraging diversity in leadership. 

Joining Chris was actor and founder of social enterprise Triple C and DANC, Melissa Johns who is committed to raising the profile of disabled actors on screen. She chaired a panel of female co-operative leaders who explored how to raise the profile of co-ops to the general public.

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As a member of a co-op, any type of co-op - because you know co-ops are not just shops - you are a co-owner. So these membership cards are pretty powerful. Once you know the secret, you might want to join a co-op too!
– Melissa Johns, Actor and social entrepreneur

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham and CEO of the UK’s largest co-op The Co-op Steve Murrells, joined a panel of young people to discuss the importance of engaging the next generation in co-operative business. They launched a Young People’s Summit in the autumn, funded by The Co-operative Bank, inviting young people from across the UK to share their views.

Andy Burnham said, “It’s really important to engage young people in co-ops, because it’s about the future of the movement. But more than that it’s about young people taking control and solving some of the issues that are actually holding them back in their lives. Whether that’s the cost of transport or the cost of housing, co-ops are actually the answer.”

He adds, “We need more co-ops to make society work better for everybody. When we say the phrase build back better it says to me that we can’t go back to business as usual. 

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The coming generation of young people want organisations that work for everyone, that are fair to everyone and co-ops can deliver that. Co-ops are about ‘us’ not ‘me.
– Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester

CEO of the UK’s largest co-op, The Co-op, Steve Murrells said, “The more young people we can attract into the movement and help address some of their concerns the better I think we’ll be as organisations. They bring energy, they bring a different thought to some of the issues that are playing out.”

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It has to be about wanting to put more back into society then they take out, it has to be about a different way of doing business, it has to be about disrupting in the right way that co-ops do better than anybody else. Now is the time to become a co-op!
– CEO of the UK’s largest co-op, The Co-op, Steve Murrells

Mayor of Sheffield City Region, Dan Jarvis outlined his plans to support more businesses to hand control to their employees and encourage the formation of more worker run co-ops as part of their economic recovery and renewal plans.

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When I look for inspiration, it is not just to the deep roots of the co-operative movement in our own region, but to Finland, where more than 80% of people are members of at least one cooperative, and to New Zealand, where they account for 20% of the economy.
– Dan Jarvis, Mayor of Sheffield City Region

He adds "It’s surely no coincidence that the top ten most cooperative economies also occupy 8 of the top 12 spots on the Social Progress Index”.

Rose Marley, CEO of Co-operative UK, the trade body who organises Co-op Congress and champions co-operative business said, “Congress has been the ‘parliament’ for co-ops for the last 150 years but it’s time to reinvigorate the programme and make it more meaningful for people’s lives today. By sharing the decision making power and distributing the wealth with their members, co- ops really do offer a fairer way to do business.’ 

“I’m delighted we’ve had such high profile speakers here today and it demonstrates this movement really is making a comeback’

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