Seventeen co-operatives and seven co-op councils have been shortlisted across four categories for the Co-operative of the Year Awards 2018.
The awards, organised by apex body Co-operatives UK, celebrate the impact, vibrancy, diversity and inspirational nature of the UK’s burgeoning co-operative sector. The awards are run across four categories: Leading Co-operative of the Year; Inspiring Co-operative of the Year; Breakthrough Co-operative of the Year; and - new for 2018 - Co-operative Council of the Year. The awards are decided by an online vote which runs until 15 June. Voting is open to all with individuals eligible to cast one vote per category.
Five co-ops made the shortlist for the Leading Co-operative of the Year, with the category dominated by retail societies and also featuring the UK's only 100% organic farmer-owned and farmer-run dairy cooperative. Those making the shortlist are: Central England Co-operative; East of England Co-operative; The Co-op; Midcounties Co-operative; and The Organic Milk Suppliers Co-operative (OMSCo).
"I think the wonderful thing about these awards is that people get to find out about co-ops that perhaps they've never heard of before. The diversity is incredible, from foster care to high street retailers, and from accountancy to Fairtrade footballs." John Atherton, Co-operatives UK
The Inspiring Co-operative of the Year shortlist features: Cartrefi Cymru, a co-operative which supports people with learning disabilities in Wales; financial services provider London Mutual Credit Union, which operates in some of London's most disadvantaged communities; Somerset-based independent retailer Radstock Co-operative Society; Foster Care Co-operative, the UK's only co-operative fostering agency; and Manchester-based wholefoods worker co-operative Unicorn Grocery.
In the Breakthrough category the four co-ops shortlisted are: Co-Cars, a unique hire-by-the-hour social enterprise in Exeter and the south west; the community-owned traditional Welsh pub Cymdeithas Tafarn Sinc; the Fairtrade sports balls supplier Bala Sport; Glenwyvis Distillery, the world's first community-owned distillery; Manchester-based architects Loop Systems; award-winning film producers The Service; and Third Sector Accountancy a worker co-operative offering an ethical approach to financial services.
Our new award sees councils from Cardiff, Croydon, Newcstle upon Tyne, Oldham, South Tyneside, Stevenage and Greenwich go head to head.
John Atherton, Co-operatives UK Membership Manager, said: "I think the wonderful thing about these awards is that people get to find out about co-ops that perhaps they've never heard of before. I do hope people take the time to read through the submissions for each of the nominations, as the passion felt for these great co-operatives really shines through. Also it'd be great if people vote across all four categories as well.
"As always, voters are faced with tough choices. The diversity is incredible, from foster care to high street retailers, and from accountancy to Fairtrade footballs. We've also thrown local government into the mix, with our new award for co-operative councils.
"We like to shout about co-operatives giving people control over what matters to them, so that's why it's now down to the people - to co-op members, customers, suppliers, supporters and more - to decide the outcome in our open, online vote.”
Online voting for the Co-operative of the Year Awards runs from 4 May to 15 June, with the winner announced at Co-operative Congress in London on Saturday 23 June. Along with the award, the Breakthrough category winner will receive the option to access £1,000 worth of specialist business advice from The Hive, Co-operatives UK’s business support programme sponsored by the Co-operative Bank. The awards are sponsored by the Co-operative Council Innovation Network.