The Co-operative is a well known feature on High Streets across the UK. They have 5, 000 outlets, including shops, banks, funeral services, legal services all of which are ultimately owned by The Co-operative's six million members.
This model of business ownership has become well known to a lot of people and is used by a lot of organisations, for example there are housing co-operatives, health care co-operatives and many small co-operatively run businesses across the UK. All are owned and democratically controlled by their members, who may include employees, customers and local residents. The co-operative business model is a great way of running a business as it spreads risk and reward equally among those who have a stake in the business, it is often more intimately connected with the community in which it is based than many businesses are. The Co-operative can give help and advice to people wanting to set up their own co-operative business.
When the Rochdale Pioneers set up the first co-operative in 1844 it was revolutionary! Right from the start the Rochdale Pioneers distributed a proportion of their profits to their members. The Co-operative continues profit sharing to this day.
As well as its commitment to member ownership, The Co-operative has also been a pioneer in ethical business practices, for instance in 1985 The Co-operative banned the use of animal testing for its own brand toiletries and in 2003 it made the decision that all own brand coffee would be fair-trade. In 1992 the Co-operative Bank became the world's first bank to introduce a customer led ethical policy, which makes it the first choice of bank for people who care what happens to their money.
To mark this long term success, The Co-operative has just launched a multi media advertising campaign Join the revolution to highlight their ethical credentials. The campaign features people and groups that The Co-operative have empowered to bring their own revolutions to life. One of my favourite highlighted projects is Urban Bees, which was set up by bee-lovers Brian McCallum and Alison Benjamin. Brian and Alison have set up 20 new hives on rooftops and in community gardens and allotments across London, and they will have given training and start-up equipment to approximately 300 people in the city by the end of 2011. This taps in very well to the current increasing interest in self sufficiency and urban food growing.
Urban Bees is not just a one-off either. The Co-operative is very committed to bees and runs Plan Bee a campaign to save the honey bee.
Do you think you could set up a project as vital as Urban Bees? The Co-operative is looking for new ideas for revolutions in the UK, in the following categories:
Benefiting the community
Combating climate change
Inspiring young people
Tackling global poverty
If you have an idea Get involved - the most popular idea in each of five regions of the UK will win £5 000 to help make it happen!
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