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Calls to Strengthen the Co-Operative and Mutuals Sector

5 July 2017 at 8:31 am
Rachel McFadden
Australia’s peak body for co-operative and mutual models of enterprise is calling for Australians to get behind the push to “humanise capitalism”.

Rachel McFadden | 5 July 2017 at 8:31 am


Calls to Strengthen the Co-Operative and Mutuals Sector
5 July 2017 at 8:31 am

Australia’s peak body for co-operative and mutual models of enterprise is calling for Australians to get behind the push to “humanise capitalism”.

In light of the UN International Day of Cooperatives on Saturday, Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM) joined other co-op bodies around the world in advocating for a more people-centred economy.

BCCM CEO Melina Morrison told Pro Bono News the theme of the day was inequality and increasing awareness that co-operatives can offer a way to tackle inequality, global poverty and other forms of social and economic disadvantage.

“Around the world one billion people are members of cooperatives and every year, this being the 95th year, global cooperatives get together to grow awareness of alternative business models and to make sure people know there is an alternative, particularly in these times where the ‘business as usual’ model has seemed to fail to deliver people their most basic needs,” Morrison said.

Morrison said there were currently 2,000 co-operative businesses operating in the Australian economy which comprised of a whole range of businesses Australians encounter everyday.  

She said on top of agricultural co-ops, university bookshops, superannuation and motoring,  co-operatives were increasingly gaining traction for addressing social and environmental issues.

“We have seen a huge resurgence in the interest in co-operatives, particularly in community members that want to find a way of running a social enterprise that is sustainable and commercially disciplined that doesn’t rely on grants or ongoing funding,” Morrison said.

“These are companies that can still operate in a commercially viable way but because they are member owned the operative can return profits back to their members. We call it shared value.”

Morrison said a huge amount of the work BCCM does is raising awareness of co-operatives and advocating for recognition, regulation, and education of the sector.

“Eight in 10 Australians are currently members of, or are involved in mutually owned organisations. But sometimes we describe this sector as the ninja economy, meaning that it is hiding in plain sight,” she said.

Morrison said without awareness, regulation and a national uniform legislation, co-operatives were often falling through the gaps when it came to applying for grants or government co-investment programs that might help their communities.

“In terms of education most lawyers and accountants are not studying even a day on the co-operative business model. That means we lack a lot of expertise when we go to set our businesses up,” she said.

Morrison said some of the big growth areas were in the care sector and co-operatives had been particularly successful in bringing people together to tackle social and environmental issues.

“Co-operatives can help find solutions to the intractable issues to do with inequality,” she said.

“One of the ways co-operatives have been doing this is to work very closely with international institutions like the United Nations to ensure that the Sustainable Development Goals can be met globally.

“The commitments that cooperatives are signing up to all over the globe are based on UN Sustainable Development Goals and a drive to show that business can combine commercial discipline and a social mission so that there is a way of humanising capitalism.”

Rachel McFadden  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Rachel is a journalist specialising in the social sector.

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