Co-operatives signpost the way to tackle unprecedented challenges

November 08, 2011

The economic turbulence has blown-away the dowdy, out-moded image of the co-operative business model to reveal a new generation dedicated to tackling the unprecedented challenges facing our society, says a new report published today (8 November 2011) by The Co-operative Group.

Entitled “The New Pioneers”, the report is an annual review of the work of The Co-operative Enterprise Hub* and, illustrates how communities, by embracing the co-operative model, can support the economy for future generations.

Key findings of the report show that:

  • The co-operative economy is no longer regarded as a business backwater, it is witnessing new entrants engaged in a diverse range of sectors including: pubs, marketing and media, sports clubs, education, playgroups and gyms
  • The public is challenging the orthodoxy that the role of business is the relentless pursuit of profit

  • The Co-operative Enterprise Hub has delivered over 2,300 days of free advice, training and consultancy since its successful pilot-scheme in 2009

  • The service, which earlier this year became available across the UK for the first time, has supported almost 700 member-owned enterprises

  • The Co-operative Group, at the forefront of the resurgence of this alternative approach to enterprise, will invest an additional £7.5m, between 2012-14, in The Co-operative Enterprise Hub - exclusively supporting the development of fledgling and expanding member-owned enterprises

Michael Fairclough, The Co-operative Group’s Head of Community and Co-operative Investment, said: “The co-operative business model has been described as an old solution to a modern problem. Fundamentally, it gives people a voice, a say in how services are delivered. In an age when the general public have serious concerns about the transparency of our financial systems, it is a model that is being increasingly adopted.

“As more and more people rediscover the benefits of self-help and mutual ownership, the co-operative alternative will, without doubt, play an increasing part in fostering future enterprise – contributing to the rebuilding of a more balanced and stable UK economy.”

The unprecedented economic, social and environmental challenges have given rise to unprecedented opportunities for co-operative development.

The co-operation economy continues to grow. In 2010, sector turnover in the UK exceeded £33 billion - growing at 4.4% and out-performing the economy as a whole and, The Co-operative Enterprise Hub is witnessing the expansion of co-operatives across new sectors.

1 Arts & Media
2 Education and Training
3 Community Groups
4 Environment
5 Care
6 Retail
7 Food
8 Advice
9 Sport and Leisure
10 Housing
Table: Sector demand for the free advice, training and consultancy delivered by The Co-operative Enterprise Hub

For further information about setting up a co-operative enterprise and the support, advice and finance available to new and existing co-operative businesses, contact The Co-operative Enterprise Hub at

Additional Information:

* The Co-operative Enterprise Hub offers free advice, training and consultancy to new and existing co-operatives – supporting the creation and growth of sustainable member-owned enterprises across the UK. It represents a significant investment in the co-operative sector by The Co-operative Group, the UK’s largest mutual business. Available nationally, the service is delivered locally by a network of co-operative development specialists. Further information is available at

Case studies available
Report attached
About The Co-operative Group: The Co-operative Group is the UK’s largest mutual business, owned not by private shareholders but by over six million consumers.  It is the UK’s fifth biggest food retailer, the leading convenience store operator and a major financial services provider, operating The Co-operative Bank, Britannia and The Co-operative Insurance. Among its other businesses are the number one funeral services provider and Britain’s largest farming operation. As well as having clear financial and operational objectives, the Group has also set out its social and sustainability goals in its groundbreaking Ethical Plan, which specifies almost 50 commitments in these areas. The Group operates 4,800 retail trading outlets, employs more than 106,000 people and has an annual turnover of more than £13bn.  Further information is available at


Contact Information:

Andrew Torr
The Co-operative Group Press Office
Tel: 0161 827 5622
Mob: 07702 505551