Above photo: The Handmade Bakery, a cooperative business in the UK. Source: UK Coops
Dave Boyle, a UK-based cooperatives expert, wrote in Economia last March on “the strange re-birth of co-operatives in Britain.”
Among the organizations’ findings:
- 98% of UK co-operatives were still trading three years after formation compared to 65% of traditional companies
- Since 2008 the UK economy shrank 1.7% while co-ops grew 23%
- 56% of UK coops are in disadvantaged areas
- 88% of UK coops seek to minimize their environmental impact compared to 44% of traditional businesses who say they have “taken no action whatsoever”
- Engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave an organization
- 85% ‘agree’ or ‘very much agree’ that being a co-operative gives them a business advantage.
- 85% actively use their co-operative status in marketing
Add to this, being a cooperative owner-employee may even help you live a longer life.
Boyle writes about the findings of David Erdal, author of Beyond The Corporation: Humanity Working. Erdal found that life expectancy for Italian citizens in a town with a high degree of cooperatives was 2.5 years longer than that of citizens in a nearby town without cooperatives.
When Erdal mentioned this finding to a chair at UK cooperative retailer John Lewis Partnerships, Boyle writes, these findings were confirmed—John Lewis’ “partners” (their word for employee-owners”) lived longer than their peers employed by other, non-cooperative retailers. The organization had to revise its actuarial tables.
Erdal attributes the increased life expectancy to the increased value placed on co-op employees; they are more likely to be better paid and less likely to be made redundant, both of which impact health and wellbeing.
And having a stake in your fate is empowering; powerlessness has been shown as a risk factor for disease.
As co-ops provide a high quality of life for their employee-owners, the employee-owners are, in return, more productive. Democracy in the workplace was shown to increase productivity by nine percent, and co-op employee productivity went up 33% over for years compared to 17% in conventional businesses.
It’s a back-to-basics philosophy; when people have a stake, they feel more empowered, which makes them healthier and motivated to work harder.