On Monday 11th June, Impact’s Amelia Brookes visited the Co-operative Youth Summit in Manchester. The day featured a range of representatives from co-operative businesses all with the aim of catering to the interests of their workers instead of larger shareholders. Amelia spoke with CEO Rose Morley and members of co-operative businesses to gain more insight into their opinion on the economy, environmental sustainability and more…
Amelia- ‘With the cost of the living crisis applying especially to young people living on their own, would you see co-operatives as a more stable form of employment?’
Rose– ‘It’s interesting that you ask that! We did some research during the pandemic, and actually, cooperative businesses are more resilient and four times less likely to go under than any other form of business. I think the reason for that is because co-ops are owned and controlled by their members, who are in it for different reasons than usual shareholders. In the pandemic others had investors removing their funding whereas what you saw in co-operative businesses was the community doing their best to make it work.’
Amelia- ‘Over time, do you think that the creation of more co-operative businesses in different sectors would lead to new employment opportunities?’
Rose– ‘I really do and that’s the point of today. Not enough people know that they can join a co-op business. Even though I highlighted in my previous presentation that the co-op economy is worth £40 billion to the UK, that is just 1% of all businesses in total, so even if we doubled that, you would ultimately get a more sustainable long term plan that would transform society.’
Amelia– ‘Have you considered how co-operative businesses can contribute to sustainable fashion initiatives, and are there any that are currently doing so?’
Rose– ‘Well there’s Stitched Up, and I’m going to go into one of their sessions today! We have internationally worked with SEWA, which is in India, to make masks for Covid- some people would bring material, and we would work together- this is a popular idea in textiles. There’s also a community clothing CIC out in Blackburn that works with local supply chains and uses local materials. We’ve even had students involved in our co-ops as they believe in a student fashion community!’
Amelia- ‘How, in your opinion, do workplaces become more environmentally sustainable? Is it a long process?’
Rose– ‘Well, we have the Co-operative Bank here today, and they’re the highest in Europe for contribution to their ESG goals. What they’re doing is they have a shared plan on how to get to net zero. When we spoke to co-ops ahead of COP26, we found that 1 in 5 co-ops have got a plan for net zero, which is a lot higher than traditional businesses. Mid County have been doing things like e-vehicles and e-mopeds, and Ripple Energy are building wind turbines. Repowering London help organisations to put solar panels on their roof! Even co-ops that aren’t directly there to tackle the climate crisis generally have concerns for their sustainability.’
Amelia- ‘I noticed that Andy Burnham is at the conference today- how does it feel to know that the local government is also interested in what’s happening?’
Rose- ‘I’ve worked with Andy before, actually. He’s been a little bit of a mentor for me, as he was in the co-operative moment before I was! Andy is a Labour politician and a heavily subscribed one, but he’s also a member of the Co- Op party. It’s less that we’ve got them interested, it’s more that they have us interested.’
Amelia also spoke with Priya from Politics Rewired about what her work with co-operative businesses involves.
Amelia- ‘Do you mind telling me about the co-operative you are part of in San Francisco?’
Priya- ‘Yes, of course. So, we’re actually completely remote, so we have members throughout the US, but I’m currently living in San Francisco. It’s called Politics Rewired, and we have a peer-to-peer texting solution that a lot of campaigns and unions and other organisations use to text a variety of different audiences. The next product, that we’re building right now, is a collaborative database app.’
Amelia- ‘How does that work exactly?’
Priya- ‘So the database app allows people to share data- we’re building a really robust permissioning centre on top of that, so you can create a spreadsheet and share it with someone who can only see certain rows on the database that relate to other volunteers in their ZIP code.’
Amelia- ‘Would you encourage another young person to join a co-operative?’
Priya- ‘Definitely! I think it’s a really cool way to learn how we all deserve a say on how our company is- we don’t need to keep having structures where everyone at the top is profiting off everyone at the bottom. Our entire world would be more sustainable if the people who were actually building products had a say in how these are used, and are benefiting from the profits on them too.’
Featured image courtesy of Amelia Brookes. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.
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What an informative report! Thanks to Miss Brookes..