There was an editorial in The Times newspaper yesterday reflecting on the collapse of British Home Stores. The editorial concluded that ‘No more productive system has ever been devised than market exchange and capitalism’. As you know, the Co-op is a different and very successful way of doing business and has been for 170 years, so I wrote the following letter to the Times and its readers.
Letter to The Times:
Today’s article on the collapse of BHS suggests that ‘no more productive system has ever been devised than market exchange and capitalism’. There is an alternative. It’s called the Co-op and it is a different way of doing business. As a sector co-ops contribute £34 billion to the UK economy through more than 7,000 businesses owned by more than 17 million members who live and work in the communities we serve.
Being owned by the people they trade with means co-ops aren’t driven by short-term returns to shareholders or subject to the whims of private owners. Our owners have a direct say in how our businesses are run and how our profits are invested.
Co-ops have had their challenges. The Co-op I lead faced a near death experience a couple of years ago which other business models arguably wouldn’t have survived. But being owned by members meant long-term decisions taken in the interests of the many not the few. Decisions which saw the Co-op and the 70,000 jobs we support survive and now begin to thrive.
We all feel most for the people caught up in the collapse of BHS but if the fallout shines a light on a different way of doing business that benefits us all, some good will have come of it.
Co-op Group CEO