Are Co-operatives Likely to Build a Better World? (1)

The trends sketched out In Chapter 1 of From Corporate Globalization to Global Co-operation: We owe it to our grandchildren are daunting.  That said, the co-operative business model offers a healthier alternative.  It does not drive the worst trends.  Credit unions did not create the bad mortgages and worthless derivatives that caused to 2008 collapse nor did they need a multi-trillion dollar bailout.   Its different purpose, values and principles, lack of need for a growth economy, bottom up nature and ability to put people and nature before profits, are an enormous opportunity in this troubled time.   People in co-operatives can choose to do evil but they are in a business model that not only allows them to do the right thing but encourages them to do it.  An investor owned business management or board that does the right thing is to be deeply admired because the pressure on them is always to make sure shareholders get the greatest possible profit.  A co-operative business, board or management, who does the wrong thing have very little excuse.

A co-operative’s purpose is not to maximize the return to shareholders but to meet the needs of the members who own it and the community.  Based on one member one vote, its democratic base makes it possible for members to raise concerns at annual or special membership meetings.  The people who use it get the opportunity to question its policies and practices.  Does that mean co-operatives are always responsive?  No but it means members can challenge them and change them.  It means they are more likely to listen and act in a responsible way toward members and the community.

It also means they are less likely to pollute or treat workers abusively.  They generally have smaller gaps between highest paid manager and lowest paid staff member.  It means that in terms of  the trends noted in Chapter 1 of From Corporate Globalization to Global Co-operation: We owe it to our grandchildren, co-operatives are less likely to make things worse and more likely to take actions to make things better.  For example, the credit union on whose board I sit, LaHave River Credit Union, has a ‘Green Loan” program to encourage members to shrink their negative environmental foot print.

If we care about our grandchildren and have a choice we can become part of a co-operative and have a say in how it operates in our community.

Building a Co-operative Economy

Some people react to the idea of creating a new economy to replace capitalism as pure naive optimism.  It is just too big a task they believe.  The reality is that if we all believe that, the new economy will never be built.  The realty also is if enough people decide to make something happen it will.  Take you money out of investor owned banks and get all you financial services from a credit union or co-operative bank or co-operative insurance company.  I did it more than 25 years ago and am free of any financial services whose purpose is to make someone else rich at my expense.

Does your community or neighborhood need a service or source of goods?  Create a co-operative to provide them.  Ar you tired of working for someone else just because they have the money to buy your services.  Need to find rewarding meaningful work?  Find a few others with the same need and start a worker owned co-operative.   Find buying ‘stuff’ from cars to food confusing because you cannot trust the information you are given?  Start up a consumers co-operative whose information you can trust and let the workers be members so you can solve problems around the board table based on your shared objectives.  Think about what you buy and find a family business or co-operative to supply it.

Want to see an example from Maine in the USA.  Check out: Rock City Cafe  This video is courtesy of the Co-operative Development Institute

In the weeks ahead visit the website to learn of more examples.


Everyone Welcome – March 15

With Author Tom Webb

Thursday 15 March 2018, 7:00PM to 8:30PM –

Room 132, Beveridge Arts Center (BAC) Acadia University

10 Highland Ave., Wolfville, N.S.

Exploring Public Policy – Hosted by the Kings South NDP


From Corporate Globalization to Global Co-operation explores some of the interconnected and disturbing trends facing our world and the links between them.  It then looks at the neoclassical economic thinking developed to explain and justify why our world should be heading in these directions and the problems with that thinking.  It also explores various business models and how neoclassical economics is fundamentally supportive of only one business model in spite of its increasingly destructive track record.  It examines why capitalism is great for the very wealthy but bad for the planet, human society, communities and democracy

The book then explores alternative business models with a special focus on co-operatives.  It suggests one healthy response to our challenging times is to shift our economy to one that is aligned with nature and focused on meeting human need without destroying the natural world.  The potential of the co-operative business model to facilitate change is explored – its strengths and potential for improvement.

The author will touch on the key themes explored by the book and some additional insights on the congruence of co-operative organizational models with all life on the planet and especially human life.  Questions and comments are welcome.

Tom Webb has served as an advisor to a prime minister and cabinet ministers, a senior manager in a large co-operative, Director of the St. F.X. Extension Dept., Manager of Co-operative Management Education at Saint Mary’s Sobey School of Business and has lectured across North America, Europe and Oceania.