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The co-operative sector in the UK had a combined turnover of £33.2bn in 2010, a thriving co-operative economy employing 236,000 people and with 12.8m members.
The main areas of the co-operative sector include:
Are owned and controlled by their customers. At a minimum, customers who choose to become members are involved in the co-operative by buying from it, but they can also be involved at many levels in the democratic process of the co-operative. Members typically benefit from access to fairly traded goods and can benefit from a dividend based on their level of purchases.
Are owned and controlled by their employees. Some worker co-operatives are managed on a collective basis, where all employees will be members and will also be committee members or Directors. Other worker co-operatives are managed through a smaller committee or Board of Directors that is democratically elected by and from the employee members. Control ultimately rests with the full membership. Workers can benefit by profits being distributed as a percentage of their wages.
Are enterprises that are owned and controlled by people belonging to a particular community. This may be a geographical community or a community of interest. Normally they will carry on activities that are of benefit to the whole community. Credit Unions are a particular form of community finance co-operative where people from a particular community (geographic and or sectoral) get together to pool savings and loan provision. No interest is paid on loans or savings. Members benefit from a share of profits at the end of the year depending on their level of savings invested in the co-operative and its overall profitability.
Are co-operatives of farmers or fishermen who come together to collectively sell their produce, allowing them to get the best price for their produce. As with co-operative consortia, they can also work together to lease premises, buy equipment or market their members' products.
Are co-operatives formed by a number of independent businesses, organisations or individuals, and are owned and controlled by those members. The members enhance their trade or reduce costs by working together on key activities such as leasing premises, buying equipment or marketing the members’ products and services. You can download a guide to co-operative consortia called 'Trading for Mutual Benefit' by going to the documents section on the left.
Are formed by a group of tenants who share ownership and control of their housing. This is an alternative business model that combines the individual spirit of home ownership with strong community support structures.
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