Mutuo launches new influencing strategy for consumer co-ops

Mutuo has launched a new influencing strategy document for consumer co-operatives. The policy guide, co-produced with Consumer Co-operatives Worldwide [CCW], makes the case for consumer co-ops and demonstrates their importance to the global economy and wider society.

The document sets out a number of ways in which a better policy environment for consumer co-ops could be created, including:

  • Adoption of the 2002 UN recommendation that governments should support co-ops
  • Ensuring government departments and ministers are sufficently skilled to work with co-ops
  • Improving education about co-ops
  • Adopting the legal principle of ‘indivisible reserves’ to safeguard co-op assets
  • Legislating for new co-op capital raising instruments 
  • Permitting more cross border trading for co-ops 
  • Better collection of statistics nationally and internationally 

Speaking at the launch of the guide in Moscow, Mark Willetts said: 

“We want to ensure the best possible business environment for consumer co-ops. These businesses are the original type of co-op. They provide significant competition for consumers and drive up standards of safety, quality and sustainability. CCW’s guide sets out a number of key measures that should be adopted to ensure this sector continues to grow and thrive.”

The document is the latest in a series of policy guides that Mutuo has co-authored in order to boost the international co-operative and mutual sector, having previously published guides with ICMIF, AMICE, the ICA and Australia’s BCCM.

Download the guide

To find out more about CCW, click here.

Purpose-driven businesses top £130 billion income per annum

Purpose-driven businesses top £130 billion income per annum

Co-operative and mutual businesses account for over £133.5bn of income annually and touch the lives of 1 in 3 people in the UK, according to a new report published by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Mutuals.

These businesses have a distinct purpose to serve their customers and communities, in contrast to investor owned firms.

Mutuals exist in every sector of the economy, from financial services to housing, to food retailing, to public services and sport. Whether it is through supplying affordable and sustainable services to consumers, providing rewarding work or strengthening community enterprise, a strong network of co-operative and mutual businesses plays an important part in a diverse and modern British economy.

The report shows significant income from each of the various sub-sectors of the co-operative and mutual sector:

from co-operatives:£36.1bn
from building societies:£5.8bn
from friendly societies & mutual insurers:£19.6bn
from housing associations:£20.0bn
from NHS foundation trusts:£52.0bn
Total:£133.5bn

At a time when Brexit dominates the UK policy agenda, mutual businesses are continuing to grow – creating an economy and society that works in the interests of the widest number of people by sharing power in, and the rewards of, business.

Mutuals help to deliver a wide range of public policy objectives. They:

  • Strengthen a UK owned business sector
  • Spread wealth more broadly and fairly throughout the country
  • Provide competition and choice for consumers in a range of markets especially those for essential goods and services
  • Create diversity in business, withbusiness strategies for a healthy, balanced economy that take a longer-term view and act as a counterbalance to mitigate systemic risk to the economy
  • Create business structures for public service providers that keep them accountable to their users and taxpayers, reducing centralisation and bureaucracy
  • Provide more than just an economic benefit to local communities by aiding social bonding and stakeholder empowerment
  • Rebuild and maintain public trust in business

Published today, the UK Mutual Economy Report makes a number of policy recommendations for increasing the contribution of co-operative and mutual business to growth, prosperity and fairness.

The All-Party Group calls on all parties to encourage:

  • Greater recognition and policy understanding of the sector by national and devolved politicians;
  • A commitment to an enabling legislative environment for the sector in the UK and
  • An understanding of where regulation disproportionately affects the sector and a commitment to address this where it occurs

Parliamentary Group Chair Gareth Thomas MP said:

Whether it is through providing rewarding work, strengthening community enterprise, or supplying affordable and sustainable services to consumers, this report clearly shows that a strong network of co-operative and mutual businesses plays an important part in a diverse and modern British economy.”

View the report

Launch of updated BCCM Sector blueprint

We’re pleased to announce the launch of the updated Business Council for Co-operatives and Mutuals [BCCM] Sector blueprint.  Conceived and produced by Mutuo, BCCM’s updated strategy document reflects the success of its advocacy over its short history as well as the new priorities of the Australian co-operative and mutual sector.

View the document

More homes; more voice – Member-based social housing

Cliff MillsIn his latest Mutuo think piece, Cliff Mills talks about the policy opportunity for mutual social housing.

There are two clear challenges for social housing today which are making it one of the top political priorities.

The first is the need to build more homes: homes that people can afford, and are of the quality that people want to live in.  The second is to give tenants a voice in how housing is provided, which includes the ability to have influence over things that impact on neighbourhoods and communities, and being able to use this voice as a mechanism for ensuring that social housing providers are accountable to communities.

Housing is more than one issue.  It cannot be separated from jobs, health and well-being, elderly care, fuel poverty, environmental issues, community safety, education and training, and much else besides.  Homes are part of neighbourhoods and have to be understood in their context. The success of housing can only be measured in this bigger context, and in interaction with that context.

Policy-makers can and should do what they can, seeing things from their strategic vantage point. But since 2000 there have been some radical developments from within the social housing movement itself which it is time to take note of, because they could make a significant contribution in meeting today’s challenges.

These developments involve a democratic member-based approach, giving individuals a voice in their organisation, sharing power beyond the board and senior executives, and at the same time making governance more robust. 

There are now eleven democratic member-based housing providers in England and Wales, which together provide over 85,000 homes. A recently released corporate strategy by one of these organisations (discussed further below) outlines how it will be delivering services and what its ambitions are over the next ten years. This document provides evidence of the relevance of this approach in meeting today’s pressing challenges.

Read ‘More Homes More Voice’

International Co-operative Alliance publishes Mutuo’s global guide for promotion of co-ops

ICA Global Policy Guide

Co-produced with Mutuo, the Global Policy and Advocacy Guide was designed for the International Co-operative Alliance and its members to help strengthen their advocacy efforts.

The policy guide draws together case studies of good practice from various regions and suggests methodology and communications protocols that can help to grow a consistent global approach to promoting co-operatives.

“It is important that we seek to make the case for co-operatives in an easily understood and consistent way”

Mutuo worked with the International Co-operative Alliance and its members over a nine month period to identify the movement’s policy priorities and the challenges it faced in working with national governments. The consultation process ensured that the strongest practice could be shared globally, to help co-operatives communicate their value to policy makers, legislators and regulators.

View the Guide

New business policies in the interests of customers and workers

Mutuo has today launched new policy proposals to help make business work in the interests of ordinary citizens.

The People’s Business report seeks to put cooperatives and mutuals – firms owned by customers and workers – at the heart of business policy and calls on progressive politicians to support and champion them.

It is a positive response to the disillusionment felt by so many people who feel that economic and political systems only work for the vested interests of capitalist business, the wealthy and the powerful.

Cooperatives and mutuals are the true people’s businesses – they generate profits to share amongst their customers and workers in the form of dividends or lower prices.  This way of doing business benefits consumers, employees and European nations as a whole, providing diversity and choice in markets and sharing wealth more equitably.

The report shows that the people’s business is already hugely significant – across Europe there are 130,000 cooperatives and mutuals which account for 1.3 trillion Euros in income every year and provide work for nearly 5 million Europeans.

The Peoples’ Businesses already deal with some of the biggest political challenges we face by helping create:

  1. An economy that prioritises people before other interests 
  2. Policy ideas that counterbalance the effects of globalisation 
  3. Businesses that challenge inequality and spread wealth 
  4. Financial services in the interests of customers, not capital
  5. Work that is meaningful and rewarding
  6. Access to quality affordable housing 
  7. Energy security through local control

Yet their impact is uneven across the EU. Legislation, regulation and national policies often work to limit the opportunities for the people’s businesses to flourish.

This report proposes a series of practical measures to increase the contribution of the People’s Business and help address some of these huge social and economic challenges. It offers a political vision for Progressive politicians seeking to re-connect with the people they wish to serve.

View the report


Working with colleagues from the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS) the report launch represents the culmination of 18 months work which took us to all corners of the European Union to meet with sector experts, academics and policymakers. We examined powerful examples of where this approach to business benefits Europeans every day – for example through worker cooperatives in Spain and Italy or customer owned banks and insurers in France and food retailers and producers across Northern Europe.

Some of Europe’s best known and most enduring businesses are cooperatives and mutuals – their resilience and longevity is testament to their relevance to the people they serve – the customers and workers of Europe.

Protecting Lives and Livelihoods: ICMIF Global Manifesto 2015 launched

ICMIF Global Manifesto

Mutuo and ICMIF have today published the ICMIF Global Manifesto.

Launched at the biennial ICMIF Conference in Minneapolis the document contains radical proposals calling upon global, regional and national institutions to play their part in:

* Ensuring an appropriate business environment for cooperative and mutual insurance
* Engaging with cooperative and mutual insurers to help to protect lives and livelihoods

View the document

For more information please visit icmif.org.

Cross-party group of MPs: New legislation and better regulation is required for financial mutuals

Parliamentary group mutuals

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Mutuals has challenged the way that government and financial regulators work with mutuals.

The Group has called for a series of reforms that will enable building societies, friendly societies and mutual insurers to compete on a fair basis with PLCs.

Read more Cross-party group of MPs: New legislation and better regulation is required for financial mutuals

European Manifesto calls for action to empower mutual and cooperative insurers

Screen Shot 2014-07-08 at 14.14.22AMICE, the European Association of Mutual Insurers and Insurance Cooperatives has published a political manifesto entitled “United in Diversity” laying out the sector’s proposal for political action to enable the sector to fully exploit its potential.  The manifesto has been produced by UK based advocacy organisation, Mutuo, on behalf of AMICE members.

The European Mutual Manifesto was presented in Nice, France, by AMICE President Hilde Vernaillen to the 200 delegates at the association’s 2014 Congress.

Read more European Manifesto calls for action to empower mutual and cooperative insurers

Reviewing Co-operative Governance

The Co-operative Group Constitutional ReviewLord Myners is currently reviewing the governance structure of the Co-operative Group.  This is not the first review – Mutuo contributed to such a project in 2007.  Of course the context was different from today, but many of the key issues around co-operative business governance remain the same.

Today, Mutuo is re-publishing its report for the 2007 Review, called ‘21st Century Pioneers.’  It was drafted by a range of experts in co-operative business structures, including Cliff Mills, Ian Snaith, Peter Hunt and a range of academics.

Read more Reviewing Co-operative Governance

Time to get tough on football authorities, say MPs

Parliamentary group mutuals

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Mutuals has called on the Government to take urgent action to improve the way that football club owners behave towards supporter groups.

In a report that is critical of the attitudes the Football Association, Premier League and Football League exhibit towards the ownership of clubs, MPs have called for them to be directed to protect the interests of supporters.

Read more Time to get tough on football authorities, say MPs

Mutuals Yearbook 2013

Mutuals' Yearbook 2013Since 2008 when the Mutuals Yearbook was first published, the world around us has changed significantly. It is clear that all mutual organisations have endured a difficult economic climate in which to operate. Our members have had their own pressures and have had to face some searching questions about the soundness of the mutual model.

However, the sector has continued to grow both in terms of the numbers employed (970,000 in UK in 2013 compared to 844,000 in UK in 2008) and income (increasing from £84bn in 2008 to £115bn in 2013). These figures are a testament to the people who work in the mutual sector, but more importantly, to the fact that many people still uphold the principles of co-operation and mutuality. Read more Mutuals Yearbook 2013

Raising New Capital in Mutuals: Taking Action in the UK

New capitalBy their very nature, mutuals are limited in how they can raise capital. Like all businesses, they can retain profits and can borrow against future earnings, but they have no equity shareholders and so do not have access to this type of prime capital.

These restrictions are well known and mean that the debate around capital in mutuals is not new. To date however, in the UK at least, mutuals have not made significant alterations to their basic capital framework, which was designed more than 150 years ago.

Read more Raising New Capital in Mutuals: Taking Action in the UK

Mutual businesses go for growth

Mutual businesses have reasserted their position in the UK high street, with figures unveiled today showing a combined mutual sector turnover of £116bn and one in three consumers doing business with a mutual in the last year.

Leading mutuals will gather in London later to outline further plans for the continued expansion of customer owned firms across a diverse range of business areas. Delegates will hear from mutual business leaders including The Co-operative Group’s Peter Marks who will talk about his plans to propel The Co-operative Bank into the premier league of UK financial services. Read more Mutual businesses go for growth

Mutuo welcomes plans to develop a mutual Post Office

Mutuo has welcomed today’s Government response to the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills consultation “Building a Mutual Post Office.”  The consultation, which sets out the building blocks towards securing a mutual post office, revealed enthusiasm amongst subpostmasters, staff and the wider public for a stake in the Post Office. Read more Mutuo welcomes plans to develop a mutual Post Office

The Ownership Commission: Better owned firms are the key to responsible capitalism

Ownership commission

Britain needs to improve the way its businesses are owned in order to create higher long term economic growth, declares the Ownership Commission today.  Government should act to ensure that all types of business, from the PLC to family, co-operative and employee owned firms, are able to play their part in creating wealth and a strong economy.  The Commission, chaired by Will Hutton, has examined every form of business ownership over the last two years

Today, at an event in London, it launches the first ever report of its type with Business Secretary Rt. Hon. Dr Vince Cable MP.

The report calls for: