Page 1: Introduction
One of the most interesting types of business ownership is that of a co-operative. This is because co-operatives are owned by their members, not by shareholders like private or public limited companies. The largest co-operative in the UK is The Co-operative Group. This has more than three million members. Each member has an equal right to contribute to its decision-making processes. This means that, while managers make the decisions for the business, members rather than shareholders influence behaviour by giving direction to the business. Importantly, they determine the ethical direction of the business.
The Co-operative Group is large and diverse. It has a number of different businesses serving a number of markets. Its businesses range from food, banking and travel to insurance and legal services. It also includes online shopping and funeral directors. The recent acquisition of Somerfield means that The Co-operative Group now has around 3,000 food stores in the UK. Food retailing today accounts for approximately 50% of the total turnover of The Co-operative Group.
As its members determine the direction of The Co-operative Group, it is the values of the members that drive the business. This is part of the process of corporate governance. Members can influence the decisions and direction. The actions of the managers of the Group are based on these values.
This case study shows how The Co-operative Group's values contribute to improving the diet and health of the UK. In recent years members of The Co-operative Group have been concerned about its policies in the area of diet and health. One of the actions that came from this has been the reformulation of own brand products to reduce salt, saturated fat and sugar. Also an increasing part of the food range includes healthy options. Products carry clear and honest labelling. The Co-operative supports initiatives such as the Food Standards Agency's (FSA) 'traffic light' labelling on product packaging. The Co-operative believes customers should have access to high quality food that is produced and marketed in a way they can trust.