The United Nations General Assembly has declared 2012 as the UN International Year of Co-operatives. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon declared that “cooperatives are a reminder to the international community that it is possible to pursue both economic viability and social responsibility.”
There are more than 1 billion co-operative members around the world – including four out of every 10 Canadians, making this ownership and business model very popular.
With its popularity comes a good image. A recent survey by Abacus Data, commissioned by the Canadian Co-operative Association found that the vast majority of Canadians say co-operatives provide better customer service than other types of businesses, treat their employees better, have more environmentally sustainable practices and support community values and the local economy.
According to the survey:
- 85 per cent of respondents have heard of “a type of business called a co-operative.”
- 65 per cent describe themselves as “very familiar” or “somewhat familiar” with co-operatives.
- 41 per cent said they were a member of a co-operative and/or credit union.
- 84 per cent of respondents were able to name a co-operative in their community. Desjardins and Mountain Equipment Co-op were most frequently mentioned.
Abacus then asked respondents to compare co-ops with other businesses on a variety of factors.
- 84 per cent said co-ops are more likely to support the community’s values.
- 83 per cent said co-ops are more likely give people a say on how the business is run.
- 82 per cent said co-ops are more likely to support the local economy.
- 81 per cent said co-ops are more likely to sell locally produced products.
- 76 per cent said co-ops are more likely to treat their employees better.
- 72 per cent said co-ops are more likely to have environmentally sustainable practices.
- 70 per cent said co-ops are more likely to have better customer service.
- 53 per cent said co-ops are more likely to have lower prices.
The only factor in which other businesses were rated more highly than co-ops was convenience of location; 74 per cent said other businesses have more convenient locations than co-ops. However, assuming price, service, product quality and convenience are equal, 83 per cent said they would prefer to shop at “a locally-owned business that shares its profits among member-owners” than “a privately owned company that is part of a larger chain.”
Only five per cent of those surveyed were aware that 2012 is the International Year of Co-operatives; the figure was highest (12 per cent) in Manitoba and Saskatchewan (referred to as “central” in the survey report).
“These results clearly indicate that Canadians understand the difference between co-operatives and other types of businesses and appreciate the advantages that co-operatives offer,” said Denyse Guy, executive director of CCA. “We used to say that co-operatives are Canada’s best-kept secret, but according to this survey, it looks like the secret is out!”
You might also be interested in: The Co-operators Kathy Bardswick on the role of co-operatives