The Hidden Alternative

Co-operative Values, Past, Present and Future

image of The Hidden Alternative
In light of the recent global economic recession, this publication seeks to challenge the hegemony of the investor led business model in economics and business studies, and needs to be promoted in relation to these debates. The contributions to this book demonstrate that co-operation offers a real and much needed alternative for the organisation of human economic and social affairs, one that should establish its place at the forefront of public and academic discussion and policy making. It includes chapters on education, fair trade, politics and governance, planning, and sustainability and on how co-operatives have coped with the global economic crisis.



Beyond a fair price

The co-operative and Fair Trade movements were both established as alternatives to inequalities and unjust market practices. Both movements have endeavoured to empower and inform both producers and consumers and have often worked together to this end. At the producer end of the value chain (all the activities involved in producing, processing, manufacturing, trading and marketing products), both Fair Trade and producer co-operatives work to try to empower farmers and return as much of the profit of their produce back to them as possible. Co-operatives do this by distributing surplus to members in the form of dividends whereas products certified by the Fairtrade Labelling Organisation (FLO) do it by returning a premium to producers, who democratically decide how to spend it. Democratic involvement of producers in the decision regarding how to spend the surplus/premium is central to both processes and is often achieved via a vote at the Annual General Meeting. At the consumer end of the value chain, consumers or workers own retail co-operatives. They could demand that the business be run to return maximum surplus back to them. However, workers and consumers are frequently drawn towards the values of co-operatives, which include concern for community. Hence, they frequently consider ethical sourcing and co-operation among co-operatives to be important business considerations and have often been pioneers in ethical retailing.


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