Co-operatives should embrace and help develop the African co-operative movement, which can help to feed the world, heard the International Co-operative Alliance Global Conference.
Stanley Muchiri, vice-President of the Alliance's Africa region, called on the global movement to increase its support for African co-operatives. Mr Muchiri added that Africa is a land of opportunity, particularly in agriculture. He said Africa is "ready to feed the increasing population of the world".
"This is a sector which needs more attention," said Mr Muchiri. "The main challenge in this area is the mobilisation of farmers to market products. ICA Africa will devote more resources in the coming years to encourage national governments to supports farmers and to help feed our increasing population."
But Mr Muchiri added: "Globally co-operatives should increase support to the African co-operatives. Africa wants to find its place as a key player in the global movement."
In a keynote speech, Zimbabwean politician Sithembiso Nyoni echoed the view of Africa's increasing importance: "Africa is on the move. Our economies are growing. Growing faster than some of the economies in the developed world."
This is down to the increase in gender balance that has allowed women more opportunities to participate in business and politics, said Ms Nyoni. She added: "Let us strive to build a better world. Africa is a major player. Africa is on the move, women are on the lead, walk with us."
On agriculture, Ms Nyoni said: "Co-operatives are contributing to food security. In Malawi and Zambia, the governments are supporting co-operatives and small farmers with technology and training. This is allowing them to create more food and they are our neighbours, and exporting to us too."
Ms Nyoni said also that there is more widespread recognition of the need for smaller farmers to work together. She said: "Big farmers recognise they can't do without smaller farmers. We now need to work together, we need to be inclusive and co-operatives are the model that are bringing people of diversity together."
The values of co-operation is also ingrained within communities across Africa. Said Sithembiso Nyoni: "Co-operatives are the way in Africa, I'm saying that because this is not a new model for Africans. As Africans we are used to organising ourselves to go and plough the crops together; to build homes together and to do certain tasks together. The only difference is that we were not registered.
"It's now time to modernise this concept and to be a part of the global movement. Co-operatives brings together those who are usually pushed into the margins. Co-operatives are the best model to take Africa to the next level."
Dr Rob Davies, the Minister of Trade and Industry for South Africa, told the conference: "Africa is the home to seven of the fastest 10 growing economies. But Africa has recognised that Africa has got to put itself on a different trajectory."
He said that Africa cannot prosper if it exports its raw materials. "Africa has got to move into more value added production and industrialise," added Dr Davies. "We can be beneficial and add value to our products and move more into agro-processing. If we look at that carefully we can see many opportunities for co-operative enterprises to play an important role."
Charles Gould, Director-General of the Alliance, said: "The co-operative model is a potential solution to many of the world's problems. Nowhere is the opportunity and need greater than in Africa. This is an economy that is already displaying significant growth and development. An opportunity for the co-operative movement."Event: ICA's Global Conference and General Assembly Sunday: Cape Town Global Conference
Live sessions broadcasting from the International Co-operative Alliance's Global Conference and General Assembly. For more details, see the main plenary sessions in the official programme.Event: ICA's Global Conference and General Assembly Sunday: Cape Town Global Conference Featured: Featured Live Stream Live Feed: Live Stream Live Stream Thumbnail: Alerts: Watch Cape Town Live
The theme of the ICA conference is “A Co-operative Decade in Action”. The programme will be built around the Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade, which aims to take cooperatives to a position of being the preferred model and as a result the fastest-growing form of enterprise by 2020. As well as the statutory meetings there will be a series of themed workshops. CICOPA and IHCO are organising a workshop on “Access to community services” on 3 November. More information will be available very soon. (...)
Leading campaigning groups and charities who bank with the Co-operative Bank are demanding that the Co-op's pioneering Ethical Policy survive the bank's transition to new ownership.
Charities including Action Aid, Greenpeace and Oxfam are among the signatories to an open letter written by the Save Our Bank campaign which is being published this weekend in national newspapers.
The letter calls for the bank's new owners to guarantee that the bank's Ethical Policy is embedded into the Articles of Association of any new-look bank, together with the underlying commitments to customer consultation, well resourced implementation, third party independent audit and warts and all reporting.
John Sauven, Executive Director of Greenpeace UK, said: "A major reason Greenpeace banked with The Co-operative Bank is that it was one of the few to have grasped the need for our society to wean itself off fossil fuels. It's important to Greenpeace and our supporters that such far-sighted commitments continue."
The campaign aims to use customer power to ensure that the bank retains its Ethical Policy and that the bank is eventually returned to mutual ownership.
Jenny Ricks, Head of Campaigns at Action Aid, added: "ActionAid cares passionately that its partners and suppliers meet our ethical standards. The Co-operative Bank has previously aligned its policies to our work halting tax dodging and securing better labour standards globally - we need this to continue in the future."
Shaun Fensom from Save Our Bank said they were looking for specific commitments in relation to the Co-operative Bank's Ethical Policy and not vague assurances. "We need cast iron commitments to ensure that the bank continues to refuse to invest in areas such as the extraction and processing of fossil fuels,” he said.
The Save Our Bank campaign which is backed by Ethical Consumer magazine has been launched in response to the ongoing crisis at The Co-operative Bank.
Rob Harrison, co-editor of Ethical Consumer, also said: “The bank's new owners need to understand that if the bank abandons its ethical principles then hundreds of thousands of customers will abandon the bank. If this happens then the Co-op's dead in the water and their investment will be worthless. If the bank's customers act together with one voice they can become a force to be reckoned with.”
Consumers who are unhappy with the Co-op's new ownership structure are faced with the dilemma that there are no high street ethical current account alternatives to the Co-op.
“Although building societies offer a useful ethical-by-default alternative, unlike the Co-op they don't offer a campaigning brand seeking to drive change in the business world. We don't see many building societies currently campaigning on fossil fuels,” added Mr Harrison.
"Over the last two decades many charities and campaigning groups have moved their accounts to The Co-operative Bank and urged others to do so. A major reason for this was the Bank's Ethical Policy - which sets out clearly and uniquely how monies will and will not be invested. As customers, we call those involved in setting out the Bank's future to do their utmost to set in stone the continuance of The Co-operative Bank Ethical Policy and the underlying commitments to customer consultation, well resourced implementation, third party independent audit and warts and all reporting. The establishment of these commitments in the Articles of Association of a new entity would provide serious reassurance that The Co-operative Bank can continue to be a world leader in ethical investment."
Jenny Ricks, Head of Campaigns, Action Aid
Mary Shephard, General Manager, Animal Aid
Mark Farmaner, Director, Burma Campaign UK
Tim Hunt, Director, Ethical Consumer
Craig Bennett, Director of Policy and Campaigns, Friends of the Earth
John Sauven, Executive Director, Greenpeace UK
Sally Copley, Head of UK Campaigns, Oxfam
Phoebe Cullingworth, Ents Officer, People & Planet
Keith Tyrell, Director, Pesticide Action Network
Catherine Haworth, Chief Executive Officer, ShareAction
Jeanette Longfield, Co-ordinator, Sustain
Paul Monaghan, Director, Up the Ethics
John Hilary, Executive Director, War On Want
Nick Dearden, Director, World Development Movement
One of the key benefits of Fair Trade is to guarantee producers a minimum floor price when global commodity prices drop. In some years, when commodity prices are high, this benefit is more psychological rather than material. This year for coffee farmers, the benefit is again material and very important.
The small scale farmers that make up the majority of global coffee production remember all too well the calamity of 2001 when prices plummeted to 45 cents a pound, throwing hundreds of thousands of farmers and landless workers into poverty or destitution.
More recently, in May 2011, the price of Arabica coffee on the New York futures market hit a 34-year high of almost US$3.09 per pound. But, as if to justify its volatile reputation, the coffee price has plummeted in 2013 to less than US$1.10 per pound – nearly 65 percent off the 2011 high (see the latest market price here).
The price collapse this year is particularly unwelcome for farmers in Central America, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru where leaf rust, a fungal disease that destroys coffee trees also known as La Roya, has already wiped out up to 30-40 percent of the crop, according to the International Coffee Organization (ICO).
Fairtrade certified cooperatives can count on at least the Fairtrade Minimum Price of US$1.40 per pound for washed Arabica coffee sold on Fairtrade terms (30 cents more if organic), plus an extra 20 cents per pound Fairtrade Premium to invest as they see fit, 5 cents of which is dedicated to productivity and quality investments.
More at Fairtrade International post
By Carly Kadlec, Equal Exchange Coffee Purchaser
Over the past several weeks I have been in Central America, visiting our producer partner groups. At every stop along the way, I get gems of knowledge dropped on me at totally unexpected moments. Sometimes this is as straight forward as a farmer explaining a new organic practice that I have never seen before. However, more often than not, producers shatter my worldview with their incredibly refined and pointed observations of the world in which we live.
Frequently, these great moments happen when I am precariously weaving my way through a muddy farm trying my best not to fall on my face in front of 20 farmers. Needless to say, I don’t always have pen and paper handy. However, I absorb what they are saying and store it away in my brain to share with co-workers or friends at some point in the future. I am realizing how short-sighted this is! As interested as a lot of the folks who buy our coffee, chocolate and myriad other products are in how our products taste, I know that consumers are also interested in WHERE their favorite coffee comes from, WHO grows it, and WHY do they do what they do.
So, please read on to experience some of my favorite “whoa, knowledge was just dropped!” moments of the past month.
“It’s not sufficient to say that poverty is the problem. We must say that the system that generates and maintains poverty is the problem,” Miguel Mateo tells me. He is referring to the importance of creating new institutions that change the entire system of traditional trade and why he views the relationship between Manos Campesinas and Equal Exchange as a game changer.
“That’s why it’s called a Cooperative. We don’t just cooperate with members, we cooperate with everyone,” says Clemente Moreno Carrazo, president of one of the primary cooperatives of Prodecoop in Estelí, Nicaragua. At Equal Exchange, we talk a lot about cooperatives and what it means to be a cooperator. Hearing this from Clemente made me aware that the supply chain that we are a part of—growers’ cooperative à worker cooperative à consumer cooperatives/cooperators—does not stay within our cooperatives. The primary level co-op of which he is the president actively invests in their community members whether or not they are members of the cooperative. They rebuild bridges, improve the roads for better commercial access, support the community school band, provide transport for medical screenings to community members, and provide school supplies for the children in elementary school. I think this was a pretty great moment for me to consider what our cooperative does to invest in our community and again, producers setting an example for us. Cooperation reaches the furthest when you start collaborating with everyone.
“Which Bicycle?” refers to the name that Omar Oscar Alonso gave to his coffee farm several years ago when he reached a difficult crossroads in his life. He retold the story of this challenging time for me and the idea that eventually encouraged him to move forward (not backward) to become one of the most innovative members of COMSA in Marcala, La Paz, Honduras. Several years ago, during this challenging time in his life, Omar realized that the bicycle was the perfect metaphor for his life. Bicycles only move forward and in order to ride a bike successfully, you have to find a balance and continue to maintain this balance as you move forward. He decided to name his farm “Which Bicycle?” to continually remind himself that he was moving forward and to focus on the balance that farming requires. In addition to being a philosopher, Omar is also an innovator.
While visiting the Which Bicycle? farm, he demonstrated to me one of the coolest and most original techniques for water retention on a farm that I have ever seen. He had a friend who started selling fresh coconut water to the local market. The friend had accumulated hundreds of coconut shells/husks and was preparing to throw them away but Omar did not want to see that much organic material wasted so he agreed to buy the coconut shells for a small amount of money. He had no idea how he was going to use them but he brought back a big truckload to his farm and started to think of how to use them. Eventually, after studying the properties of the coconuts, he realized how much water the husk contained even after the coconut water had been removed. Omar started placing several open husks around the trunk of each of his coffee plants with the thought that the water contained in each husk would be absorbed by the coffee plant and soil during the summer (dry) season. To his great surprise and pleasure, his idea worked! He leaves the husks in the underbrush of the coffee farm and eventually, they decompose and return organic material back into the soil.
These moments that I have been able to share here are only a tiny sliver of the things that I get to see and hear while visiting farms and producer groups. I hope that these moments encourage you to stop and think more deeply about the issues that we are dealing with in this world of alternative trade. I am continually amazed at how much I learn on a daily basis while doing my job and I will be satisfied if I can pass along even a fraction of the eloquence and determination that our producer partners share with us.
31 Oct 2013
Más de mil cooperantes se reunirán esta semana en Ciudad del Cabo para ayudar a llevar adelante la Década Cooperativa. La Asamblea General y Conferencia Global de la Alianza Cooperativa Internacional comienza el 1 de noviembre con una reunión bienal de ICMIF (La Federación Internacional de Cooperativas y Mutuas de Seguros), el 6 de noviembre.
El Plan para una Década Cooperativa juega un papel en las dos conferencias; el sector se propone para el 2020 que las cooperativas se conviertan en el modelo empresarial de más rápido crecimiento.
La conferencia de ACI se enfocará en cinco sesiones temáticas que tendrán lugar al mismo tiempo y que analizarán la seguridad alimentaria, el acceso a los servicios de la comunidad, el poder de la comunicación, las Finanzas a la vanguardia de una nueva era económica y la creación de conocimientos.
La ICMIF también discutirá sobre su contribución al cumplimiento con el Plan, en una sesión dirigida por Shaun Tarbuck, el Director Executivo de ICMIF, al lado de otros líderes de mutuas de seguros.
Dame Pauline Green, Presidenta de la Alianza, dijo: “Esta semana está dedicada al futuro; nos vamos a comprometer de nuevo a hacer crecer la familia de empresas cooperativas. Con la prestación mediocre de la economía global, es un momento oportuno para perseguir la campaña de hacer que las cooperativas sean incluidas en la agenda de los que toman las decisiones, cuando buscan respuestas a los efectos de la recesión.
“Una recesión que incluso ahora está declinando el vigor de las economías emergentes que debería ser el catalizador para un futuro éxito. Esta semana la Alianza Cooperativa Internacional revelará sus primeros pasos para llevar adelante el Plan para una Década Cooperativa; donará una oportunidad real a los miembros para analizar cómo podemos apoyar el crecimiento de una economía cooperativa vibrante a través de África, particularmente en las finanzas y la agricultura, ofrecerá tiempo y oportunidades para discusiones, el establecimiento de contactos, compartiendo las mejores prácticas y, por supuesto, la oportunidad de hacer negocios de tipo cooperativa a cooperativa .”
Hablando con el sector de seguros, el Sr. Tarbuck dijo: “En Ciudad del Cabo, queremos subir el nivel de nuevo. El tema de la conferencia del año pasado fue “Es nuestro tiempo..”; una frase que ha sido utilizada extensivamente en las comunicaciones con el mundo empresarial cooperativo. Para 2013, el tema de nuestra conferencia es “Lidera..Innova..Influencia”.
“Este es nuestro tiempo como líderes de cooperativas y mutuas de seguros para discutir con nuestros compañeros; adquirir nueva información y estrategias; enterarnos de las innovaciones del sector empresarial y aprender las nuevas maneras de influenciar a las personas importantes. La ICMIC es una organización de mejores prácticas; que se propone ser siempre mejor y llevar nuestro modelo y nuestro sector adelante. Esta es la conferencia que inspirará a continuar siendo los mejores líderes del sector de seguros”.
Para mantenerse informado con lo que pasa en la conferencia, visita: www.thenews.coop/live, donde encontrarás informes en vivo, videos e imágenes de Ciudad del Cabo. Para mayor información sobre ICMIF, visita: www.icmif.capetown.
Tags: edigest; cape town;Cape Town feed: 1Event: ICA's Global Conference and General Assembly ICA's Global Conference and General Assembly
Fair Trade Resource Network partnered with Fairtrade America to host events at supermarkets, colleges and community gatherings.
See FTRN photos
30 Oct 2013
Cette semaine, plus d'un millier de coopérateurs se retrouveront au Cap afin de faire progresser la Décennie des coopératives.
La Conférence internationale et l'Assemblée générale de l'Alliance coopérative internationale débuteront le 1er novembre, tandis que la rencontre bisannuelle de l'ICMIF (Fédération internationale des assurances coopératives et mutualistes) aura lieu à partir du 6 novembre.
L'ICMIF discutera également de sa contribution au respect du plan d'action, dans une session dirigée par le directeur exécutif Shaun Tarbuck avec un panel de directeurs d'assurances mutualistes.
Le plan d'action pour une Décennie des coopératives joue un rôle important pour les deux conférences, dont l'objectif est de positionner les coopératives comme le modèle d'entreprise à la croissance la plus rapide d'ici 2020. Cinq sessions thématiques auront lieu simultanément lors de la conférence de l'ACI: la sécurité alimentaire et les chaînes d'approvisionnement durable, l'accès aux services communautaires, le pouvoir de la communication, le financement à l'avant-garde d'une nouvelle ère économique et le renforcement des connaissances.
Dame Pauline Green, présidente de l'Alliance, a déclaré : "Cette semaine, il s'agit du futur, de la réaffirmation de notre engagement à faire grandir la famille des entreprises coopératives. Étant donné les performances médiocres de l'économie mondiale actuellement, il est temps de mener notre campagne pour que les coopératives soient prises en compte par les décideurs mondiaux comme un moyen de lutter contre les effets de la récession.
"Une récession qui, désormais, freine même la vigueur des économies tout juste émergentes dont on espérait qu'elles seraient le catalyseur d'un succès futur. Cette semaine, l'Alliance coopérative internationale révélera ses premières actions pour faire avancer le plan d'action pour une Décennie des coopératives ; fournir aux membres une opportunité réelle d'explorer les moyens de soutenir la croissance d'une vigoureuse économie coopérative en Afrique, particulièrement dans les domaines financier et agricole ; offrir du temps et des occasions de discuter, de travailler en réseau, de partager les bonnes pratiques et, bien sûr, de permettre de faire des affaires de coopérative à coopérative."
S'adressant au secteur des assurances, M. Tarbuck a déclaré : "Au Cap, nous essayons encore une fois de placer la barre plus haut. Le thème de notre dernière conférence était "Le temps est venu de..." ; une expression qui a été largement reprise dans les communications des affaires coopératives à travers le monde entier. Pour 2013, le thème de notre conférence est "Diriger... Innover... Influencer."
« C’est le moment pour vous, dirigeants d’assurances mutualistes/coopératives de rencontrer vos homologues, d’appréhender de nouveaux points de vue et stratégies, de vous informer sur les innovations commerciales et de découvrir les façons d’influencer les parties prenantes clés. L’ICMIF est une organisation fondée sur les meilleures pratiques, qui s’efforce toujours d’être la meilleure et de pousser de l’avant nos activités et notre secteur. Cette conférence est l’occasion pour vous d’être incités à continuer à être les meilleurs dirigeants du secteur des assurances. »
• Pour vous tenir informé du déroulement de la conférence en temps réel, rendez-vous sur: www.thenews.coop/live, où vous trouverez des rapports en direct, des vidéos et des images du Cap. Pour plus d'informations sur l'ICMIF, rendez-vous sur: www.icmif.org/capetown
Tags: edigestCape Town feed: 1Event: ICA's Global Conference and General Assembly ICA's Global Conference and General Assembly
A global marque for co-operatives has been unveiled by the International Co-operative Alliance.
The co-operative logo, designed by a British co-operative, has been launched at the Alliance’s Global Conference in Cape Town.
Calverts, the London-based creative co-operative, was commissioned in March by the ICA to create the common identity. Building on the momentum created by the International Year of Co-operatives and the widespread use of the logo, the ICA has led on this initiative as part of its Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade initiative.
The Blueprint focuses on key areas of development of co-operatives, including an extended chapter on identity, to ensure the business model is one of the fastest growing by the end of this decade.
Dame Pauline Green, President of the International Co-operative Alliance, said: “This new brand or identifier that we have produced is something that we believe there is a real thirst for around the world and has been for some time. When we had the UN logo everybody around the world used it.”
Designed by Calverts, with support from the Barcelona- and Buenos Aires-based Guerrini Island Design, the branding has been designed with feedback provided by co-operators around the world. The process has been overseen by the ICA’s communications committee, which is chaired by Co-operatives UK Secretary General Ed Mayo.
Mr Mayo said: “The idea of a common marque for the co-operative movement is implicit in many of the images we associate with co-operatives over time. The wheatsheaf, the bees, circles, hands, the rainbow. All of these have been images that have helped to unite the co-operative movement over time.
“Many of those predate the modern world of branding. the exciting side of the new co-operative marque is that it takes the idea of a single visual identity that can be used and shared by co-operative enterprise right across the world.
“The great quality of the co-operative marque, is you look at it and immediately you think yes that's us. That's who we are.”
In April, the Co-operative Global Identity Survey gathered over 1,000 views from 86 countries from those within the movement. It asked people to choose colours that they best associated with co-operatives, along with what it means to be a co-operative.
The results from the survey have been fed into the design process that has produced the final marque, colour palette, slogan and brand language, this is something that all co-operatives can align with and which will differentiate them from other forms of business.
“The ICA is going to use the new identifier as part of its new brand. It’s our new corporate identity and we will use that in all part of the ICA around the world.”
Added Mr Mayo: “I'm so pleased the International Co-operative Alliance has taken the lead in developing this. The ICA’s Blueprint is the wider context for this — an ambitious programme of which confidence in the co-operative identity is one key element of realising our own potential as a movement. Just as membership of the ICA can be a unifying force and just as using the dotCoop model online can be a unifying force; the new co-operative marque can be something that helps to knit together the wider movement.”
Though Mr Mayo believes that this isn’t going to create a change over night. Involved in the early development of the Fairtrade mark 20 years, Mr Mayo has experience that “on its own, it will do very little”. “In 20 years my vision is that the co-operative model is front of mind,” said Mr Mayo. “This marque will help us to be resonant and global across every country that we know co-operatives are present in. That we are a force for economic benefit and global justice.”
A series of signature images have also been unveiled as part of the new visual identity. These have been developed by BrandOutLoud, a non-profit branding agency based in The Hague, Netherlands. The images subtly show the new identity’s double-O as the core and shows people connecting.
Mr Mayo has also encouraged UK co-operatives to use the marque and accompanying imagery. He said: “The invitation I would make to every co-operative and mutual enterprise is to look at the new co-operative marque to see how you can use it, whether it's in your business material, on your website, through social media, in your consumer information or on products. Look to see how you can show how you are proud to be a co-operative.”
Dame Pauline added: “I would say to co-operators I believe that this is a marque that I think you can identify with. It says who you are – nobody else can use it”.
“I believe that bona fide co-operatives who stick to their principles and good governance and member ownership should be using this to prove that they are a good, sound, co-operative businesses who subscribe and aspire to the principles of the global co-operative movement."Event: ICA's Global Conference and General Assembly Saturday: Cape Town Global Conference
This week sees the final preparations for the sell-out ICMIF Biennial Conference in Cape Town, South Africa (6-8 November, 2013) with the ICMIF team ready to welcome over 280 delegates to the event. Earlier this month it was announced that the MAD CHARITYᵀᴹ (Make A Difference) would be its official 2013 conference charity. Together ICMIF and member organizations have already raised more than $50,000 for the charity.
In this update we will share how some of our members have already support the project.
Our Conference keynote speaker Francois Pienaar has a vision for the MAD CHARITY which is to create educational opportunities for academically talented young South Africans from financially less privileged backgrounds and to also promote both literacy and environmental awareness in young students throughout South Africa.
How ICMIF members are getting involved
A number of our member organizations have already found ways to help make Francois’s vision a reality. Take, for example, our Conference hosts, PPS and one of our Supporting Members, PartnerRe. They have both made sizable cash donations and this can be done easily by other ICMIF members using the donate now button on the unique ICMIF/MAD CHARITY webpage.
ICMIF has pledged to send a MAD CHARITY student on our popular Advanced Management Course and further cash to help sponsor a student for a year. Finally for now, at the Conference another ICMIF member organization will announce the unique way that they will be supporting the charity – for now though this remains a secret.
Blind auction at the conference
Delegates at the ICMIF Conference will be invited to submit bids for a number of unique auction. These include:
- A Donald Greig Bronze Sculpture – Leopard Log
- Autographed Rugby World Cup Winning Captain’s Memorabilia
- Pamela Stretton Work of Art Titled: Madiba
The auction winners will be announced at the Host Dinner, Moyo Restaurant – Spier Wine Estate on Friday 8 November 2013.
The third Chapter of the Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade states that in order to deliver the 2020 vision we need to “build the co-operative message and secure the co-operative identity, to secure moral economic authority and ‘better business’ status for co-operatives” and that “co-operatives need a more sharply articulated message (or brand) so that people are more aware of what they are choosing when faced with the option between a co-operative or an investor or privately-owned business”.
Over the last eight months I’ve had the pleasure of working on the development of a new visual identity for the global co-operative movement. The culmination of all that work will be launched in Cape Town this Saturday evening. The global Co-operative Marque will be be available for all co-operators to use, following an on-line application process.
The Co-operative Marque and .coop are the symbols of the global co-operative movement and of our collective identity; together they demonstrate our unity of purpose. Use the Marque and your .coop domain and join thousands of similar organisations around the world giving greater visibility to your co-operative and strengthening our distinct model of enterprise.
I hope to see you in Cape Town, and to invite you to make “your mark on our World”. Look out for the photos on the Alliance Facebook page!
The Global Conference and General Assembly of the International Co-operative Alliance takes place this weekend in Cape Town. Register below for live updates direct from the event.
• Live streams, video on demand, photography, presentations and written reports
• Discussion and debate around: food security, community services, communication, finance and building knowledge
• The unveiling of a new, global co-operative marque
• The dotCoop and Rochdale Pioneer awards
Do you have a question for one of the speakers at the International Co-operative Alliance's Global Conference? Or do you want to find out more about a particular session, workshop or subject? Please ask your question here, and tune in on Tuesday afternoon (4pm Cape Town time), and we might ask your question to the panel.What's your question: Your name: Your email: Or tell us your Twitter name: Event: ICA's Global Conference and General Assembly
Co-operators are set to take action against the Co-operative Bank if it continues to take the ‘co-operative’ name while only holding a minority stake in the business.
If the Co-operative Group’s ownership of the Bank is reduced to 30 per cent, then the business ceases to be a mutual, according to the definition of a co-operative from the International Co-operative Alliance, which describes it as a “jointly-owned and democratically controlled enterprise”.
Co-operative lawyer Ian Snaith said it is a “shocking idea” that the ‘co-operative’ name could be used in this way and, in an article published by the News, said it is “legally questionable as well as being unethical”.
He added: “The new owners are welcome to choose a new name that expresses their ethical intentions and brand. There is no problem about making the bank sound “cuddly”. They can have an “ethical” board to try to keep the brand’s image. They can amend the Articles of Association. They must not say that it’s a co-operative when it isn’t. That is disreputable.”
In an article for the News, Ed Mayo, Secretary General of Co-operatives UK, said: “The assumption is that the Co-operative Bank will now be an investor-owned business, subject to stock market equity pricing – in short that it will not be a co-operative, or owned in line with core co-operative principles
“Whether this is the case must depend on a reading of the full prospectus and formal constitution of the new Bank – and whether these are accepted by all the relevant parties. We have already indicated that if we believe that it is not a co-operative, then we would argue vigorously for a review of the name.”
He added: “There are some indications that co-operative values may be locked into the core purpose of the Bank. If so, then the Co-operative Group deserves credit for a creative model that will be new to the UK. This is what in other countries is called a Public Benefit Corporation – profit-seeking, but with a wider public purpose enshrined in its goals.”
There was no single person to blame for the Co-operative Group’s subsequent loss of control of the Co-operative Bank, said Mr Marks.
When pressed by the Treasury committee to name a person who could take the sole responsibility, Mr Marks said: “As a non-executive director of the Bank, of course I share responsibility. Should we have merged with Britannia Building Society? If we had had a crystal ball, of course we wouldn’t. But we did rely very heavily on the fair value and due diligence of work that was done on our behalf.”
He added: “I don’t want to sit here and say ‘it’s not me’. I was a non-executive of the Bank. We all have to take some degree of responsibility, including me.”
Though, Andrew Tyrie, Chair of the Treasury committee, asked Mr Marks to name the prime recommendation of a recent report issued the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, to which Mr Marks said he could not “recall”.
Mr Tyrie said it is that individual responsibility should be taken for actions in banks. He told Mr Marks: “You’re saying that there was no individual responsibility for these decisions and that they were always jointly owned?” Mr Marks said: “Yes”.
Even though Mr Marks described himself as the driving force behind the deal, he said the architects were David Anderson, Chief Executive of the Bank at the time, and Neville Richardson, the incoming Co-operative Bank CEO, who was the Chief Executive of Britannia Building Society.
On the Lloyds deal, Mr Marks said this was a collective decision. He said: “The Group board unanimously voted to look at this deal, the Bank board unanimously voted to look at this deal. I was acting on behalf of the Group board, but I wasn’t acting alone, this wasn’t Peter Marks PLC, this was a joint effort between the Bank team and the retail team.”
The former Chief Executive of the Co-operative Group has blamed the organisation’s board and democratic structures for failures within the Co-operative Bank.
In presenting evidence to the Treasury Select Committee, as part of its investigation into the collapse of the deal with Lloyds TSB, Peter Marks said it was the running of too many businesses that allowed the Group to lose focus.
Mr Marks, who departed from the Group in May, said it was “tragic” and “sad” that the Group’s ownership in the Bank is due be set at 30 per cent.
Though he said this scenario was inevitable due to the Group’s wide-ranging businesses across many sectors. He commented: “There is a degree of inevitability because it was trying to stretch its capital across too many businesses. I don’t know of any other businesses that tries to be a major bank, a major food retailer, a major funeral services provider, a pharmacy chain, a motor group chain, a legal services business, a security business, a property business — with limited capital resource how can you do that in today’s world? This crisis will be beneficial to the co-op in making it focus on what its good at.”
The Bank’s capital shortfall of £1.5 billion was only realised earlier this year, according to Mr Marks. He added that the Group could “survive” in financial services, but to be a serious in this sector it needs to sell all its other businesses and focus on the bank.
He said the democratically elected board has “emotional ties” to businesses and it was “difficult” during his period as Chief Executive for the Group to make “big strategic decisions”. In an effort to focus the business, Mr Marks said he once suggested selling off the farms businesses, which would have raised an estimated £100 million. He told the select committee: “These are things we discussed in the group boardroom on many occasions. The problem with the governance of the Group is that because you have all these constituencies around the table — 20 of them — and they all have emotional ties to various businesses.
“It’s very difficult to get them to make big strategic decisions, like for instance, selling farms and focusing on core businesses, or one core business. If I’ve failed in anything, I think I've failed to get the Group to consider that.”
Mr Marks added: “I was warning them that they really needed to focus on less businesses, they were stretching their capital and still do over too many businesses.”
He explained that being a chief executive in a co-operative is a “very different” role to that of a chief executive in a PLC. He said his role was “to try to persuade the board with regards to strategy” and that he no minuted discussions in the boardroom on his views of the democratic structure.
Mr Marks said the failure of the Co-operative Bank was a “tragedy”, but added: “In many ways it could be seen as a good thing, because in actual fact it will force the co-op to focus on less businesses and not stretch its capital the way it has done.”
When asked by the committee if the movement’s democratic structure needs change in the 21st century, Mr Marks said: “Yes it needs to change.”
The board of the Co-operative Bank was counting on the deal with Lloyds to secure the Group’s future in banking, according to former Chief Executive Peter Marks.
In the treasury committee hearing, Mr Marks described a Bank that was low on capital and the purchase of 632 Lloyds branches under the Verde deal would have solved this.
Mr Marks, who was a non-executive director on the Bank board, said: “The rationale for me and the Bank board, and the Group board, was that the Bank, in our view, was sub-scaled. It needed to build scale to compete and survive. Verde presented a unique opportunity to achieve that scale and brought with it significant capital.”
Andrew Bailey, Executive Director of banking regulator the Prudential Regulation Authority, visited the Bank board when he was Director of UK Banks and Building Societies under the former regulator, the Financial Services Authority.
Mr Bailey told the board that the Bank needed to deal with five areas of the business, which were capital, liquidity risk management, integration, governance and management. Mr Marks said he “absolutely agreed” with that statement and Verde would have brought capital, a stronger management and computer systems.
Mr Marks told the committee: “We did absolutely believe this was the right thing to do for the Bank. It brought significant benefits to the Bank. I and a number of colleagues thought there was as much risk in doing this deal, as not doing it. The bank was small, it was weak and yes, of course, the deal would have brought risk, but it would have brought benefits.”
The Group was not aware of the capital shortfall until the beginning of this year, according to Mr Marks. But he said this can be traced back to bad debts under the Britannia loan book.
In evidence provided by Andrew Bailey to a previous hearing of the committee, he said a large amount of the losses were due to Britannia. Mr Marks highlighted self-certified mortgages and loans that had “gone sour” as the root cause, though he said the Bank was also a victim of the economy.
Another part of the capital shortfall, according to Mr Marks, is due to the regulator shifting the “goalposts” on capital requirements. “I’m not criticising the regulator, but I think they’ve shifted the goalposts because of what's happened over the last few years,” said Mr Marks. “I’m not blaming the regulator, I’m saying the goalposts have been well and truly shifted.”
During his time at the Group, Mr Marks said the regulator had also told the Bank to reassess its judgements on debts. “We had a letter from the regulator to say that we had to ignore accounting rules and we had to use our judgement in terms of what might go bad,” he said. “So what we’re seeing now is assumptions about the loan book, based on judgement.”
Based on these judgements, Mr Marks said a collective management team decided the economics of the deal did not work. He told the committee: “There was a steering group looking at this project was a combination of the Bank’s executive and the Group executive, which I chaired. It was a difficult decision.
“We got the final business case after lots of due diligence and looking at risk and so on and so forth. The business case was projected over five years and we had used the Treasury model on the prospects for interest rates and GDP growth over the next five years and the economics of the deal just didn't work.”
It was this business case that led to the Group announcing its withdrawal of the bid for the Verde branches in April.
Neville Richardson’s claims that the Co-operative Bank suffered due to management stretch, has been denied by Peter Marks.
Mr Richardson, who was Chief Executive of the Bank between 2009 and 2011, told the Treasury committee in September that the integration of Britannia and Project Unity — an internal project integrating the Group’s businesses — was already stretching management. With two major change programmes already being run simultaneously Project Verde was “asking for failure”, according to Mr Richardson.
Peter Marks said he disagreed with Mr Richardson, who was the Chief Executive of Britannia, over his claims. Said Mr Marks: “[He] did express concern about management stretch, both to me and also to the Bank board.” He said this was discussed in the Bank board and with management, but “no one thought it was stretched so much” that Project Unity and Verde could not go ahead.
He added: “I did consult, on a number of occasions, with the Banking team, the executive, and asked the specific question ‘are we doing too much’ and ‘is this going to cause a problem’, and the answer was ‘no’. There was an enormous amount of enthusiasm for both Project Unity and Verde within the management team of the Bank.”
Mr Marks said Project Unity, which allowed the Bank and retail businesses to work together to save costs and to allow cross-selling across the Group, saved £70 million in the first 18 months. He added: “That doesn't seem to me to say there’s a management stretch problem.”