An atmosphere of cooperation
22nd March, 2007
A global capitalist economy obsessed with economic growth has plenty of faults, but chances are it's here to stay. Fortunately, there are other types of organisations out there to prove that the limited liability or plc company is not the only way to get business done.
The problems implied by a reliance upon conventional market economics are well known: the way that wealth is sucked out of local economies for the benefit of remote shareholders and financial institutions; the way that the true environmental and social costs of commercial activity are externalised as much as possible onto poor communities and the state; the way that the needs of other stakeholders are subordinated to the over-riding requirement to maximise profit and ‘shareholder value’ for the providers of capital. Even the ethical credentials of trail-blazing socially responsible businesses such as the Body Shop are brought into question after the often short reign of visionary founders.
What is the answer? Well, I want to claim that at least part of the answer lies in promoting the development of Co-operative Enterprises. This unique model of business overcomes many of the issues highlighted above through a set of values and principles which enshrine democratic control by the real stakeholders who own these businesses – employees, service users, or some combination of the two. In that old socialist saying, Co-ops are a very real way in which ‘labour’ hires...
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