Alternatives to austerity with a cooperative economy

More than 5,900 co-operative businesses in the UK contribute £35.6bn to the UK economy and operate across all business sectors. This annual report gives an overview of a sector that has outperformed the UK economy for the past four years, demonstrating resilience in difficult economic times and proving that values and principles go hand in hand with commercial performance.

Introduction from the report: Our economic system is lost at sea. Steered for too long by the wrong compass, we have privileged short-term, rentier finance over long-term and sustainable wealth creation.


In the process we have neglected enterprise and allowed deep inequalities to become the norm. Weathering the storm are the UK people and its businesses, reluctant passengers who are weak from battening down the hatches and bracing themselves for waves of austerity measures. Austerity is one way to allocate the costs of past failure, but it does little to address the reasons for that failure.

Our economy needs a new engine and a fundamental change of course based on principles such as widening ownership, sharing profits and encouraging long-term, sustainable enterprise. We need to redefine the way that we see economic progress, to lead towards a more hopeful and inclusive horizon of future, common wealth. This report shows that in 2012, the United Nations designated International Year of Co-operatives, we are seeing co-operatives across the UK proving to be resilient businesses. They are providing alternatives to austerity in the form of a new co-operative economy.


Ed Mayo, Secretary General, Co-operatives UK

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PDF icon UK_co-operative_economy_2012.pdf2.67 MB

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