The trends sketched out In Chapter 1 of From Corporate Globalization to Global Co-operation: We owe it to our grandchildren are daunting. That said, the co-operative business model offers a healthier alternative. It does not drive the worst trends. Credit unions did not create the bad mortgages and worthless derivatives that caused to 2008 collapse nor did they need a multi-trillion dollar bailout. Its different purpose, values and principles, lack of need for a growth economy, bottom up nature and ability to put people and nature before profits, are an enormous opportunity in this troubled time. People in co-operatives can choose to do evil but they are in a business model that not only allows them to do the right thing but encourages them to do it. An investor owned business management or board that does the right thing is to be deeply admired because the pressure on them is always to make sure shareholders get the greatest possible profit. A co-operative business, board or management, who does the wrong thing have very little excuse.
A co-operative’s purpose is not to maximize the return to shareholders but to meet the needs of the members who own it and the community. Based on one member one vote, its democratic base makes it possible for members to raise concerns at annual or special membership meetings. The people who use it get the opportunity to question its policies and practices. Does that mean co-operatives are always responsive? No but it means members can challenge them and change them. It means they are more likely to listen and act in a responsible way toward members and the community.
It also means they are less likely to pollute or treat workers abusively. They generally have smaller gaps between highest paid manager and lowest paid staff member. It means that in terms of the trends noted in Chapter 1 of From Corporate Globalization to Global Co-operation: We owe it to our grandchildren, co-operatives are less likely to make things worse and more likely to take actions to make things better. For example, the credit union on whose board I sit, LaHave River Credit Union, has a ‘Green Loan” program to encourage members to shrink their negative environmental foot print.
If we care about our grandchildren and have a choice we can become part of a co-operative and have a say in how it operates in our community.