Co-operative and Mutual Economy 2023

  • 28th Sep 2023

Executive Summary

A Report on the UK Democratic Economy 2023

The Co-operative and Mutual Economy 2023 provides the only examination of a combined, comprehensive dataset on the democratic economy. It examines all those businesses that prioritise member participation. It provides a baseline to track growth. And it presents a compelling case for harnessing the full potential of co-operatives and mutuals in the UK, not only for economic growth, but also the betterment of society and communities.

With 9,113 independent businesses, including co-operatives, building societies, financial mutuals, and employee owned enterprises, the democratic economy offers a competitive alternative to traditional shareholder-owned businesses.

These democratic businesses distinguish themselves by sharing power as well as wealth; prioritising social good; generating substantial social impact; and reinvesting in the communities they serve. Operating across diverse industries, from farming to finance and energy to education, they collectively contribute an annual income exceeding £87.9 billion.

Co-operatives, mutuals, and building societies act in the best interests of their members, ensuring that decisions and profits benefit those directly involved, rather than distant shareholders focused solely on financial gain. People are invested in the democratic economy – with memberships surpassing 74 million. It reflects the strong desire for genuine membership that offers joint ownership and control of businesses aligned with individuals’ values and priorities.

Beyond membership, the democratic economy employs over 410,000 individuals, with a focus on providing rewarding, empowering, and well-being-enhancing livelihoods.

Co-operatives represent 83.2% of businesses in the democratic economy, generating a combined, annual income of £40.9 billion – a 3.7% increase from 2022 levels. Co-operative resilience is further highlighted with a 83.3% survival rate for new-starts over five years; more than double other start-up businesses.

The report underscores the unique characteristics of co-operatives, emphasising their focus on people, values, and principles. They offer innovative solutions across various sectors, from social care to housing, contributing to a just transition to net zero, and enhancing worker well-being through empowering livelihoods.

The remarkable growth in employee owned businesses is revealed, with a 37.7% increase in just 12 months. Data trends for credit unions and community owned pubs also prove that rapid growth is possible, if enabling frameworks are in place.

However, the Co-operative and Mutual Economy 2023 also highlights that the potential of co-operatives and mutuals in the UK remains largely untapped.

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