Differences revealed in consumer views of PLCs and Co-operatives

Figures published in a new report from Co-operatives UK have revealed stark differences between public perceptions of PLCs and co-operative businesses. Co-operatives are four times more likely to be described as ‘fair’ and ‘honest’ compared to PLCs. Conversely, PLCs are seven times more likely to be described as ‘greedy’ by consumers.

The report, Good business? Public perceptions of co-operation, compiled on behalf of Co-operatives UK members to track public perceptions of co-operative enterprise, shows that co-operatives are viewed as local, based on sharing profits, honest, trusted and a good way to run a business, while PLCs are widely associated with being global (74%) and cut throat (56%). 

Ed Mayo, Secretary General of Co-operatives UK and co-author of the report, says that “co-operatives are a well known way of doing business and there has always been a high level of trust in the co-operative approach.

“The financial crisis and recession appear to have reinforced this – perceptions of PLCs as greedy, cut throat and dishonest are high. At the same time, interest in co-operatives has been renewed, with more and more people recognising that they are fair, trustworthy businesses – the perfect antidote to some of the business practices we have seen in recent years.”

The growth of the co-operative sector supports this. Last year, whilst the UK economy as a whole contracted by 4.9%, the co-operative economy grew by 15.8% to £33.5 billion. This is partly down to the success of The Co-operative Group, but also stems from the success of over 4,990 other co-operatives in the UK which have continued to thrive.

The report by Co-operatives UK also reveals that:

  • Honesty – 66% of people think co-operatives are honest, 15% think PLCs are honest
  • Public good – 65% of people think co-operatives work for the public good; 12% think PLCs do
  • Profitability – 52% of people view co-operatives as profitable; 71% see PLCs as profitable.

Interestingly, despite the co-operative sector outperforming the UK economy as a whole, only 52% of people associate co-operatives with profitability, indicating that co-operatives need to do more to demonstrate that they are not just fair but also successful businesses.

And, although co-operatives form a global movement with over 800 million members and 100 million employees – which is 20% more employees than all multinational enterprises put together – only three out of ten people see co-operatives as global, whereas seven out of ten see PLCs as global.

Ed Mayo sees this as a time of great opportunity.

“Co-operatives are seen in a very positive light, in a way that fits with the concerns of time,” he says.
“There is of course work still to do, but the time is right to press for a more co-operative economy.”

The research used by Co-operatives UK was conducted by George Street Research.
The full report is available to download now at www.uk.coop/goodbusiness

Terms the public associated with co-operatives and PLCs

  Co-operatives PLCs
Local 81% 16%
Share their profits 79% 14%
Fair 75% 18%
Customer Owned 73% 8%
Trusted 66% 29%
For the public good 65% 12%
Honest 63% 15%
Open 59% 13%
Democratic 53% 14%
Profitable 52% 71%
Involving 52% 12%
Inclusive 44% 15%
Old fashioned 40% 19%
Innovative 37% 38%
Modern 33% 47%
Global 29% 74%
Greedy 8% 55%
Cut throat 7% 56%

About admin

Alex Bird is an experienced co-operative searcher and activist. Follow him @coopalex3
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