Ever wondered what a Co-operative is?

Have you ever wondered what a Co-operative is?

Most customers and Members of our bookshop are aware that we are a Co-op. It’s hard to miss, it’s in our name – but what does it all really mean?

2012 has been the year for raising awareness of the cooperative sector. The Co-op Bookshop attended the National Conference in Port Macquarie held in October, one statement that stuck with me from the conference is that our sector is about ‘purpose not profit’ – meaning that we put our core reason for existing ahead of generating profits.

An interesting topic we discussed was ‘Can co-operatives save capitalism?’ Although the co-operative sector generally has the reputation for taking a sustainable long term approach, our sector can sometimes struggle to be innovative, creative and ‘hip’. In the wake of the GFC the general public has vented their dislike for corporate greed and wastage by switching over to more sustainable and community based organisations.

Do I think that co-operatives can save capitalism?

If I look at examples from the Fair Trade Movement and what has been achieved with coffee, fruit and cotton, I don’t believe the change in our buying habits would have occurred without an increase in our collective awareness of typical conditions that the non-fair trade producer faces. In my opinion this leads to a rise in demand for sustainable products and the ‘for profit’ sector simply reacts. Basic supply and demand really.

I do believe the Co-operative sector can drive great change in the commercial world and in the communities we operate in and if this happens by people making a switch to a Co-op, great! One of the biggest advantages we have is that we don’t face the commercial demand to produce short term gains for shareholders to the detriment of long term viability. The members of any co-operative or mutual have the ability and responsibility to affect how their organisation is managed.

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So, did you know that the Co-op Bookshop is not profiteering from the high price of your textbooks? As a ‘not for profit’ organisation we were founded in 1958 and are still strong today by listening to what our Members want and need.

We are working hard to ensure we meet our Member’s needs, so please take a good look next time you are in one of our 43 stores around Australia. You may be surprised with what you see!

Stephen Mason, National Business Development Manager, The Co-op Bookshop

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