Eighty business people interested in finding out more about the co-operative enterprise model networked over lunch at the lavish banqueting suite of Birmingham Council House on Friday (April 1).
Setting the scene for the event, guest speaker Martyn Cheatle, chief executive of Midlands Co-operative Society, outlined the contribution co-operatives make to the West Midlands economy – employing 12,000 people across 200 organisations with a combined turnover of £1.7bn.
The turnover of Midlands Co-operative Society, said Mr Cheatle, was “just shy of £1bn, with profits of £26m.”
And some of those profits had been ploughed back into the community. “In the past 12 months we have supported 86 community projects, like the Tutbury Eco Power Group, which aims to build a micro hydro electric scheme in Staffordshire, creating clean energy and generating income for the community,” he said.
The speaker said one of the society’s targets for 2011 was to reduce the impact its 400 food stores have on the environment.
“We have done a lot of work on recycling, and in the next few months we will stop sending food waste to landfill,” he said.
Continuing the green theme, Phil Beardmore of the Balsall Heath Housing Co-operative in Birmingham, introduced networkers to Greener Together, an initiative which helps businesses, community groups and individuals live more environmentally-conscious lives by focussing on small actions.
“This isn’t about doing expensive things like installing solar panels,” said Mr Beardmore, “but about making small changes to their behaviour in areas like energy consumption, modes of transport and waste reduction.”
In its first 12 months, over 2,000 people signed pledges, saved 467 tonnes of CO2 and diverted 19 tonnes of waste from landfill.
“As a result of the initiative there is now a layer of green leaders within the co-operative movement,” said Mr Beardmore.
The networking event was organised by Co-operatives West Midlands, the representative body of co-operative enterprise in the region. For more information about the co-operative business model, and how to start a co-operative, log on to www.cooperatives-wm.coop