The Cooperative Press has taken the bold and positive step of investing in the Bristol Energy Cooperative.
The £5000 investment will help develop an array of projects ranging from a microgrid at Bridport Cohousing to 127kW of rooftop solar at the new Bristol Beacon music venue.
We chatted to Richard Bickle, Cooperative Press Secretary, to find out more about why they chose to invest and how they went about it.
Firstly, can you give us a flavour of who the Cooperative Press are?
“Our organisation has been around for 151 years and first began as the Co-operative Newspaper Society. We run Co-op News, which is a news site and monthly magazine presenting news stories, interviews, features and analysis about the work of co-ops around the world. Our aim is to connect, champion and challenge the global co-operative movement. We do this through fair and objective journalism and open and honest comment and debate.”
Why did you choose to invest in Bristol Energy Coop?
“Over the past couple of years we’ve been discussing how to manage our carbon footprint, and particularly the fact that we fly a couple of people overseas each year to cover international co-operative events.
Rather than offsetting, which we think is a questionable practice to say the least, we wanted to do something positive. We thought that investing in a renewable energy share offer would both offer us a reasonable financial return and help to increase the supply of genuinely green energy. We chose to invest withdrawable shares in Bristol Energy Co-op as an equity investment in another co-operative society, which had a proven track record. It’s co-operation among co-operatives in action – a really important co-operative principle.”
It’s amazing to see you use your money to such impact! Do you invest in other organisations too?
“Yes, our organisation exists for the improvement of society and so we’re always looking at ways we can provide support. Investing money into other co-operatives is a guaranteed way of achieving that goal. It provides us with financial stability whilst keeping our money “clean” (free from fossil fuels or unethical practices).
We have investments spread across several different retail societies, and also take time to think about where and how we spend money at an operational level. For example, if there is a co-operative organisation that provides a service we need, we do our very best to work with them.”
Were there any challenges at getting board approval?
“None at all, the board unanimously agreed that this was a good idea. Concern for the community (another co-operative principle) is hugely important to us, particularly in light of the current climate crisis. The board and staff team have both been thinking seriously about how to both reduce and mitigate our impact on the planet. We are paper-free aside from the printed magazine – and for that, we have signed up to the World Land Trust’s Carbon Balanced Paper scheme. We use public transport where we can, and try to time meetings so we don’t have to travel as much in the first place. Little things that can all together make a big difference.”
Cooperatives seem pretty awesome. Can you tell us more about this business model?
“They are awesome because they put people at the heart of what they are doing! Co-ops are organisations that are owned by their members. This means that they are run in a democratic way. It also means the organisation is well connected to the customers/users/local community where they are working. It’s important for all business to be financially healthy, cooperatives included. In the UK alone, over 7,100 co-ops contribute £37.7bn to the economy. However, co-ops typically do not put profits at the centre of their success. Instead they offer added value in terms of social or environmental benefits.
There are 3 million co-ops around the world with 1.2 billion members. It’s a business model, but also a movement.”