Sector news: Australian cooperative and mutual Top 100 list uncovers hidden ‘ninja’ economy

Thursday, 20 November 2014

The Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (Australia) 2014 National Mutual Economy Report, was launched on Tuesday 18 November at the Council’s Leaders’ Summit in Sydney. The report’s findings demonstrate that the top 100 Australian cooperative and mutual businesses*, including the top 10 member owned superannuation funds, had combined turnover of over AUD 104 billion in the financial year 2012/13 and combined assets of AUD 282 billion.

“Cooperatives and member owned businesses are an under recognized sector of the nation’s economy,” said BCCM Chair and B20 Member, Dr Andrew Crane.

“Australia has 1700 member owned businesses providing numerous benefits to their 13 million members. We are pleased to highlight the contributions of cooperatives and mutuals and the ways in which they excel in creating shared value by reinvesting all profits back into the economy through their members.

The Report found mutual insurers were the biggest part of the sector with AUD 7.6 billion in combined turnover and AUD 10.7 billion in assets, followed by agriculture and then banking and finance.

When ranked by assets held, the mutuals operating in the banking and finance sector topped the list (more than AUD 84 billion).

“If Australia had a ‘ninja’ economy it would be the mutual economy. Member owned businesses excel in their chosen area of the market economy but the sector is largely unseen,” said Melina Morrison, CEO of the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals.

The role of cooperatives and mutuals in a sustainable economy is starting to become part of mainstream Government thinking. A Sector Blueprint was also launched at the Summit, calling on all political parties in Australia to sign up to a Mutuals Charter ensuring government policies do not neglect or prejudice the contribution of cooperative enterprise. The Blueprint is endorsed by the country’s leading cooperative and mutual organizations.

The Summit brought together chief executives, directors and senior management from leading Australian cooperatives and mutuals as well as thought leaders from the broader business community.

A number of CEO dialogues took place which were high level roundtable discussions, stimulating strong debate about issues that challenge our economy and businesses daily. One such dialogue featured an opening statement by ICMIF’s Senior Vice-President for External Relations, Liz Green in a session on “Marketing mutuality: brand advantage or brand damage?” In this sell-out session participants discussed whether the mutual sector has been quick enough to trumpet its comparative advantage, to measure innovation and embrace its marketing point of difference with the question raised “Can mutuality be marketed?”

Green made reference to ICMIF’ exclusive Global Reputation Report which examined people’s perceptions, sentiments towards and conversations about cooperative/mutual insurers and their competitors.

Speaking about the report, Green said “With global consistency, cooperative and mutual insurers are considered to have well-balanced financial, governance, environmental and social values and that the sector is associated with values associated with sharing profits, sustainability and the long-term. There are however regional variations, with mutual insurers closely associated with sharing profits in developing economies, and associated with taking a long-term approach in the developed economies.

“As a result of this report ICMIF has shifted its strategy to address the issues of global awareness and messaging about the mutual business model. It has pledged to increase the global sector’s total digital content from 14.4 per cent to 20 per cent by 2020.”


* The top 100 data is drawn directly from a study commissioned by the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals and undertaken by the University of Western Australia (UWA): Australia’s Leading Co-operative and Mutual Enterprises 2014 [PDF] published by UWA as a standalone publication.