Australia’s secret to success is worth billions says BCCM’s National Mutual Economy Report

2 July 2021


A new report is shining a much-needed spotlight on a critical part of the Australian economy which is worth billions to Australian people – that also gives them a fairer share of the pie.

The report details how, in a year of unprecedented change and economic upheaval, the cooperative business model has thrived through strength in numbers, sheer resilience and an unwavering commitment to the country and its communities.

Cooperation is uniquely at the heart of the business models highlighted in the National Mutual Economy Report, produced by Australian ICMIF member the Business Council of Co-Operatives and Mutuals (BCCM) which reveals that these business structures have contributed AUD 20 billion towards Australia’s GDP, despite an economic downturn.

In 2020, the report says, the collective impact these businesses – cooperative and mutual enterprises (CMEs) – made contributed an impressive AUD 90 billion towards Australian incomes.

Analysis from SGS Economics and Planning (SGS) shows this growing sector already generates 1 per cent of Australia’s GDP and makes up nearly 1.5 per cent of the nation’s employment, and that excludes member-owned super funds.

The report also highlights how Northern Rivers NSW – lately making headlines as the home of Hollywood heavyweights and celebrities – is one of Australia’s most economically diverse and deeply-connected regions.

The SGS analysis found this buzzing cooperative capital – leading the way as a food provenance region by delivering produce from the paddock to people’s plate – contributed an impressive AUD 2.4 billion to the regional economy through its extensive network of cooperative businesses and people.

“These are businesses that persevere through a crisis, move forward together and drive change,” says Melina Morrison (pictured), Chief Executive of the Business Council of Co-Operatives and Mutuals (BCCM).

“In a crisis you really see the cooperative ethos get amplified and it truly pays dividends, as this report so clearly shows. Post COVID, our country needs more cooperatives to make sure more Australians benefit from our nation’s economic recovery and reap the rewards.

“Each year we produce this report because it’s sorely needed – we’re the only non-government organisation doing this very important job of showing Australians and government why this sector is crucial to our country’s economic recovery.”

The report reveals that in 2020:

  • The total revenue for the top 100 cooperative and mutual enterprises, or CMEs, was AUD 32.8bn.
  • Australian CMEs had combined gross assets of more than AUD 1.1 trillion including super funds.
  • CMEs directly employed at least 70,000 Australian workers, but facilitated the employment of 180,000 people.
  • In agriculture alone, CMEs facilitated the operations of more than 24,000 member businesses.

“There are more than 2000 cooperative and mutual businesses across the country, and they continue to overcome intense challenges because of their self-sufficient and sustainable nature, and their ability to persevere as long-standing pillars of their communities,” Morrison says.

“The Northern Rivers is a shining example of that – it’s become the unofficial coop capital of Australia. It’s richer as a region as a direct result of key business being cooperative, because they prevent the leakage of value out of that region.

“When 100 per cent of ownership stays in the region, that means 100 per cent of profits do too – nothing is leaking out or going offshore and in fact, it’s all helping drive Australia’s economy.”

The Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM) is the national peak body for cooperatives and mutuals in Australia. It is a member funded and driven organisation representing cooperatives and mutuals in all industries. The Council’s 96 members have more than 11 million members, including 60,000 businesses, combined.

BCCM is an industry-led association that has achieved many firsts for the cooperative and mutual business community in Australia. This includes a unique set of best practice governance principles for CMEs and the world first Mutual Value Measurement framework to demonstrate the positive impact of Australian CMEs on their members, customers, the community and the economy.

The report also contains a case study on IMCIF member RAC WA. RAC is a member organisation which provides a number of services to members including Roadside Assistance, Insurance, Travel, Tourism, Finance, Auto Services, Batteries, Tyres, Home Services and Security. RAC is a voice for more than one million members across more than 60 per cent of Western Australian households and speaks out on many challenges facing the state, including road safety, transport, land use and air quality.

For member-only strategic content on the cooperative/mutual insurance sector, ICMIF members have exclusive access to a range of online resources through the ICMIF Knowledge Hub.

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