Following the UN Year of Cooperatives in 2012, the International Co-operative Alliance ICA published the “ICA Blueprint”, which was intended as a “Strategy for a Co-operative Decade”. This strategy aims for co-operative growth as well as better visibility for cooperatives in order to make this the preferred way of doing business around the world.
But does this promoted renaissance of the cooperative correspond to the actual state of affairs?
The purpose of cooperatives – yesterday and today
Art. 828 par. 1 of the Swiss Code of Obligations defines a cooperative as a corporate entity consisting of an unlimited number of persons or commercial enterprises who join together for the primary purpose of promoting or safeguarding the specific economic interests of the society’s members by way of collective self-help. This definition of the cooperative makes it the only legal form under the Code of Obligations for which the legislator deviates from the established principle of the requirement of a clear purpose, applicable to all commercial companies, as defined in Article 530 para. 1 of the Code of Obligations. In practice, this admittedly creates difficulties in distinguishing illegal cooperatives from those that are just atypical.
Notenstein dialogue: Have companies learned their lesson?
Good company management means control, but also room for entrepreneurial initiative, which means that various stakeholders must be taken into account.
Successful Swiss cooperative banks faced with structural challenges
In Switzerland, too, cooperative banks survived the crisis relatively well. In past years, they have increased their market share and numbers of staff, improved their cost/income ratio, are well capitalised and operate with lower risks than other banks.
Nevertheless, even the smallest banks face challenges in stabilising their growth. This starts with IT, compliance and equity capital creation, and extends to new competitors in the non- and near-banking sector.
The following article addresses the financing possibilities of companies with a cooperative structure with an eye on today’s challenges and tomorrow’s potential. Particular attention will be paid to financing problems through capitalist-policy finance reform. Participation shares, although having lost their relevance in recent years in joint-stock companies, will be discussed in particular as a possible option in an extended financing concept.