MEDIA RELEASE: Thursday 9 September 2021

Co-operative businesses thriving but opportunities still await

Co-operative businesses in New Zealand are thriving and coping well with the impact of Covid, says Cooperative Business NZ CEO Roz Henry.

The launch of The New Zealand Co-operative Economy report provides insight into New Zealand’s position as one of the most co-operative economies in the world with a high proportion of member-owned businesses, including household names such as Fonterra, Farmlands, Mitre 10, Zespri, Foodstuffs and Southern Cross Health Society. 

The report, completed by PwC, shows New Zealand's top 30 co-operatives contribute 13 percent of New Zealand'™s GDP by revenue, earning nearly $42 billion revenue in 2020. It reveals that our co-operatives have a staggering 1.5 million members, with the top 30 enabling job opportunities to a significant portion of the workforce with 41,000 employees. 

Around 72 percent of New Zealandâ'™s co-operatives are in the agri-food sector and have achieved increased revenues of around 10 percent since 2015.

"These agri-food co-operatives have been performing well with strong growth in revenue and assets, indicating a resistance and strong response to the economic impacts of Covid-19," Ms Henry said. 

Those in the insurance, banking and finance sector have also performed strongly, with revenue growth over 40 percent since 2015.

"The past 18 months have shone the light even brighter on how essential these businesses are in keeping New Zealand moving forward."

Co-operatives have long been part of the fabric of New Zealand life. The business model is successfully applied across multiple sectors and is fundamental to the way New Zealanders do business and deliver goods and services. 

"The vast spread of sectors outlined in this report shows how versatile the model is. Not only that, it brings to the forefront that some of New Zealand's most enduring businesses are co-operatives. They are multi-generational, sustainable and community-focussed ensuring profits, and their businesses positive social and environmental impacts, continue to be circled back into New Zealanders' lives," Ms Henry said. 

The researchers highlighted that the key challenges facing the co-operative sector included raising capital, labour shortages, and reducing emissions to comply with the Climate Change Response Act 2002.

"There are fantastic opportunities to work closely with the New Zealand Government, educators and business community to address these and ensure New Zealand's co-operatives continue to thrive," says Ms Henry.

"This report also recognises the opportunity for future businesses to be established using the model. It shares why understanding and supporting New Zealand co-operatives is important and how Cooperative Business NZ can implement this with various partners".