What is a Co-op?
An organisation owned by and democratically operated for those using its services.
There are many kinds of cooperatives, ranging from craft co-ops with a single shopfront to New Zealand’s largest commercial business, Fonterra. Here is simple and short definition of a cooperative: a user owned and controlled business from which benefits are derived and distributed equitably on the basis of use.
The activities can be virtually any legal business operation provided for in the rules or constitution of the cooperative, and may be for the supply of goods or services to members and/or for the supply of goods or services to others.
In a lot of ways, cooperatives operate like any other business, but they do have a number of unique characteristics:
- They are owned and democratically controlled by their members – the people who use the Co-op’s services or buy its goods – not by outside investors.
- They return surplus revenues to their members in proportion to their use of the co-op, not in proportion to their investment or share ownership.
- Conscious of the need to operate profitably rather than at a loss, Co-ops meet their members’ needs either by buying members’ produce at the best price or by providing affordable and high quality goods and services, rather than maximising the co-op’s profit.
- They exist primarily to serve their members.
- They pay tax on income kept within the cooperative for investment purposes and as a reserve, while surplus revenues from the Co-op are returned to the members, who pay tax on that income.
The member-owners share equally in the control of their cooperative, meeting at regular intervals to review reports and elect directors from among themselves. The directors in turn employ people to manage the day-to-day affairs of the Co-op in a way that serves the members’ interests.
NZ’s top 30 Co-operatives based on 2014/15 revenues
|Rank||Co-operative||Revenue (in Millions)|
|1.||Fonterra Co-operative Group||18,845.0|
|2.||Foodstuffs - North Island||6,238.8|
|3.||Foodstuffs - South Island||2,721.3|
|4.||Silver Fern Farms||2,434.4|
|9.||Southern Cross Medical Care Society||817.8|
|10.||Ravensdown Fertiliser Co-operative||711.4|
|11.||Mitre 10 (New Zealand)||708.6|
|12.||Westland Co-operative Dairy Co||639.3|
|13.||Independent Timber Merchants Co-operative||398.0|
|16.||Tatua Co-operative Dairy Co||285.7|
|18.||Livestock Improvement Corporation||228.4|
|19.||FMG (FMG Insurance Limited)||209.3|
|20.||Southland Building Society (SBS Bank)||183.3|
|22.||Dairy Goat Cooperative (NZ)||156.7|
|24.||Pharmacy Wholesalers (Bay of Plenty)||132.9|
|25.||Ashburton Trading Society||119.4|
|26.||The Co-operative Bank||110.7|
|27.||Union Medical Benefits Society||52.7|
|29.||Medical Assurance Society||32.7|
|30.||Co-op Money NZ||24.7|
Total Revenue = $NZ 42.354 billion pa.Notes - Organisations were drawn from the 2015 Top 40 Co-operatives and Mutuals by revenue published by Cooperative Business New Zealand and who meet the member/user ownership, control and benefits criteria elaborated on in the methodology. We except this definition excludes some organisations that operate as co-operatives or mutuals in other countries but not in New Zealand since in these instances ownership, control and benefits accrue to the overseas members (e.g. Rabobank). Data on revenue was gathered from annual reports and/or financial statements published by the organisations. These were retrieved from the NZ Companies Office register or from the organisations’ websites. Where annual reports or financial statements were not publically available, the information was sourced by contacting the organisations directly. The reporting period considered was 2014/2015. However, there is some variability in the reporting period/financial year among the co-operatives and mutuals. Revenue for Capricorn Society Limited in New Zealand and Independent Timber Merchants Co-operative are not the revenue figures reported on the Profit and Loss statements. The figures represent the total value of purchases made by respective Members (e.g. retail stores) from their parent company buying offices.
|Rank||Co-operative||Total Assets (in Millions)|
|1.||Fonterra Co-operative Group||18,315.0|
|2.||Southland Building Society (SBS Bank)||2,862.6|
|3.||Foodstuffs - North Island||2,645.6|
|4.||The Co-operative Bank||1,806.3|
|5.||Foodstuffs South Island||1,010.5|
|6.||Silver Fern Farms||627.0|
|7.||Southern Cross Medical Care Society||602.1|
|9.||Westland Co-operative Dairy Co||538.1|
|11.||Ravensdown Fertiliser Co-operative||533.2|
|13.||FMG (FMG Insurance Limited)||419.1|
|15.||Livestock Improvement Corporation||301.5|
|17.||Tatua Co-operative Dairy Co||241.4|
|18.||Dairy Goat Co-operative (NZ)||232.3|
|20.||Mitre 10 (New Zealand)||174.8|
|22.||Co-op Money NZ||115.9|
|23.||Union Medical Benefits Society||112.7|
|25.||Medical Assurance Society||85.5|
|26.||Independent Timber Merchants Co-operative||68.5|
|29.||Ashburton Trading Society||31.3|
|30.||Pharmacy Wholesalers (Bay of Plenty)||22.4|
Total Assets = $ NZ 33,477.7 billionNotes - Data on total assets was gathered from annual reports and/or financial statements published by the organisations. These were retrieved from the NZ Companies Office register or from the organisations’ websites. Where annual reports or financial statements were not publically available, the information was sourced by contacting the organisations directly. The reporting period considered was 2014/2015. However, there is some variability in the reporting period/financial year among the co-operatives and mutuals.
|Rank||Co-operative||Number of Employees|
|1.||Fonterra Co-operative Group||22,000|
|2.||Silver Fern Farms||7,000|
|5.||Foodstuffs - North Island||1,800|
|6.||Foodstuffs South Island||1,350|
|9.||Southern Cross Medical Care Society||750|
|10.||Ravensdown Fertiliser Co-operative||750|
|11.||Mitre 10 (New Zealand)||750|
|12.||Livestock Improvement Corporation||710|
|14.||FMG (FMG Insurance Limited)||468|
|15.||Westland Co-operative Dairy Co||375|
|17.||Southland Building Society (SBS Bank)||350|
|18.||Tatua Co-operative Dairy Co||345|
|19.||The Co-operative Bank||310|
|22.||Dairy Goat Co-operative (NZ)||190|
|24.||Medical Assurance Society||175|
|26.||Ashburton Trading Society||90|
|27.||Co-op Money NZ||60|
|28.||Pharmacy Wholesalers (Bay of Plenty)||35|
|29.||Union Medical Benefits Society||35|
|30.||Independent Timber Merchants Co-operative||25|
Total Employees = 48,455Notes - Data on employees was sourced from annual reports and/or financial statements published by the organisations. These were retrieved from the NZ Companies Office register or from the organisations’ websites. Where data on employee numbers was not available from annual reports, the information was sourced from responses to the University of Auckland Icehouse survey or the Kompass database. Since the Kompass database provides a range for employee numbers, the midpoint of the range was used, and hence the data should be interpreted with caution. The reporting period considered was 2014/2015. However, there is some variability in the reporting period/financial year among the co-operatives and mutuals. Some data includes overseas employees
|Rank||Co-operative||Number of Memberships|
|1.||Southern Cross Medical Care Society||811,462|
|2.||Co-op Money NZ||190,000|
|3.||The Co-operative Bank||120,000|
|5.||FMG (FMG Insurance Limited)||52,000|
|6.||Southland Building Society (SBS Bank)||40,000|
|7.||Medical Assurance Society||28,000|
|8.||Ravensdown Fertiliser Co-operative||26,000|
|11.||Fonterra Co-operative Group||10,753|
|12.||Livestock Improvement Corporation||10,537|
|13.||Silver Fern Farms||6,000|
|17.||Ashburton Trading Society||2,701|
|19.||Foodstuffs South Island||500|
|21.||Foodstuffs - North Island||433|
|22.||Westland Co-operative Dairy Co||400|
|25.||Pharmacy Wholesalers (Bay of Plenty)||170|
|26.||Tatua Co-operative Dairy Co||118|
|27.||Independent Timber Merchants Co-operative||94|
|28.||Dairy Goat Co-operative (NZ)||72|
|29.||Mitre 10 (New Zealand)||65|
|30.||Union Medical Benefits Society|