Year in Review: A look back at the 2022-2023 year with Cooperative Business NZ

By Cooperative Business New Zealand | May 2023
It’s Cooperative Business NZ’s financial year end which is a great opportunity to provide a year in review round-up on our past year’s activity! Here’s a wrap-up from CEO Roz Henry.

Year in Review Introduction

I know for many this has been another extremely challenging year. The Board and the Cooperative Business NZ team feel privileged to be able to continue to work alongside our members to support you over this period.

Even with these challenges, the co-operative sector continues to grow. Many of your businesses’ revenues are up, and a significant number of start-ups are being established under the model. Other business structures’ success has been far more haphazard. This continues to showcase how resilient your businesses are during times of adversity.

I’d like to thank our Board for the continuing support for both myself and our members. They do this voluntarily and are hugely giving of their time. Mike Brown (Chair), Greg Gent, Professor Nicola Shadbolt, Matthew Washington, Andy Grant and Simon Tucker, your ongoing commitment has enabled us to make great strides this past year. We also had the benefit of Stefan Azzopardi acting as a Board Observer who finished up his tenure in late 2022.

I’d like to say a special thanks to our Corporate Associate Members who donate significant time and effort to assist Cooperative Business NZ to provide the breadth and depth of service for our members. Without their support, we couldn’t deliver the vast range of initiatives on behalf of our members. So thank you again to Anderson Lloyd, Buddle Findlay, Business Mentors NZ, Centrix, Deloitte, KPMG, Lifeline, Pareto, Silvereye, Syndex, Trust Alliance, and Westlake Governance.

And finally, a big thank-you to our judging panel who provide an independent set of eyes to judge our Annual Business Awards. This year saw Lisa Callagher retire, and we welcomed Jeffrey Stangl, who joined Phil McKendry and Alastair Hercus. 2023 sees the panel expand to include Chris Black, our 2022 winner of the Outstanding Contribution to Co-operatives Award. We look forward to celebrating our business communities’ successes in late 2023.

The research we undertook in 2021 alongside PwC, resulting in the release of the 2021 New Zealand Co-operative Economy report continues to open many doors. It has provided a vehicle to showcase your contribution to our economy and communities. Being able to make statements of New Zealand’s co-operatives and mutuals contributing 18% of GDP by revenue, and New Zealand having 6 co-operatives sitting in the top 300 globally, indicates how important your businesses are to our nation’s continuing success. New Zealand remains one of the most co-operative economies in the world. 

I’ve also found that the linkages between your driving principles (Rochdale Principles) are closely aligned with what is required to enable the delivery of New Zealand’s SDG goals and meet ESG reporting requirements. There are a number of you considering B Corp certification and how to avoid being seen to be greenwashing. As co-operatives, you already are a long way down the track of focusing on people and the planet, in addition to profit for the benefit of your members. 

As much as it would be great to focus solely on the positives, I think we also need to recognise the need for our business community to be part of the change to meet the challenges we face economically and socially. Greater focus and investment will be required in R&D, innovation, our people, reducing emissions, greater collaborations, and ensuring healthy governance of our businesses. Our leaders must be prepared to make advances into unknown territory. Standing back is not an option. I believe our members are well set up to face the challenge.

Being co-operative and mutual businesses, I believe you all have the opportunity to leverage your story. We are moving into a world where purpose-led, collective businesses are seen as the type of organisations that individuals and businesses want to work with. Whether as a supplier, employee, or consumer. You have wonderful stories to showcase what makes your businesses so precious. Be proud of who you are and celebrate it.

I’d like to share some highlights from Cooperative Business NZ’s past financial year.

From our satisfaction survey held in 2021, our members voiced the need for Cooperative Business NZ to step up our advocacy and lobbying efforts. We have taken major steps to develop relationships with relevant Ministers alongside government and industry bodies. This has enabled some excellent engagement across the board.

Lobbying Government:

  • We have built strong relationships with Wellington which has enabled us to host caucus meetings with National, ACT and Labour alongside multiple meetings with FMA and MBIE. Our members’ senior leaders have actively participated in these conversations which has been key to enabling a greater understanding of our business community
  • A range of submissions have been made including submissions on Purpose Led Business to the Productivity Commission, DIRA legislation, Fair Pay Agreements and the Payments Reporting Scheme. As an independent body representing a broad cross section of our business community, your voices are being heard
  • MBIE announced the Small Co-op’s Exemption Scheme has been extended and expanded. The revenue cap was raised from $2M to $5M pa and $5k up to $10k / member. The scheme supports significantly reduced requirements around Product Disclosure Statements (PDS) and auditing requirements which minimises these business outgoings. This is critical for our smaller members and start-ups. Thanks to David Stock and Stu Gray who led this piece of work alongside our members
  • We established a Policy and Regulatory sub-committee headed up by Simon Tucker to enable improved lobbying of our government. Zespri, Foodstuffs and Wealthpoint have kindly appointed representatives to this group. As part of their remit, Cooperative Business NZ will be issuing briefing papers for the incoming government based on member feedback, highlighting business critical issues that need addressing by the incoming government

Member advocacy of the co-operative and mutual model:

We now have a close working relationship with MBIE and the Companies office, so it’s wonderful to now see:

  • Information on the co-operative and mutuals models now accessible on the website
  • The Companies Office is driving traffic to Cooperative Business NZ so that we can assist these individuals and groups in establishing their member owned businesses
  • We continue to partner and build close working relationships with multiple organisations including IOD who we recently co-hosted a breakfast with, the Auckland Business Chamber and the Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce
  • John DeBernardo, Chair of Plumbing World (NZPM), received our inaugural Lifetime Achievement award for his services to the co-operative community. It was wonderful to be able to present the award to him in person before he recently passed away. John was a very worthy first recipient given his unwavering commitment to our business community
  • Our Co-op Leader Conversations continue to be well received where our members ‘senior leaders share their experiences and perspectives on being a co-op. Most recently we spoke to Garry Diack, CEO of Ravensdown, and David Chin, CEO of LIC. All interviews are available on our website
  • New Zealand continues to be seen as a leader in the co-operative and mutual space. We are regularly invited for interviews, participate in research, provide opinion pieces, and are involved in panel discussions. It’s great to be able to tell our members’ stories
  • We attended multiple events alongside our members including Field Days, Business NZ functions, Ministerial briefings, Toru Conference, and NZW Co-op Fed Conference to enable representing our members
  • We continue to work with the International Co-operative Alliance, and in particular our counterparts in the USA, Canada, Australia and UK, to share insights and knowledge. This includes promoting the domain for use by our members to assist in highlighting your businesses unique point of difference. And supporting the World Co-operative Monitor to gather data to assist them to complete their annual Global Top 300 report

Education & Research:

  • We have established an Education Sub-Committee headed up by Professor Nicola Shadbolt to consider how to expand education on co-operatives and mutuals across tertiary and post-graduate levels
  • We released the refreshed Co-operative Start-Up Guide with significant input from David Goodman, Anderson Lloyd. This is a fantastic, go-to resource for those looking to establish a co-operative. It also acts as a guide for general education on the business model
  • Several case studies have been produced as reference material, including NZ Truffle’s Co-op start-up journey and (NZPM) Plumbing World’s sustainability journey
  • The Inaugural Co-operatives Directors’ Survey was completed. This research established a baseline/comparison against other business models around remuneration, tenure and Chairs/Director’s terms
  • Our fourth intake of the 6-month Governance Programme hosted in conjunction with Mayfield Group kicked off this month (May 2023). This programme is best-in-class. The calibre of speakers and facilitators is outstanding, with the programme shaped specifically for our member-owned business community
  • Alongside Westlake Governance, we continue to offer a range of short courses for our members to develop their governance skills and advance in their governance journey
  • We assisted Nuffield Scholars and Masters students to undertake dissertations on the co-op sector


  • Our main events of the year (Leaders’ Forum, Summit 2023, and the Annual Business Awards) were all extremely well received. Thank you to our members (Southern Cross) and Corporate Associate Members (KPMG and PwC) for hosting us for these special occasions. The opportunity to bring together our members’ governors, C suite and management along with a range of key stakeholders is something that I find hugely gratifying. Not only celebrating our members’ successes but seeing our members network and reconnect sharing their stories from over Covid, or looking at opportunities to partner is a real joy. These events truly bring the principle of ‘collaboration amongst co-operatives’ alive
  • Thank you to our Corporate Associate Members and partners who have assisted us to host webinars on a range of topics relevant to our members, including understanding the links between co-operatives and B Corp certification, research findings on the co-operative agriculture sector, political and election blogs and economic roundups

Governance and Operations:

  • Raewyn Tipene has joined Cooperative Business NZ’s board as our new Board Observer. This will assist in how to better engage with Māori, which was identified as a strategic priority
  • We moved the business onto a new operating platform (website, event management, membership management and email marketing services) to enable an improved membership experience
  • Having our offices based out of the Employer’s and Manufacture’s Association (EMA) building, alongside our membership with BusinessNZ, has greatly assisted to expand our relationships with government
  • We have continued to be stringent on our internal costs, including our non-participation with the ICA’s Global Conference and ICA membership this past year. However, we are working with the ICA to look at how we reinstate New Zealand as a member as they recognised we are one of the most advanced co-operative economies and have significant learnings we can share with the global co-operative community
  • We continue to be stringent with our internal costs and given the challenges being faced by members, the Board has decided to keep fee increases to a minimum. Our constitution states an annual increase of CPI, however, it has been agreed to keep this figure to 6%

As New Zealand’s peak body representing our member-owned business community, I’d like to thank our members who have stood by us. It’s been a challenging time for our business, and we appreciate that without you, we don’t exist.

We have achieved so much due to your support both through subscription fees, attending our events and training and so willingly giving of yourselves personally. It’s been a real pleasure to work alongside you all.

Looking to the future, we will narrow our focus on a smaller number of specific initiatives to ensure remaining nimble and lean, so we can continue to deliver best-in-class and best-value member benefits.

The Board, the team and I look forward to continuing to work with you, so your businesses thrive in the year ahead, are better understood and your voices are heard.  

In co-operation / kia kaha,

Roz Henry
CEO, Cooperative Business NZ

Want to read more?

You may also be interested in

Stay in Touch

Want to stay on top of sector updates, international news, opportunities, the latest events, and insights?

Subscribe to our monthly industry update.