Why cooperatives and mutuals can help "build back better" post Covid

The Rebuilding Business for Society report–compiled by a group of co-operative and mutual trade associations–says they can play a leading role in reinvigorating communities, especially those left behind by economic or social change.

Diverse forms of ownership are necessary to help re-build after the Covid pandemic, says a new report.

The Rebuilding Business for Society report–compiled by a group of co-operative and mutual trade associations–says they can play a leading role in reinvigorating communities, especially those left behind by economic or social change.

“The Covid pandemic has brought out the best in people and their communities, and we need to facilitate the development of institutions that embrace this spirit,” said Mike Regnier, Chief Executive of the Yorkshire Building Society and Chair of the Building Societies Association.

“By building on their heritage of democratic ownership, cooperatives, mutual, employee-owned firms and social enterprises can integrate communities and play a leading role in securing a more sustainable economic, social and environmental future for all.”

The group is calling for “meaningful change” in the institutions that shape the business environment in order to counteract the dominance of shareholder-ownership in the way the corporate world is structured.

Three key approaches outlined in the report include:

  • Creating an enabling environment for forms of business ownership beyond shareholder owners
  • Providing an option for businesses that are seeking to recapitalise after the Covid pandemic to introduce employee or customer ownership, including repaying Government support out of future earnings
  • Supporting community-led economic development, particularly in the hardest-hit regions, to engage local people in incubating new forms of wealth creation which would support the Government’s ambitions to “level up” different regions.

Lord Adebowale CBE, Chair of Social Enterprise UK said: “The challenges we face in rebuilding society after this global pandemic alongside the need to tackle the climate emergency means we have to change business as usual.

“The UK has been a global leader in developing new forms of business from cooperatives and building societies to social enterprises. We need more of these businesses if we are going to bounce back quickly and fairly from COVID.

“This report provides Government with a number of recommendations on how this can be done and I hope that these businesses will be at the heart of Britain’s economic fightback from Coronavirus.

The report also includes two surveys that provides fresh insights into how workers’ view their own organisation’s purpose and how it delivers for different groups in society.


Notes to Editors:

For more information please call Hilary McVitty at the BSA on Tel: 0207 520 5926 or hilary.mcvitty@bsa.org.uk

The report was compiled by Association of Financial Mutuals, the Building Societies Association, Co-operatives UK, the Employee Ownership Association, and Social Enterprise UK. To download a free copy see here

  • The Association of Financial Mutuals represents insurance and healthcare providers that are owned by their customers, or established to serve a defined community.

"Many employees feel incredibly vulnerable at the moment, as a result of isolation, stress and future uncertainty.  Our research shows that employees in a mutual believe their employer is more trustworthy and focused on customers and the wider community, and those are aptitudes that are increasingly important today."

Jane Nelson, CEO, The Oddfellows


  • The Building Societies Association represents all 43 building societies and six of the largest credit unions in the UK.

“The pandemic has prompted individuals and businesses to reconsider their priorities and find new and often creative ways to overcome the challenges they’re now facing every day. Events of recent months have repeatedly reminded us how much we all rely on others, and reinforced how mutual support and co-operation make a difference. As demonstrated by my own colleagues and those in many other Building Societies, this positive spirit of collaboration and care for others is helping us to safely make it through this unique time.”

Richard Fearon, CEO, Leeds Building Society


  • Co-operatives UK is the national association of co-ops of all shapes and sizes, from major customer-owned retailers, to worker-owned tech start-ups and community businesses.

"The world needs a new normal for doing business; one that effectively avoids environmental and social harms, while distributing wealth and power more fairly. Because of how they are owned and run, mutuals lead the way, as this report shows." 

James Wright, Policy Lead, Co-operatives UK 


  • The Employee Ownership Association is a not for profit, politically independent organisation that represents and supports the development of the £30+billion employee ownership sector.

As the co-founder of an employee owned business I welcome this report. I see first-hand on a daily basis the benefits of employee ownership in our workforce. The employee owned model has provided security for our colleagues, allowed us to retain our creativity and talent and has kept good jobs rooted in our local economy. As we look to recover from COVID, we need to a grow the number of inclusive business models that offer better resilience and income in equality . The Government must support this shift if it wants to level up the economy, and the Comprehensive Spending Review is an opportunity to unlock more purposeful businesses like Aardman Animations, right across the country.  

David Sproxton, Co-founder, Aardman Animations


  • Social Enterprise UK is the biggest network of social enterprises in the UK, with over 2,600 members. Social enterprises are businesses with core social and environmental missions and ownership structures which reflect this.