Our origins

Co-operative Energy is part of The Midcounties Co-operative, the largest independent co-operative in the UK with sales of £780 million and 430,000 members. Midcounties set up Co-operative Energy in 2010. Although founded by a regional co-operative, Co-operative Energy is very much a national business, covering the whole of England, Wales and Scotland.

 

Our unique approach

Our unique approach is born of over 165 years of treating customers, members and suppliers fairly. This ethos guides every decision we make and being owned by our customers is what sets us apart from other businesses.

You can find out what makes us different by clicking here.

The Co-operative Movement has its roots in the early part of the nineteenth century. The industrial revolution reshaped society but created many problems and challenges. One challenge was the difficulty many ordinary families experienced in obtaining food of acceptable quality at fair prices. The development of shops did not keep pace with the growth of new industrial communities and unscrupulous shopkeepers maintained a monopoly in their localities. The self-help values of the Victorian age, coupled with the increasingly popular ideas of social reformers such as Robert Owen, led people to realise that they could achieve far more by acting collectively than they ever would alone.

The Rochdale Pioneers are credited with starting the first successful retail co-operative society in 1844. The Pioneers opened a shop in Toad Lane, Rochdale selling unadulterated goods at reasonable prices to raise funds to create their own co-operative community. They also introduced a dividend, meaning that every customer could become members of the Society and receive a return in accordance with their expenditure. The ideas behind their work have become known as The Rochdale Principles, the values by which they would trade. These are still used by co-operatives around the world today and are expressed as:

Voluntary and open membership

Co-operatives are voluntary organisations, open to all people without discrimination, who are able to use the services and are willing to accept the responsibilities of membership.

Democratic member control

Co-operatives are democratic organisations, controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. Members have equal voting rights – one member, one vote regardless of how much they trade with the co-op.

Member economic participation

Members contribute equitably to the capital of their co-operative. Members allocate profits for any or all of the following purposes: developing their co-operative; building up reserves; rewarding members in proportion to their trade with the co-operative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.

Autonomy and independence

Co-operatives are autonomous organisations controlled by their members. They are not controlled by investors and shareholders in proportion to capital.

Education, training and information

Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers and employees, so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They inform the general public – particularly young people and opinion leaders – about the nature and benefits of co-operation.

Co-operation among co-operatives

Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together at local, national, regional and international levels.

Concern for community

Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.

Today, there are around 39 retail co-operative societies in the UK, ranging in size from small ‘one shop’ societies to giants with sales of over £5 billion. The largest co-operative in the UK is The Co-operative Group, who own The Co-operative Bank and The Co-operative Insurance Society (CIS). The consumer co-operative movement is just a small part of an international co-operative movement, which has over 700 million members in over 100 countries.


The Midcounties Co-operative

Following 1844, many of the people inspired by the Rochdale Pioneers decided
to set up their own local co-op stores in towns and villages across the UK.
Swindon saw a society formed in 1853, Gloucester in 1860, Walsall in 1866,
Chipping Norton in 1866, Oxford in 1872 and Cinderford in 1874. By the end
of the nineteenth century, there were over 2,000 co-op societies in the UK.
Slowly these Co-op societies began to merge, partly to increase their purchasing power and partly to compete more effectively against the conventional retailers like Tesco and Sainsbury. Mergers led to two big societies in the Midcounties region by the end of the twentieth century: Oxford, Swindon and Gloucester Co-op, and West Midlands Co-op. In 2005 the members of these two co-ops decided to merge to create The Midcounties Co-operative.

You can find out more on the main Midcounties website.