Basque Cooperative Movement

The weight Basque Cooperative Movement represents, legitimizes us to be recognized as one of the most important and representative business organizations of Euskadi.

 

  • Could you state which sectors of cooperative activity KONFEKOOP represents?

KONFEKOOP is the Basque Cooperatives Confederation that brings together the three Cooperative Federations that form it, Erkide – Worker, Teaching, Consumer and Banking Cooperatives Federation, FCAE Agrifood Cooperatives Federation and FCTE Transporters Cooperatives Federation. It is present generally in all the areas that cover the diverse activities of the three sectors, from agriculture and livestock in the Primary Sector, to the Secondary Sector, with a strong concentration of Cooperatives in construction activities, the steel industry, the electronics and food industry, machine tools, automotive and graphic arts, and in the Services Sector, Cooperatives are more prevalent in the field of commerce, education and training, consulting, distribution, information and communication, information technology and telecommunications, services companies, social services, hospitality and tourism, among others.

Any activity that can be launched and operate in the market can be undertaken from as a cooperative company.

 

  • And some data in terms of cooperative enterprises and their jobs?

KONFEKOOP celebrated its twentieth anniversary last year. During these years of travel and journey in which the hard core of its activity has focused on the institutional representation of the Euskadi Cooperatives, promoting its presence in Public Bodies and fostering cooperative empowerment and training, promoting various activities that were beneficial for the Cooperatives, it has managed, according to data from last year, to represent 1,110 Cooperatives in our Federations, an increase of 10% compared to the end of 2015, employing around 54,000 people of in the Basque Country – 7% of total employment – with 34,000 worker-members. The Cooperatives closed 2016 with a turnover of approximately 9,200 million euro, of which 4,600 million euro came from internationalization. Their contribution represents 6% of GDP. By encompassing not only worker-coops activities, but also other cooperative actions in the field of teaching, consumer, banking, agri-food and transport, it has a total of 1,174,000 members, in addition to the work already mentioned. If we stick to the field of teaching, we are educating 73,000 students in their learning processes, with 5,100 professionals engaged in teaching. We have 20 Cooperatives that are Technology Centres and Research, Development and Innovation Units, accredited by the Basque Science, Technology and Innovation Network with more than 500 families of registered patents.

 

  • The Basque Cooperative Movement is a world benchmark, isn’t it?

International cooperativism is basically characterized by being consumer, banking and agrarian, whereas what characterizes us in the Basque Country is industrial cooperativism, that has developed with more depth in the typology of Worker Cooperatives and it is this class of Cooperatives that we are an international benchmark – for which we are known and valued. There is no doubt that the experience of Mondragon Corporation has had much to do with this recognition. Mondragon has a cooperative ecosystem (a social welfare entity, Lagun Aro, a financial institution, Laboral Kutxa, a cooperative training centre, Otalora, a Polytechnic School and a University with four Faculties, Innovation Area etc.) that reinforces the industrial cooperatives as well as the rest, and makes it possible to count on competitive international companies.

MONDRAGON Corporation, is today the leading Basque business group and the tenth in Spain.

 

  • Is this representative weight duly recognized by the Basque Government?

I believe that these figures that I have just outlined and, by extension, the specific weight that the cooperative movement of Euskadi represents, legitimises our recognition as one of the most important and representative business organizations of the Basque Country. In this sense, our position regarding recognition before the Basque Public Bodies is not yet consolidated, that is, we still have a way to go and a lot to contribute in areas that affect our Cooperatives directly, linked to employment, education, industry, innovation and internationalization. It is for this reason that we are in close discussions with the Basque Administration to become members of the Board of Directors of LANBIDE, the Basque School Council and the SPRI.

 

  • In your opinion, what are the elements that distinguish cooperative companies from capital companies?

The main hallmark of the Cooperatives is the recognition of the person at the centre of the business activity, looking beyond economic profitability for a social return, without losing a competitive position. We must highlight this added value and the differential contribution that it makes to improving our competitiveness.

The cooperative model allows all people equally, regardless of their purchasing power and social class, to access the status of entrepreneur, through a process of collective entrepreneurship that empowers people who would otherwise be unable to access such a position as owners of their company, of their business, in short, holding the key to their own professional and personal development in their own hands, without being at the mercy of third party interests. One person, one vote, is the most just and fair distribution of wealth, with a strong local attachment to the territory.

 

  • Are values and characteristic elements of the cooperative model sufficiently well-known by Basque society?

A challenge, both future and present, is to grow the number of Cooperatives, by supporting the establishment of new cooperatives and helping the growth, consolidation and strengthening of existing ones.

Achieving this objective involves redoubling efforts to bring knowledge of the economic model to Basque society as a whole. Konfekoop today has representation in the CES, in the Basque Councils for Social Security, Industrial Safety, Internationalization, Agriculture and Food, Social Services, Social Inclusion, Family, in Osalan, in Elkargi, in the CSR Forums , in Lan Hitz, in Euskara Kontseilua, in Eustat and in Kontsumobide, signing agreements with other companies such as Euskaltel and IMQ etc., where we intend to make ourselves known and convey the benefits of the model. Our presence there will also benefit Cooperatives .

Even so, despite all our efforts, in some situations we are a great unknown, and the Confederation therefore has a mission to continue working to be located in those areas of Society that are dealing directly or indirectly with fundamental issues such as entrepreneurship, education, both at early ages and in higher stages linked to dual training, so that more agreements can be reached for our Cooperatives, in addition to the key areas mentioned in a previous question. We are currently in the process of reforming the current Law 4/1993 of Cooperatives of Euskadi, precisely for greater legal certainty and better adaptation to current needs that allow our development.

 

  •  In your opinion, what lessons should we draw for the future from the recent economic crisis we have experienced?

There is a non-scientific theory suggesting that in times of crisis and economic recession, Cooperatives, thanks to their resilience and flexibility, are better able to withstand the challenges of these turbulent times. I think the economic crisis has served to put into practice the values and cooperative principles, which we show with great assiduity The crisis has taken our pulse and, although launching all our corporate architecture for taking and implementing decisions is neither simple nor quick, these have been effective enough to withstand the shock pretty well. What worked in the past, in terms of management and ways of doing, will not work in the future. We must be prepared for continuous change.

 

  • To conclude, how do you see the near future of Basque cooperativism?

I’m optimistic, I believe that we have the necessary tools to meet both management and strategic objectives, as well as the social challenges that feature in the portfolio of our companies. Yes, our growth and development should go hand in hand with entrepreneurship, innovation, continuous training and a constant chameleon-like adaptation to the circumstances that come our way in the coming years.

 

Rosa Mª Lavín Ibarra
KONFEKOOP President
Basque Cooperative Confederation

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