5 minutes with Craig Presland

CEO, Cooperative Business New Zealand.

5 minutes withWhat is the overall goal for Cooperative Business New Zealand?

Our purpose reads as follows: “Through collective strength empowering New Zealand’s co-operatives and mutuals as New Zealand’s most enduring business model”. We are essentially here to provide value and support to our members through such initiatives as advocacy for the co-operative business model and co-operative business sector itself (including mutuals and societies) here in New Zealand, staging interesting and educational networking events for our members, fostering productive relationships with external parties such as New Zealand government departments and agencies and the International Cooperatives Alliance (ICA). We also provide support to new co-operative start-ups as they seek to evolve and become commercially viable businesses and drive collaboration amongst our members in what has become one very large New Zealand co-operative family.

What are some of the key achievements for Cooperative Business New Zealand over the past 2 years?

We have been able to grow our member numbers, which has been pleasing. In terms of providing value for our members, we now hold networking and educational events during most months of the year, with two large events held in February (our Co-op Business Leaders’ Forum) and August (our AGM/Annual Awards Dinner).

We have introduced a new membership category in Corporate Associate Members for those non-co-operatives that wish to provide their services to our members and who understand and support the co-operative principles themselves. By doing this we have extended the services provided to our other members.

In addition, we have been able to promote and facilitate collaboration amongst our members within the spirit of co-operation amongst co-operatives – for example preferred supplier agreements, leveraging on scale by combining the purchasing requirements for common items such as electricity and the sharing of information and experiences via our quarterly Co-op Business Roundtable Discussions.

We have supported new startups including the NZ Housing Co-operative in our quest to help alleviate the Auckland housing crisis, providing advice and guidance in drafting constitutions and strategic plans, forming new boards and gaining external funding.

We have introduced four annual awards for our members – one of which Mark McHardy (General Manager – Farmlands Fuel) won in 2017 (Cooperative Leader of the Year). There were 17 outstanding nominations received last year, making the task to choose a winner a difficult one.

We were able to lobby with the Financial Markets Authority in 2016 so that our smaller members could gain exemptions from the need to provide Product Disclosure Statements for their members when wanting to raise share capital from them – this saving considerable cost and avoiding over-compliance.

We successfully raised funds to enable the production of a joint university study, titled "The NZ Co-operative Economy", which was released in January 2017 – this quantifying the size of the New Zealand co-operative sector (17.5 percent of New Zealand’s GDP, with almost 50,000 kiwis employed by co-operatives, mutuals and societies) and raising awareness of the sector with our politicians, key stakeholders and the public.

Finally, we have involved more New Zealand government senior cabinet ministers, departments and agencies in our events, so that members become better updated and politicians and regulators more aware of co-operatives and the cooperative business model itself.

There has been a growth of membership with Cooperative Business New Zealand. What are the strengths of the cooperative business model?

We have grown from 74 members 2 years ago to 100 today. These made up by Full Members (61), Individual Associate Members (18), Honorary Members (9), Corporate Associate Members (7) and Provisional Members (5). Of our 61 current Full Members, over two thirds are now more than 25 years old, while five were established more than 100 years ago (Fonterra, Tatua Dairy, LIC, FMG and SBS Bank). These organisations have provided trusted brands, products and services to New Zealanders for decades and even centuries – that trust and brand loyalty is a real strength.

The strengths of the co-operative business model include the following:

  • Member-owned and controlled, not investor-owned and controlled (investors could be here today and gone tomorrow).
  • Members in control of their own destiny and who are rewarded financially based on the level of volumes supplied or the amount of business transacted in a given year.
  • Well proven guiding principles.
  • Profits are retained in New Zealand.
  • Commercially-driven organisations that give back to communities and those in need.
  • Endurance – organisations that are here for decades and centuries.
  • Sustainability (economically, environmentally and socially).
  • Spirit of collaboration (co-operation amongst co-operatives).
  • Scale and diversity (there are now over 250 million cooperatives globally, serving over 1.0 billion people as members).
  • Alignment with the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (in the quest to save the planet and its inhabitants).

How does Cooperative Business New Zealand relate to the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals?

Cooperative Business New Zealand is in full support of (and widely promotes) the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, as it recognises that the cooperative business model is the most closely aligned towards supporting the UN in meeting these goals by 2030.

All of the goals are relevant to New Zealand and its people as we endure poverty and hunger in this country, we have a growing intolerance towards gender inequalities and everyday inequities, we seek true environmental sustainability so that we have clean water along with affordable and clean energy, and we are addressing climate change through plans to reduce carbon emissions, seeking alternative sources of energy such as solar and geo-thermal and the planting of trees on a grand scale over the next 10 years as announced recently by our new government.

As a country, New Zealand continues to invest heavily in its infrastructure and economic growth, while it is widely recognised that sustainable and vibrant communities are a key factor in achieving social harmony. We have the opportunity to collaborate more effectively however – sharing information and resources, avoiding duplication of services and learning from each other.

From an environmental perspective the quality of life on land and in our rivers, waterways and oceans has always been important to New Zealanders as awareness and knowledge continues to rise, as does our intolerance towards pollution and harm to our eco-systems.

Many of New Zealand’s cooperatives, in particular those from the agri-producer sector, are now investing heavily into achieving true environmental sustainability. Fonterra reports that over 98 percent of the length of defined waterways in New Zealand now have dairy cattle permanently excluded via fencing, plantings and other systems. Ballance Agri-Nutrients and Ravensdown are utilising satellite-controlled technologies in ensuring the right amount of fertiliser is applied on the right pastures and at the right time. Other initiatives from our agriproducer co-operatives include raising low-carbon greenhouse gas emissions through innovation and infrastructure, co-generation and the more efficient use of energy, minimising waste from farm to consumer including the recycling of packaging and the introduction of Farm Environment Plans that focus on reducing the impact of farming and manufacturing on the environment.