Putting Principle Six in action makes co-ops thrive

US -The sixth cooperative principle (Cooperation amongst cooperatives) provides cooperatives a crucial advantage, enabling them to work together on joint projects, lower costs and exchange knowledge.

This is the case at the National Co+operative Grocers (NCG), a business services cooperative for retail cooperative grocery stores located throughout the United States.

As a secondary level cooperative with purchasing cooperative functions, NCG aggregates volume among its 147 retail food cooperatives to deliver lower costs or improved access to each member cooperative.

Guided by the philosophy of “stronger together”, NCG’s mission is to provide the capacity of a chain while maintaining the autonomy of each individual cooperative. Beyond acting as a purchasing cooperative, NCG actively works to facilitate a strong system of peer support among its member co-ops which makes them more resilient to individual and macro-market events.

NCG also offers training and educational resources through its online learning management system and thousands of consumer-facing brand assets for marketing and promoting its members’ operations. It also publishes annual reports, explaining industry trends and issues frequent communications to keep all audiences apprised and engaged.

“The fact that we are a cooperative permits us to punch above our weight. For instance, in our 16 years of operations, we have never been engaged in a single lawsuit as a result of our practices. In addition, our 147 member cooperatives are willing to guarantee each other’s payables for core purchases and participate in our self-managed system to mitigate and manage that risk,” said Karen Zimbelman, Senior Director of Membership and Cooperative Relations.

NCG also offers legislative and regulatory advocacy on behalf of its member cooperatives, and operates a consumer-facing website as well as a broad suite of consumer-facing informational materials. It conducts regular extensive national consumer research on behalf of its member cooperatives to keep its branding and messaging relevant.

Owned by their local communities, the cooperative members are passionate about local collaboration for positive change. NCG collectively donated over $7.3m to local community organisations in 2020.

Food cooperatives also work individually to reduce their carbon footprint, and collaborate through NCG to reduce the negative environmental impact of their supply chain.

“NCG has accomplished more in our 16 years of operation due to the fact that we are a cooperative. Our members are cooperatives, so they understand and appreciate the idea of ‘the whole benefiting each part’ and the ‘sum is greater than its parts.’ They are familiar with the concept of ‘stronger together’ from their own operations,” said CEO C.E. Pugh.

Another cooperative that is using the power of intercooperation is Cooperativa de Software Libre in Argentina, which has 20 worker members. The cooperative is a member of the Argentine Federation of Technology, Innovation and Knowledge Worker Cooperatives (FACTTIC), through which it engages with other cooperatives.

Set up 15 years ago, the cooperative develops software for other cooperative enterprises and government organisations.

“We work exclusively with free tools and believe that in order to comply with the fourth cooperative principle of independence and autonomy, free software plays a key role,” said Leandro Monk, one of the members of Cooperativa de Software Libre.

Being part of FACTTIC has many benefits, including being able to work together with other cooperatives on joint projects. Formed in 2010, FACTTIC brings together cooperatives that operate in the technology, innovation and knowledge (ICT) industry. It also promotes the creation of new cooperatives, placing a strong emphasis on local roots and development of different capacities.

“For us, participating in FACTTIC and using its integration tools generates many advantages for each of the cooperatives participating. First and foremost, it gives us the tools required to be able to take on new projects without the need for hasty growth. On the other hand, it allows us to minimise the risk of each of these projects in the structure of our entities. We also managed to generate a business or work climate for small new partners,” said Mr Monk.

FACTTIC runs an Inter-cooperative Work Flow (FIT) through which its members develop inter-cooperative projects and are able to exchange knowledge and provide better services for clients. By doing so they also avoid outsourcing, choosing to work with other cooperatives instead.

“Encouraging intercooperation is a duty of the cooperative movement. It is not possible to be supportive alone,” concluded Mr Monk.

Source: International Cooperative Alliance (ICA)


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UMEME sees slight jump in gross profit as it seeks extension of concession beyond 2025

KAMPALA – Uganda’s electricity distributor, UMEME earned some profit in 2021 even as the country was placed under covid-19 lockdown as a way to curtail the fast spread of the deadly virus that still bothers the world.

According to the audited financial statement for the year ended December 31, 2021, the company that won a 20-year concession in 2005 to distribute electricity pocketed about Shs642 million gross profit compared to about Shs 479 mln earned in the previous year.

The company in its report attributes the increase in profit to operational efficiencies and underlying distribution margins.

Still, the period under review shows Umeme posted a 13.5 percent rise in revenue to approx. 1.9 bln, from about Shs 1.7 bln realised in 2020.

According to the financial statement, 6067 shareholders will share the net profit of Shs 139 mln at the recommended dividend of Shs 54.1 per ordinary share. Only shareholders captured as of June 24, 2022 will benefit.

The financially powerful NSSF has 23.34 percent shareholding in Umeme, making it the biggest shareholder.

Meanwhile, Umeme says it will continue to engage with the government to have its contract extended beyond 2025, the year it is supposed to end.

“The company will continue to engage with the government of Uganda for clarity on the future of the Concession as the current one comes to an end in 2025,” its Managing Director Selistino Babungi who published the report says of the controversial contract that disadvantages government should it terminate it before 2025.

President Yoweri Museveni has in the recent past castigated the operations of Umeme and even threatened to terminate its contract, even though the company says it has connected about 1.6 mln clients compared to 250,000 connections in 2005.

That aside, energy losses that stand at 18 percent continue to worry both Umeme and Museveni even though Umeme has reduced the rate from 38 percent in 2005.

The agreement stipulates that in case of termination of the contract due to circumstances beyond the control of both parties, the government pays 90 percent of the invested money, which is in the region of about Shs 250 bln. Such circumstances include war, riot, strike, crime, flooding, earthquake, or volcanic eruptions.

The contract also obliges the government to pay an interest of 20 percent per annum of any outstanding portion of the buyout amount should 91 days elapse after the termination date until it clears the money in full.

The Umeme concession was intended to improve the quality of service, increase investment in the rehabilitation and expansion of the power distribution network, reduce losses, increase new connections and provide reliable and affordable electricity to consumers.

According to the government, Umeme has not realised the objectives of the reforms in power distribution, as there is high power distribution losses, billing and collection losses, power tariffs, poor quality services and low access levels.

The company, which distributes 97 percent of grid power, says in its financial report, it has more than doubled network length to 44,000 kilometres, from 16, 000 kilometres in 2005, and that it has increased transformer zones to 14,833, from 6000 in 2005.


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Standard Chartered Bank renovates classroom block, plants over 300 trees at Salaama School For the Blind

MUKONO – Over 40 staff of Standard Chartered Bank days ago volunteered in a community initiative at Salaama School For the Blind in Kisoga – Mukono where they renovated a classroom block and planted 300 fruit and indigenous trees that will be helpful in preserving the environment and providing nutritional needs for the students in the near future.

The founder and headmaster of the school Francis Kinubi who received the bank’s staff said he has led the school for the last 23 years. The school has 72 students who are visually impaired with various disabilities that could not allow them go to normal schools.

However, during the visit, the bank’s staff took off time to socialise and learn from the children as played various games with the visually impaired minors. The visitors also had a chance to observe how the children in this school read and write using braille machines. The visitors also had a look at other special needs equipment before they shared a meal with the children.

Bank staff play a game of woodball with the visually impaired children (Courtesy photo)

While speaking at the event, Margaret Kigozi the Acting Head, Corporate Affairs, Brand and Marketing at Standard Chartered Bank said: “One of our strategic pillars as Standard Chartered Bank is “Accelerating zero” where we have committed to help communities in our footprint to reduce carbon emissions as fast as possible, without slowing development and putting the world on a sustainable path to net zero by 2050.”

Kigozi said the activity was all about promoting renewable energy and preserving the environment. “Therefore, we have planted 300 trees as Salaama School for the Blind which sits on over 23 acres of land so they can better utilize the land as a key resource to enable them cater to the needs of the children who mostly come from impoverished families and can’t afford the tuition or the school necessities,” she said.

On his part, Moses Rutahigwa the Head of Consumer, Private and Business Banking at Standard Chartered Bank said: “We are delighted to volunteer at Salaama School for the blind today to demonstrate that we are not detached from the community in which we have operated and thrived for over 109 years but that we are indeed part of it and deeply care about it.”

Rutahigwa said the bank’s staff were happy to connect and “be part of the people whom we serve every single day as customers, to be able to help communities such as Salaama School for the blind, interact with disadvantaged children, hear the dreams of these young people and inspire them to pursue their dreams. Our effort to repair and renovate one of their buildings will go a long way in providing a decent environment for the students to study in.”

The Manager, Sustainability at Standard Chartered Bank Deus Turyatemba while speaking to the participants stated: “As a visually person myself, I am very inspired by the fact that my colleagues at Standard chartered Bank where I have worked for over 15 years now, were able to interact with the visually impaired children. They have taken off time to learn a number of things from this special community that enables them to appreciate the challenges that the children face which opens up their minds.

This new acquired knowledge the Bank staff have received will enable them to be more empathetic, ambassadors and champions towards causes for disadvantaged persons as disability is not inability. If these children are supported, they have the potential to be productive members of society and are capable of so many things and I am a living example of this.”

The headmaster thanked Standard Chartered Bank saying that it has been a great partner and supporter of Salaama School For the Blind for over a decade. The bank has supported the school with renovations, computers, braille machines, providing scholastic materials for visually impaired persons, among others. “I wish to express our sincere gratitude to Standard Chartered Bank Uganda for this current drive to once again support us.”


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