About: Is there a co-operative alternative to capitalism?


In 2012 Ethical Consumer launched its co-operative alternative project at the 'Mainstreaming Co-operation Conference' in Manchester.

The aim was to get people thinking and exchanging ideas on the question 'Is there a co-operative alternative to capitalism?'

The project had two aspects:

a) an essay prize – where entrants were invited to submit papers on the subject of co-operative alternatives to capitalism.
More on the essay prize >

b) what one thing – an interactive web portal where we invited people to suggest how co-ops could best challenge capitalism and then vote on the ideas.
Discuss the topic in our forums >



New avenues


Since the initial undertaking the project has morphed into a book, “People over profit – the co-operative alternative to capitalism”, published jointly between Ethical Consumer and New Internationalist and featuring the best essays from the essay prize.

To launch the book we also organised a one day conference to discuss some of the ideas presented in the book

The project was set in the context that 2012 was the International Year of Co-operatives but it was also a year when the clamour of serious questions about capitalism was getting louder.

Europe and America were, and still are, facing their worst economic crises for a generation, 'occupy' movements around the world are calling for sweeping social reforms, and scientists and academics point to increasingly dangerous levels of climate and habitat destruction.

We wanted to ask some questions about the co-ops movements ability to tackle these questions.

Do co-operatives offer an alternative model of social organisation which could address some of these key issues? Or do they simply offer another way of organising businesses within a predominantly capitalist economy?
What would the world look like if - as some early co-operators aspired to - co-operatives grew to gradually replace private businesses across every economic sector? Would it be much the same? Would it be somehow transformative or utopian?



Ethical Consumer and Co-operatives

Ethical Consumer is itself a type of co-operative. In October 2008 ECRA converted into an industrial and provident society (an IPS). Our unique mutli-stakeholder structure that brings together workers, investor members and others.

Both classes of member are involved in decision-making and the election of Directors onto the Board.

The conversion was designed to give ECRA better access to external capital and skills – whilst retaining the not-for-profit and co-operative principles at its core.

Because of the principle of open membership, any consumer able to make the minimum investment (currently £200) and who supports the objects of ECRA, can now become a member of the co-operative.

Find out more and invest.



Our ratings

Our research database has ratings for companies & brands under 300 topics in 19 areas of 5 main categories. This includes company ethos category. Here companies can gain additional marks for being set up as a co-op or a mutual.

Learn more about how we rate companies.


More about Ethical Consumer and our work (includes 2 minute video)



More on our Co-op Alternatives project.

The book: "People over Capital - is there a co-operative alternative to capitalism"

Find out more about our new book published along side New Internationalist here.


2012 Essay Prize

Find out more about our essay prize 'Is there a co-operative alternative to capitalism' and read the winning entry here.


2013 Conference

Listen to audio and see pictures from our 2013 conference entitled, 'Is there a co-operative alternative to capitalism?' here.


Have your say

If you want to comment on our forums about co-operative alternatives, click here.


Keep informed

If you want to be notified about future Essay Prizes or projects in this area, sign up to the Ethical Consumer monthly e-newsletter by registering.



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