Here are the names of some well-known non-cooperatives: Primark, H&M, Tesco, Adidas, Marks and Spencer, Lidl.
They, and some ninety or so other businesses, have signed up to the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, a legally binding agreement between international trade unions, non-governmental organisations and retailers in the textile industry. The Accord was launched in May, a few weeks after the terrible collapse of the Savar factory outside Dhaka which killed over 1100 people.
And here are the names of two major cooperatives: Migros, Coop Swiss.
Both are giant retailers in Switzerland (both are separately bigger by turnover than the UK’s own Co-operative Group). And both, despite trade union pressure, have not signed the Accord.
Sharan Burrow, head of the International Trade Union Confederation, and Philip Jennings who leads UNI Global Union (representing trade unions in retailing, among other things) recently held a mini-demo outside one of Migros’ stores. Good for them.
If cooperatives want to claim the ethical high ground – as they should – then they have to be at the forefront of initiatives like this. My own view?: personally I’d like to see compliance with the International Labour Organization’s agreed core labour standards written in to the International Co-operative Alliance’s cooperative principles.