Hello, I’m Sarah Deas, chief executive of Co-operative Development Scotland and I’m delighted to welcome you to our new blog.

Over the coming weeks and months our blog will reflect on how organisations across Scotland can – and are – doing business better by thinking ‘co-operatively’. From insights captured from study trips abroad to key learnings from some of our successful businesses, there will be plenty of interesting posts to read.

2012 is a very exciting year for us. The United Nations has designated it the International Year of Co-operatives (IYC) in recognition of the socio-economic benefits of these business models.  Celebrations are taking place all across the world – the First Minister kicked off ours with a reception at Edinburgh Castle, followed by a road-show across Scotland. 

So quite a lot going on here in Scotland and beyond!

Some of you may be wondering what it is we actually do. Simply put, we promote three types of business models which offer people a real alternative to the status quo. And with over 578 co-operative businesses, employing 28,600 people and a combined turnover of more than £4bn – we know these models work!

So what are they? Well, the first model is employee ownership which encourages companies to empower their employees with them becoming, literarily, the heart of their company. With this model staff hold the majority of the shares either directly or through an employee benefit trust which helps preserve local jobs. Statistics show that employee owned businesses are typically five per cent more productive, mostly because staff feel they have a real say in the direction of their company and are motivated to succeed. This is a proven solution for those faced with ownership succession issues.  

The second is the consortium co-operative which allows individual firms to pool their collective expertise and trade as one bigger single entity. The consortium is run on an equal basis for its members. It may be set up to buy or sell in scale, market more effectively, share facilities or jointly bid for contracts. This boosts innovation and growth and the collective bargaining power of the new consortium aids market presence without compromising anyone’s independence.

And the third is a community co-operative which allows people to come together and invest in their local area. This plays well for renewables projects. For example Boyndie Wind Farm Co-operative was set up in 2005 to allow the community in Banffshire to own a share in the first wind farm co-operative in Scotland.

We want more people in Scotland to understand how these business models can work for them. Anyone interested should get in touch and work with our team of specialists to make the model a reality. We even have a competition – Collaboration Prize – to celebrate the International Year which is looking for the best idea for a new consortium business – package worth £30,000 up for grabs – so definitely something to think about.

Well that is me for now. Keep an eye out for the next post which will be up soon.

And remember…think ‘co-operatively’!


Sarah Deas is the chief executive of Co-operative Development Scotland, a Scottish Enterprise subsidiary, established to help companies grow by setting up consortium, employee-owned and community businesses. It works in partnership with Highlands and Islands Enterprise.