Is there such a thing as empathetic capitalism?

Is there such a thing as empathetic capitalism?

One of our favourite weekly podcasts is Professor Scott Galloway’s Pivot. Though he is a self-professed Capitalist, he has some very forthright views on what that should actually mean that run counter to the greed and avarice we often see associated with the term.

In recent weeks he has been particularly scathing about watching big businesses in the US hijack a COVID-19 related scheme set up for small businesses. These same big businesses reaching for tax-payer bailouts didn’t simply fail to create cash balances for a rainy day, they used their cash to buy back shares, pumping the prices up and triggering Executive bonus payouts. You can read more detail here, but in short, he has very little time for those who appear to be “capitalists on the way up and socialists on the way down!”.

Capitalism is a broad church with many different ways to run a business and many different business models. One of them happens to belong to one of Chemistry’s extraordinarily successful partners, Co-op.

The Co-op business model

Co-op, as it implies, is a co-operative, an organisation run by its members, for its members. It has a stated goal to benefit the very public who consume its services and products. Founded by the Rochdale Pioneers in 1844, there are now over 7,000 consumer co-operatives in the UK and the co-operative way of running a business has been exported around the world. You can find out more about their history here.

Co-op has been in the news recently because of the lifeline they offered to the Big Issue and those it supports. This isn’t an isolated incident of altruism brought on by the current climate. 20,000+ children in England attend Co-op academies for their education, while in 2019 they invested £17m into local community funding. Co-op also recently launched “Save Our Spaces”, a fund to reclaim endangered spaces in our communities where people can connect and co-operate. This isn’t an accident. Investment in the community is baked into the business model.

Join us for a live discussion on Working Through COVID-19

The model is not without its challenges, particularly at this time. To understand how Co-op has been using its purpose to navigate COVID-19 and specifically the impact on Co-Op colleagues, our CEO Roger Philby will be talking to Helen Webb, their Chief People and Services Officer, as part of the SAP “Working Through COVID-19” series.

Please join us, as Helen will undoubtedly share some fascinating insights about their way of working now, and in the future. In a world where businesses are in danger of being seen as adding to the level of inequality we see in our society, Co-op offers an interesting alternative and perhaps one, 176 years after its founding, that is as relevant today as it was then.

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