Mutual, Co-operative and Employee-owned Business in the Asia Pacific
The ‘standard’ business model is generally regarded to be private ownership, either owned directly by an individual or family, or by external shareholders. However, alongside this private- and shareholder-ownership model, there are other corporate forms, including various types of ‘member’ ownership, such as consumer co-operatives, worker co-operatives, mutuals (which is a term that has sometimes been used narrowly to refer to consumer-owned financial firms, but is increasingly being used as an umbrella term to mean any member-owned organisation), credit unions, and employee- or co-owned business (where co-ownership refers to the situation where the employees own a substantial share of the company, as distinct from employee-ownership where the whole company is owned by the employees, either directly as shareholders or collectively via a shareholder trust).
Ever since the birth of the co-operative movement in England with the ‘Rochdale pioneers’, such ‘alternative’ corporate forms have constituted only a minority of business activity as against private and shareholder-owned companies. The creation of ‘limited liability companies’ enabled that to be the corporate form used for most really large enterprises, where significant amounts of external capital needed to be raised to build the railroads and pursue other such corporate ventures. On the other hand, despite the creation of the ‘limited liability company’, and the establishment of stock exchanges to support that corporate form, the member-owned co-operative or mutual sector has continued throughout history as a relatively resilient sector of the economy, despite its minority status.
The 25 years or so leading up to the global credit crunch has been depicted as ‘capitalism unleashed’, with deregulation, privatisation, demutualisation and financialisation. Yet remarkably, given this economic and political context, co-operatives and mutuals appear to have been gaining ground in many countries, albeit modestly, even before the 2007-2008 credit crunch and the resulting global recession of 2009, from which the global economy in 2012 is still only slowly recovering. In the US, employee share ownership in particular grew significantly over these years. In the UK, mutuals spread to new areas such as football clubs. And globally, the Fair Trade Movement was not just about establishing a fair price for farmers, but also sought to assist the producers to create producer co-operatives so as to increase their bargaining power when faced with the huge multinational buying companies.
The 2007-2008 credit crunch has called into question the appropriateness of the shareholder-owned model, certainly if allowed to totally dominate the financial services sector. This has added to the impetus behind alternative corporate forms. Many private banks failed, but most co-operative and mutual banks grew over the past few years. A ‘move your money’ campaign actually encouraged consumers to switch their accounts from private banks to mutual and co-operative banks. The United Nations designated 2012 as the international year of the co-operative, in recognition of the important roll that co-operatives can play in economic life and development. The International Co-operative Alliance is determined to build on this to make the mutual and co-operative sector of the economy a dynamic, sustainable and increasingly important sector of the economy across countries and globally.
This Special Issue will consider the contribution of co-operative, mutual and employee-owned firms to the Asia Pacific economy and society, both currently and prospectively. The Guest Editors invite contributions that address the following issues and research questions, although other relevant proposals will also be considered:
- How significant are co-operatives and mutuals in terms of employment and output in the Asia Pacific economies, what is the sectoral breakdown, and how is this likely to develop over time?
- What role do governments/states play in Asia Pacific to influence the choice of corporate forms, and hence the size of the co-operative and mutual sector, with what rationale and with what outcomes, and how is this likely to change in the future?
- How should we understand the nature of co-operatives in China, given the role of the state; and are these likely to develop into a significant and independent sector of the economy?
- The future importance of the mutual and co-operative sector globally will depend in part on whether the standard ‘Western’ model of limited-liability shareholder-owned companies is challenged: what are the prospects of Asia Pacific supporting co-operatives and mutuals in areas that will trade and compete globally?
- Co-operatives and mutuals have tended to be nationally based, largely due to the varied legislative and regulatory environments: what prospects are there for cross-border growth of co-operative and mutual business within Asia Pacific and more widely?
- Comparisons of mutuals, including between and across types, sectors and countries.
- What frameworks, models and theories might be useful in analyzing mutuals and their development?
1) Abstracts (maximum 500 words to include: title; aim/rationale; methodology if appropriate; findings; implications for theory and practice, conclusions) by 1st January 2013.
2) The editors will review the Abstracts and following this process invitations to submit full papers will be sent by 1st February 2013.
3) Full papers due by 1st June 2013. Full papers will be double blind refereed.
4) Authors must submit their manuscript as a word file via email attachment to the Guest Editors (contact details below). Please see the Asia Pacific Business Review website for style requirements:
Professor Jonathan Michie, University of Oxford: firstname.lastname@example.org
Professor Chris Rowley, City University: email@example.com