Building stakeholder value in socially responsible food supply: A case study of the retailer co-operative approach in the UK.

The paper investigates relationship and network development in the food retailing system.

Year of Publication2010

The paper investigates relationship and network development in the food retailing system, in order to evaluate the role of retailer co-operatives with respect to other organisational forms. The paper endeavours to demonstrate how co-operatives can be competitive whilst preserving their traditional organisational structure, in particular not abdicating the two golden co-operative rules of democracy and mutuality. Opportunity is seen to lie in exploitation of competitive advantages in niche (for example, local) markets and in resurgent interest in ethical trading. Further, co-operative advantages may lie in enhancing equity in both internal member relationships and supplier network exchanges. The presented case refers to a UK retailer co-operative and considers the innovative network structure of the co-operative concerning producer-collaborative supply of locally sourced food products. The method is single case and exploratory. Investigation of this co-operative shows how commitment to traditional values and a high responsibility towards the communities where businesses are run can foster success. The results from the study show that notwithstanding the many difficulties that co-operatives face in competing with Investor Owned Firms (IOFs), they may survive as an alternative organizational form, when genuine social responsibility is experienced by the network of co-operative organization, members, customers, suppliers and the community as a whole.

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