April 24 - As much of western Europe still grapples with austerity and weak economic growth, the co-operative economy is proving remarkably resilient sparking a revival of employee owned businesses. Hayley Platt visits UK-based Delta T whose turnover has doubled in the last five years.
Workers at Delta T discuss the latest sales figures. They have a vested interest in them - they all own the British company. The scientific instrument maker is one of a growing number of co-operatives in Europe. Austerity is fuelling their popularity and helping them grow despite a weak economy. Delta T's soil moisture reading devices have helped double its turnover in the last five years. Chris Nicholl is Chairman of its management committee. SOUNDBITE: Chris Nicholl, chair of management committee, Delta T, saying (English): "We have made very good investment decisions together and that we have been continually reinvesting the profits we've made rather than those being paid out to shareholders or to a CEO." In 2010 there were 160,000 co-operatives in Europe - employing 5.4 million people. And Britain has seen a 20 percent increase in the past five years. Many well known products are made by co-operatives. Nearly all French champagne is produced by them, as is Danish bacon, exported to over 100 countries. And 90% of Italy's Parmesan cheese. A quarter of Germany's banking sector is also co-operatively run. As is Barcelona Football Club. Ed Mayo, from Co-operatives UK, says Europe's economies would be more productive if more companies adopted the model. SOUNDBITE: Ed Mayo, Secretary General, Co-operatives UK, saying (English): "There is no greater power to motivate people to a business end then having a share in the benefits that come from creating that value. We are a country and an economy for example with very high levels of staff disengagement, people are really not motivated to work there. We know that engaging staff through giving them an ownership stake, a say in the enterprise is a fabulous way of motivating staff." That's certainly the case at Delta T. SOUNDBITE: Stephen Williams, Head of Technical support, Delta T, saying (English): "Everyone's listened to, everyone's respected and you feel like an equal, it doesn't feel like a typical, you know boss at the top telling everyone what to do." SOUNDBITE: Lynnette Caicco, Manufacturing Co-ordinator, Delta T, saying (English): "In the past when I worked in restaurants, I worked very hard but the bottom line was so money, money money money and I was of course exploited. The owners were all living better than I was." John Lewis is one of the best known co-operatives. It's also one of the few major homewear and fashion retailers in Britain doing well - staff recently got a 17% bonus. Finding growth like that is key to Europe's recovery.