Hagen Henrÿ

ICA – CCR European Research Conference Berlin, 21-23 August, 2019 Cooperatives and the Transformation of Business and Society

Proposal to the ICA Europe research committee for a forum/session on cooperative law and Call for respective papers

Topic: Transformation. Cooperative identity. Cooperative law

The financial and economic crises in the 1920ies affected cooperatives less than other forms of enterprise. The same is true for the crises that began in 2007/2008. Especially those countries with a diversity of forms of financial institutions proved to be relatively more resilient against the shocks than countries with a lesser degree of diversity.

And yet, policy, regulatory and legal measures continue putting the necessity for enterprise diversity into doubt and the identity of cooperative enterprises at risk, regardless of the recognition by governments around the world of the cooperative identity, as laid down in the 1995 International Cooperative Alliance Statement on the cooperative identity (ICA Statement), the 2001 United Nations Guidelines aimed at creating a supportive environment for the development of cooperatives (UN Guidelines), and the 2002 International Labor Organization Recommendation No.193 concerning the promotion of cooperatives (ILO R. 193).

Since the beginning of the 1970ies, such measures tend to approximate the legal features of cooperatives with those of capitalistic enterprises (companization). As of the 1990ies, those measures aim to harmonize the governance structures of all enterprise forms (convergence). This has been reinforced in the aftermath of the latest financial crisis and as the corporate social responsibility (CSR) is being extended to include societal aspects (CSSR) and as it is juridifying.

At its General Assembly in 2018 the ICA established an Identity Committee. It is to suggest actions in view of ensuring the respect for the cooperative identity. The renascent community of cooperative lawyers around the world should be as concerned as the ICA is, as with the identity of cooperative enterprises disappears the very object of their interest and lawmakers have an obligation to translate the cooperative identity into legal rules.

This translation needs taking account of the reasons which have led and continue to lead to companizing the cooperative form of enterprise and to streamlining the governance structures of all enterprise forms (convergence). In addition, differentiating cooperatives through law from other types of enterprises for the sake of recognizing the choice of a large number of people around the world and for the sake of diversity has become a complex issue. Both, the competitive advantage of cooperatives as empirical entities and the competitive advantage of the cooperative enterprise type needs preserving. Furthermore, the factors that transform every aspect of our economies and societies and which are described in the Call for papers for this conference, impact the set-up of cooperative enterprises in at least three ways: Firstly, as do all enterprises, cooperatives also integrate ever more organizationally into vertical and horizontal, data processing chains, which they do not control. Secondly, the positions of producer and consumer merge ever more. Thirdly, private and public law entities merge organizationally into new types of organizations (for example in the education, health and energy sectors). 

Contributions to this session may, for example,

  • deal with policy, regulatory and legal measures, which put the identity of cooperatives at risk
  • discuss legal reform measures, which contribute to the continued diversity of enterprise forms
  • discuss ways which lead out of the imbroglio of the notions of values and principles as underlying the ICA Statement, the ILO R. 193, philosophy and ethics and legal science  
  • discuss the potential contribution of organizational enterprise law to the resilience of economies against shocks
  • discuss those legal features of cooperatives which seem to make them resilient.

Deadline for abstracts: Please send Your abstract no later than February 10, 2019 to me at [email protected]