Southern Co-op Group of Businesses
The Britain of 1873 would have been unrecognisable to its present citizens. Queen Victoria was at the head of the mightiest empire the world had ever seen, and Britain was without a doubt the greatest of the ‘Great Powers’ of the time. However this imperial glory masked a society that was blighted by inequality, exploitation, and life-threatening poverty.
It was these circumstances that led to the birth of Southern Co-op (known as Portsea Island Mutual Co-operative Society until 1998), as people realised that if they were ever going to get help then it was up to them to help themselves, pool their resources and talents, and create a business that would meet the needs of all involved, not just a handful of rich shareholders.
Southern Co-op (originally Portsea Island Mutual Co-operative Society) was formed in 1873 by dockyard workers who had transferred from Woolwich docks in east London to the Portsmouth dockyard.
The workers had already set up a successful Co-operative Society in Woolwich, and so when they arrived in Portsmouth they decided to set up a similar scheme there.
In December, 1872, 30 people attended a public meeting and all agreed to pay a shilling (5p) towards the establishment of a local Co-operative. After five months of hard work and detailed planning, the Portsea Island Mutual Co-operative Society’s first shop was opened in Charles Street on the 9th May 1873.
Over the years the Society flourished and today it boasts around 180 Co-op Community stores spread across the trading area, covering the whole of Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Sussex, Berkshire, Somerset, Surrey, Devon, Bristol, Kent and parts of Dorset and Wiltshire.
Our values and principles govern the way we conduct our business and have been at the heart of the Co-operative Movement since 1844. It is these values and principles that give us an unique co-operative difference.
These principles are:
Voluntary and open membership:
Co-operatives are voluntary organisations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination
Democratic member control:
Co-operatives are democratic organisations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary co-operatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and co-operatives at other levels are also organised in a democratic manner.
Member economic participation:
Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-operative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the co-operative. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing their co-operative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the co-operative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.
Autonomy and independence:
Co-operatives are autonomous, self-help organisations controlled by their members. If they enter to agreements with other organisations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their co-operative autonomy.
Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They inform the general public – particularly young people and opinion leaders – about the nature and benefits of co-operation.
Co-operation among co-operatives:
Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.
Concern for the community:
Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.
A quick view of the various ways Southern Co-op supports the local communities in which we trade: A quick view of the various ways Southern Co-op supports the local communities in which we trade: