World Co-operative Monitor 2021: six things we learned about the world’s biggest co-ops

The 10th edition of the World Co-operative Monitor, which maps the economic and social impact of the 300 largest co-ops and mutuals globally, is out this week. The study uses 2019 data so doesn’t yet reflect the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the sector, but is full of essential facts and figures about the co-op movement around the world. Read on for our main takeaways.

1 . What does the World Co-operative Monitor cover?

Each year since 2012, the World Co-operative Monitor, published by the International Cooperative Alliance with the support of the European Research Institute on Cooperative and Social Enterprises, has researched data about the 300 biggest co-operatives and mutuals in the world. These include co-operative banks and mutual insurance companies (which are not always covered in the definition of a co-operative). 

The report publishes two separate rankings of the top 300 co-operatives in the world: one is based on the turnover (revenue) of each enterprise; and the other on turnover relative to the GDP per capita of the country where the co-op operates, measuring the size of the enterprise in its national context, which makes the comparison fairer for companies operating in lower-income countries.


2. How much do co-operatives make?

The world’s 300 largest co-operatives by turnover collectively had revenues of US$2bn in 2019, stable compared with the year before. 


3. Where are the biggest co-ops located?

Most of the world’s largest 300 co-ops by turnover are located in Europe (159) including 35 in France and 31 in Germany. Second come the Americas (95), including 75 in the US. Asia Pacific comes third, with the region numbering 46 of the top 300, 26 of which are in Japan.

Europe also comes first when looking at the largest co-ops by turnover over GDP per capita, boasting 165 of them, of which 37 are in France and 30 in Germany, followed by the Americas (77), including 43 in the US and 11 in Colombia. Asia Pacific numbers 57 of the top 300 by turnover over GDP per capita, 27 of which are in Japan and 14 in India.


4. In which sectors do the biggest co-ops operate?

The top 300 co-operatives in the world by turnover primarily operate in the insurance sector (34%); agriculture and food industry (32.7%); and wholesale and retail trade (18.3%).

The largest co-ops by turnover over GDP per capita tend to operate in similar sectors: agriculture and food industry (31.7%); insurance (31.3%); wholesale and retail trade (17.7%).

Other sectors represented among the top ranked co-ops include financial services; industry and utilities; education and health and social work.


5. Which are the largest co-ops in the world?

By turnover, the largest co-ops in the world are topped by French co-operative banks Groupe Crédit Agricole ($115bn turnover) and Groupe BPCE ($63bn turnover), followed by German retail group REWE ($62bn turnover).

When looking at turnover over GDP per capita, the list is topped by Indian agrifood company IFFCO, followed by French bank Crédit Agricole. In third position comes another Indian agrifood co-op, the Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation.


6. What Sustainable Development Goals are the largest co-ops working towards?

While not all co-operatives specifically target UN sustainable development goals (SDGs), the 2021 report found that 72 organisations out of the 300 listed joined at least one initiative to measure their performance towards the SDGs. This included 38 co-ops that joined the United Nations Global Compact project.

Among those involved in the UN Global Compact, climate action (SDG 13) emerged as the most prioritised goal (targeted by 31 out of 38 organisations). Other goals addressed were SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth), SDG 3 (good health and wellbeing), SDG 5 (gender equality) and SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production).


Header image: Revolver Co-operative sells ethically sourced coffee produced by co-operatives around the world. Courtesy of Co-operatives UK.

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