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Owners of Our Own Destiny

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Humanity at Work, Mondragon’s tag line, is winner of Financial Times 2013 Boldness in Business award. The Spanish, worker-owned Mondragon Corporation, whose brands include the Eroski supermarket chain, is unique in its ability to remain profitable while paying more than 90 per cent of its collective workers more than their peers at rival companies.

Experiencia cooperativa

The present, however splendid it may be, bears the seeds of its own ruin if it becomes separated from the future. José María Arizmendiarrieta (Ideologist and driving force behind the Mondragón Co-operative Experience)

Quoting Txema Gisasola, Mondragon’s President, a recent FT article highlights some key aspects of their cooperative model.

“It’s not a perfect system – it has flaws like every model – but we think it’s better than the capitalist model. Some people have said to us, ‘This could be the third way,’ but we do not have aspirations to be the third way of anything. The only thing we promise is that whatever happens, we are all owners of our own destiny.”

“People with very high levels of responsibility earn a fraction of what they would in a listed company,” Nueno, professor of entrepreneurship at the nearby Navarro university,  says. “They are not motivated by salary, but to make the company grow and become more relevant.”

Mondragon – which employs about 83,000 people, of whom half are collective members – is not based on anything revolutionary, but is grounded in efficiency and prudent management, Gisasola says.

“This is not magic. We are in this market, competing in the capitalist world, and the only difference is how we do things and why we do things.”

Their articulation of their co-operative culture is powerful and worthy of emulation. Clearly described in their 2009-2012 planning cycle, their objectives are:

I. Customer focus

  • Strategic and operational alignment with the customer. [Note, Mondragon is a worker cooperative. We are a consumer cooperative. We are the customer! We need to constantly reflect and reinvigorate the value we are providing, to our members and to our community.]

We need “To experience the customer”, to have them constantly in mind at all levels of the organisation, and for them to really perceive the value we provide them with.

II. Development

  • Growth – Renewal
  • Internationalisation
  • Promotion
  • Corporate synergies

The development of the businesses is essential to strengthening them in a sustained way. Development must be based on innovation and the promotion of new activities.

III. Innovation
  • Innovation Management
  • Technological Development

Innovation is the ability that is evident in the capacity to generate new things and significant changes. It involves adapting or adopting something new in business models, management models, technologies, products, services, processes, systems, organisation, brands, patents, etc., which is applicable and generates value for customers and the company.

IV. Profitability

  • Competitiveness

A vital necessity for all companies, the ultimate measurement of their competitiveness, their internal efficiency and the performance of the resources invested in the activity.

V. Involvement in the Community

  • Corporate Responsibility
  • Social Transformation

The company is a social subject that takes on obligations with society that go beyond the creation of wealth. From this responsibility are derived ethical and moral requirements together with the commitment to contribute to progress and the well being of the community in which it operates.

VI. People in Co-operation

  • People development
  • Leadership
  • Co-operative Education
  • People Participation in Subsidiaries
  • Health and Safety at Work

The Co-operative Experience’s organisations are based on the committed and united participation of people. Our key difference in socio-business terms is co-operation.

We can do it! Let’s do it! Let’s make a difference!


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