An evaluation of the co–operative business model within the context of the global reporting initiative
Du Toit, Maria Margrietha
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Milton Friedman’s theory of free market corporate responsibility, which states that the maximizing of profits is the only social responsibility a law-abiding business has, is clearly a concept of the past. A concept that is very relevant today, is the concept of sustainable development, which may be defined as development that meets the needs of the present world without forfeiting the ability of future generations to meet their personal needs. This concept recognises that stakeholders and shareholders require forward-looking information to attend to the economic, environmental and social aspects of a business’s activities. Previous research has indicted that the financial performance of a business alone isn’t the sole reason for its success. This demonstrates the change from a single-bottom-line management and reporting approach to a triple-bottom-line management and reporting approach. The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) developed a Sustainability Reporting Framework that is generally considered the most widely used framework in terms of social responsibility reporting. In this research project, the unique set of business principles and values of co-operatives were analyzed and evaluated, and congruence were found between sustainable development and co-operative governance. Co-operatives in their diverse forms support the fullest participation in the economic and social development of people since they put people at the centre of their business and not capital. The primary objective of this study was to determine the extent to which the GRI guidelines, as a reporting framework, are feasible or applicable to cooperatives as a business model. In this research project, the above mentioned GRI guidelines are applied on a selected cooperative’s activities. The empirical case study, based on the agricultural co-operative Agri-Com, illustrated that the Level C Reporting Framework as per the GRI, can be used very successfully in the co-operative business model. In the case of Agri-Com, it was found that even though it is a co-operative, its primary management and reporting focus remained primarily on the financial aspects. It can therefore be recommended that in this instance, the guidelines per the Level C Reporting Framework, be considered as a method to better embrace the principles of the co-operative business model.