A Tool to be Used Deliberately: Investigating the Role of Profit in Consumer Co-operatives

  •  Terhi Tuominen    
  •  Pasi Tuominen    
  •  Iiro Jussila    


Profit is a controversial concept in co-operative literature. It is primarily associated with shareholder corporations and, thereby, sometimes seen as concealing the distinctiveness of the co-operative model. Following our observations from Finnish consumer co-operatives, which highlight the importance of profit, we decided to investigate its role in more detail by thematically analyzing twenty qualitative interviews with S Group executives and key representatives of governance, asking: why do consumer co-operatives make profit? The findings provide co-operative researchers and practitioners with a more comprehensive understanding on the chain of reasons underlying profit-making in consumer co-operatives. Importantly, the findings also suggest that profit is approached in consumer co-operatives differently than in shareholder corporations and that the difference can be traced back to the set of ideas that make the co-operative a unique model of economic organization.

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