Five Bristol Co-operatives blazing a new trail in businessPosted on: 17 Nov 2023
Bristol is no stranger to community initiatives and radical, new ways of working. Among those alternative organisational structures, there is perhaps none more emblematic of the community-oriented, anarchistic spirit than a co-operative.
Co-operatives (usually in the form of worker’s co-operatives) are, generally, non-profit organisations in which all members have some amount of decision-making power, and all profits are (after members/workers are paid and costs have been covered) invested back into the business or the local community.
The benefits of a co-operative can be huge – for those involved, for those in their local community, and for the business itself – so it’s no wonder that Bristol has so many. Here’s our breakdown of some of the biggest co-operatives in Bristol – so you can get involved as a member, worker or customer, and start helping your community, and yourself.
One of the most well-known worker’s co-operatives in Bristol, Cafe Kino are a Stokes Croft-based cafe exclusively focusing on vegan fare. As well as being a co-operatively run cafe, Cafe Kino is also a community space, with a downstairs event space used for meetings, workshops and gigs.
CK focus on sourcing their ingredients and supplies sustainably and locally. Bristol-based projects you’ll be benefitting from when you eat at Cafe Kino include Triple Co coffee, salad leaves grown by The Severn Project, as well as...
Essential trading co-op are distributors of sustainable wholefoods, ecological household products and cruelty-free body care items. Based out of Fishponds, Essential supply independent shops across the South-West, with over 35 different businesses in Bristol alone, including delis, zero-waste shops and cafes (including Cafe Kino!).
For a full breakdown of where you can enjoy Essential products, check out their full list of stockists.
For something slightly different, check out Bristol Energy Co-operative. BEC are a people-owned power station supplying Greater Bristol – investor-members can invest to receive dividends, but all members have the same amount of votes regardless of the shares they own, ensuring the system is kept democratic and in the interest of the people.
BEC are dedicated to carbon-neutrality and green energy – they produce their energy from solar panels – often installed at benefit to local businesses and community organisations such as Hamilton House & Easton Community Centre. Any profits not paid back to members or invested into the business are donated to local community organisations – BEC have raised over £350,000 in direct community benefits funds since 2011.
Yet another unique example of the real variety of businesses that can benefit from a Co-operative structure, Bristol Co-operative Gym are based out of St. Anne’s house – a creative and community hub in, yes, St Annes.
Based on providing a community fitness outlet, rather than maximising profit, BCG are deeply flexible in their pricing structure: price range from £26 a month for those who can’t meet the cost of a standard membership, as well as options up to £52 – explicitly priced to allow the gym to offer free or discounted membership to those who still can’t afford the £26.
You can also become a member of the co-operative for between £10-£50 a year, granting you a say in how the gym is run, as well as a discount on a regular gym membership.
Without a doubt, the most respected name in Bristol journalism is the Bristol Cable. Founded in 2014 amidst the devastation of the UK-owned press and print journalism, the Cable’s not-for-profit, member-owned structure allow them to spend time and energy investigating the issues that matter, not just chasing current events or clickbait headlines.
The Cable, in the near-decade it’s been running, has had an incalculable positive effect on our city; from holding those in power to account, to uncovering crime and corruption throughout the city. For a full timeline of their achievements, check out their website.
If there’s any of these co-operatives you consider joining and supporting, make it the Cable. They’re an invaluable resource that we are truly lucky to have in our city.
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Patrick is a filmmaker with so much Bristol in his blood the white blood cells are graffiti'd. Educated at the Northern Film School in Leeds, he’s returned home to be a Videographer and Reviewer for 365Bristol and BARBI. When he’s not messing about with cameras, he enjoys playing guitar, spending far too much time on tabletop RPGs, and being an awful snob about cider. Have a look at his work here, or get in touch at email@example.com.