The value of the cooperative sector grew by almost a fifth while the value of the wider economy fell in the period from 2008 to 2011, according to a report today by Co-operatives UK.
The UK Co-operative Economy 2012 - Alternatives to Austerity, says the turnover of the cooperative sector rose from £29.8bn at the end of 2008 to £35.6bn at the end of 2011, a rise of 19.6 per cent, while the value of the wider economy fell by 1.7 per cent over the same period.
However, the report says that the figures for cooperative growth are not adjusted for inflation, whereas those for the wider economy are.
The number of cooperatives in the UK rose by 23 per cent over the same period, from 4,820 in 2008 to 5,933 in 2011. And the number of cooperative members rose by 19.7 per cent, from 11.3 million to 13.5 million.
Retail was by far the largest cooperative sector, with 71.7 per cent of the turnover of the whole sector. Next came agriculture, with 11.4 per cent, and financial services, with 6.2 per cent.
The largest growth areas were renewable energy cooperatives and cooperative schools controlled by teachers and parents.
"This is good news for business and for our new emerging economy," said Ed Mayo, secretary general of Co-operatives UK. "At a time when our economic system is undergoing fundamental change and critical analysis of its suitability, this is evidence that broadening ownership and control, prioritising social and environmental impact alongside profit, is a resilient alternative to austerity."