In association with Institut de recherche et d’éducation pour les coopératives et les mutuelles de l’Université de Sherbrooke (IRECUS) and the International Centre for Co-operative Management of Saint Mary’s University, CMC is proud to present the results of a survey report, which outlines the impact of COVID-19 on co-operatives and mutuals within Canada during the first 18 months of the pandemic.
For this study, a questionnaire based on a literature review was sent to co-operatives from coast to coast. Researchers received over 190 responses, making this research based on a sample size of 192 co-operatives and mutuals.
Key impacts on the Canadian Co-operatives and Mutuals
- Despite the economic downfall caused by the pandemic, Canadian co-operatives reported overall stability within their organizations in terms of their membership size, number of employees, products/services offered as well as in their finances.
- While almost half of the respondents mentioned an increase of the demand for their products and services, 39% experienced a decline in revenue. Within that 39%, a significant proportion of respondents were from the arts, entertainment and recreation, health care and social assistance, or manufacturing industries.
- 68% of all respondents stated that having sufficient reserves helped their organization to weather the pandemic.
- 67% of respondents also indicated that they had accessed government funding (either from a federal or provincial level) during the course of the pandemic.
- Among respondents whose organization did not use government funding, 42% mentioned that they did not need the funds, while 28% specified that they did not meet the eligibility requirements.
- A majority of respondents stated their priorities were mostly oriented towards keeping their businesses open, ensuring their employees’ well-being and responding to their members’ needs. Just over a third of the survey respondents indicated that their organization also offered support to their local communities, fellow co-operatives, and non-co-operative organizations.
- Throughout the last 18 months, co-operatives and mutuals focused on maintaining member engagement by holding online meetings, keeping members continuously informed about their situation and consulting with them on urgent decisions. They also provided them with online training and conference opportunities.
Impact of Government Support and Public Policies
The creation of COVID-19 public policies and support programs helped Canadian co-operatives and mutuals through these unprecedented times. However, these are not sufficient by themselves. Strong and organized co-operative networks are also needed to reinforce the long-term resilience of co-operatives. In fact, the important role of associations and federations were key in helping co-operatives receive the help they needed during the pandemic. Not only did they inform them of the ever-changing landscape, but they provided a strong representation when it came time to lobby within the provincial and federal governments. This ensured co-operatives and mutuals had a seat at the table when it came to discussions surrounding the Canadian economic recovery.
Studies will still need to be done in the next few years to really understand the long-term impact of the pandemic on co-operatives and mutuals. As of now, it is difficult to determine how much the last months’ instabilities will affect the sector. Researchers are continuing their research and hope to have conclusive findings later in 2022 as they release the final report of this series.