Up group, a world leader in business services, the parent company of which is a cooperative and participatory enterprise (Scop), is now further building up its cooperative. By merging several of its subsidiaries within a single Scop entity now including 710 cooperators, the Group is bringing many more of its employees into the company’s share capital and involving them in the company’s strategic decisions. Pursuant to this change, 70% of the employees in France will be cooperators in 2016.
An atypical governance model
With 2 350 employees in 17 countries of operation, Up group is rich with 51 years of history. Its success is the outcome of an unusual governance model. That is because Up group’s parent company is a co-op, a cooperative and participatory enterprise (Scop). The share capital is 100% owned by employee-members, which ensures democratic management based on the principle of 1 person = 1 vote. The co-operators elect the Board of Directors from within the company, and the Board then elects its Chairman.
This governance model guarantees the relevance of long-term decisions and directly involves employees in the success of the company. The financial reserves cannot be shared, which leads to a non-speculative vision of the company and guarantees Up group’s independence and sustainability. This model is the reason for Up group’s high performance, and has made it a player that is different in its industry.
Up group strengthens its cooperative
Up group has therefore chosen to enhance this unique strategic advantage by strengthening its cooperative base. To do this, the decision was to include as many employees as possible from all the subsidiaries of the Group, and not only from the parent company, in the share capital and the strategic decisions.
After a period of investigation, an initial phase was defined: to merge the French voucher-publishing subsidiaries into a single Scop co-op. The challenge is to strengthen the role of the Group as a reference in the social economy sphere.
A unique project in the world of the social economy
The expansion of the cooperative has consequences for each of the current 394 employee-members. To achieve the goal, it was necessary to get them on board because they would be voting on the issue. To this end, over a year before the process was initiated, the co-op set up a specialized organization.
Over one hundred meetings were organized (working projects, preparation workshops, consultations, etc.). In-house communication was at the core of the process, because everyone needed to understand the stakes. This involved many people and processes: newsletters, workshops and debates, frequently asked questions, IRP consultations, breakfast meetings between members and the Chairwoman (2 per week during 1 year). This is a major investment for Up group.
Social innovation serving democratic governance
During the General Assembly on June 12, 2015, 394 employee-members voted the merger of Chèque Déjeuner, Chèque Cadhoc, Chèque Domicile and Rev&Sens into a single Scop entity. 88% of the cooperators voted in favor of the merger, thereby demonstrating that the collective interest took precedence over individual interests.
Specifically, Up group’s membership thereby increases from 394 to 710 (+80%) following this merger, which will be effective on January 1st, 2016. 70% of the employees of Up group in France will thereby become cooperators. In order to phase in this transformation, Up group and partners of the social economy have designed an exceptional process of support for new cooperative employee-members.
Starting in January 2016, a study will be initiated on the terms of association of employees of the other French companies as well as international employees in Up group’s share capital and its strategic decisions. In France, the SSE Law of 2014 (loi Hamon) implementation decrees will clarify the legislative environment. Internationally, an analysis of specific context for each country will be necessary in order to choose the best options.
These next steps will enable Up group to invent the cooperative group of the future, and to become the emblematic ambassador of the social economy in the world.
« By strengthening its cooperative in France and, in the medium term, by deploying its founding principles to all of its subsidiaries worldwide, Up group is exporting its model and demonstrating that it is possible to succeed economically while doing business differently. »