Primary purpose
Potential benefits
Who can use the tool?
What resources are needed?
Development, ownership and support
Third sector examples
Further sources of information

Primary purpose

In January 2001, the Co-operative Commission identified co-operative and social performance as being key contributors to the future success of the Co-operative sector. Its virtuous circle model reminded the movement that co-operative enterprises are in business to fulfil their co-operative purpose; by achieving commercial success they are able to invest in their co-operative and social goals, creating a co-operative advantage.

Co-operative, Environmental and Social Performance Indicators (CESPIs) were developed by Co-operatives UK (and updated in 2005) to help co-operatives determine how they are living their co-operative principles and delivering on their social purpose.


A basket of mostly quantitative indicators intended to capture the co-operative, environmental and social performance of a co-operative, based on the core values and principles of co-operation.

Organisations can use the ten indicators one at a time in any order. These ten indicators are:

  1. Member economic involvement.
  2. Member democratic participation.
  3. Participation of employees and members in training and education.
  4. Staff injury and absentee rates.
  5. Staff profile – gender and ethnicity.
  6. Customer satisfaction.
  7. Consideration of ethical issues in procurement and investment decisions.
  8. Investment in community and co-operative initiatives.
  9. Net carbon dioxide emissions arising from operations.
  10. Proportion of waste recycled/reused.

The indicators are provided to co-operatives for self-assessment and they are asked to report their findings back to Co-operatives UK. There is no brand or mark associated with the indicators.

Potential benefits

  • The indicators are a first step to ensuring that a co-operative is living up to its co-operative values and principles; and is able to demonstrate this to a range of stakeholders.
  • CESPIs are relatively straightforward and standardised for ease of use and can be compared across different organisations.
  • They can be used as part of the social accounting process or as a stand-alone tool.
  • They have the potential to demonstrate to customers the benefits of co-operatives; one indicator specifically focuses on client satisfaction.
  • Ethically motivated funders may find them useful in making positive funding decisions. The indicators may be a first step in demonstrating social added value of co-operatives or other social enterprises in procurement decisions.

Potential limitations

  • While the use of standardised, easily represented information is a benefit, it can also be a potential limitation. The indicators mostly focus on measuring quantitative, numeric information that needs to be interpreted in order to be used for improvement or for proving the value of the organisation to others.
  • The indicators do not give a full picture of all that the co-operative does, and may not be able to help answer the most pressing questions or identify priority areas for the organisation.

Who can use CESPIs?

The indicators are aimed primarily at co-operatives, but any organisation that aspires to co-operative values and principles may find them useful. They are intended for use by all sizes of organisations, although they may require further development and refinement to achieve this degree of universality.

What resources are needed?


CESPIs can be used by anyone within the organisation who has access to the records and information needed for the particular indicator. It is recommended that the organisation make a commitment to using the indicators to inform ongoing management decisions and improvement, in order to make the process of measuring them most useful.

Proficiencies or skills

No specific skills or proficiencies are required. The indicators come with guidance on how each is measured.

Staff time

Staff time to implement the use of the indicators should be at the lower end of all of the tools. This has been confirmed by the experience of implementation.

Courses, support, and information

The CESPI guidance document is free to download from the Co-operatives UK website. While outside consultants are not considered necessary, some co-operatives may choose to use them. Co-operatives are using the indicators to report to Co-operatives UK and their members annually.

Development, ownership and support

The indicators were developed by Co-operatives UK with the help of the National Centre for Business & Sustainability. Co-operativesUK is happy for them to be used freely as long as the source is acknowledged.1

Third sector examples

  • The Phone Co-op
  • Lincolnshire Co-operative
  • Delta-T Devices
  • The Social Enterprise People (Cambridge CDA)

Further sources of information

Demonstrating Co-operative Difference (guidance document)

1 Some of the indicators, e.g. those measuring environmental impact, are widely-used standard measures.


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