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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

Sustainability of Worker Co-Operatives

Preluca, Andreea; Hakelius, Karin; Mark-Herbert, Cecilia


With the world of business often criticised for contributing to social and environmental damage, addressing sustainability has become necessary for virtually all business models, including co-operatives. This article investigates ways in which worker co-operatives can contribute to a more sustainable world, using the conceptual lens of Doughnut Economics (DE). It places enterprises, as a supporting pillar of our economies, at the intersection between meeting social needs and operating within planetary boundaries. A descriptive multiple case study of six worker co-operatives in the UK indicates that these enterprises contribute to sustainability primarily by embodying a mission of fulfilling the needs of workers and their communities, rather than just aiming for financial gains. Worker co-operatives are enterprises with highly generative design traits, distributive of the wealth they generate, and to some degree regenerative by design. Their strengths lie in learning capacity and distributive values that contribute to social sustainability. The implications of the study are demonstrated in the use of the DE model for addressing sustainability in the studied worker co-operatives. This article contributes to the body of knowledge on sustainability in worker co-operatives as a relatively less researched form of co-operative organisation, employing DE as a holistic framework which so far has been seldom used in business research.


doughnut economics; common ownership; social ecological economics; sustainable business models

Published in

2022, Volume: 14, number: 18, article number: 11542

      SLU Authors

    • Sustainable Development Goals

      Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
      Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
      Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

      UKÄ Subject classification

      Business Administration

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