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WASHINGTON-Two-thirds of consumers believe consumer-governed organizations are more trustworthy than investor-owned corporations, a study by the National Cooperative Business Association and the Consumer Federation of America revealed last week. The survey of 2,031 adults nationwide found that consumers rate local cooperative, member-owned and governed businesses with democratically elected boards of directors above investor-owned companies. More than half of adults are members of cooperatives, according to the survey. The study was conducted in light of interest aroused in corporate governance ethics in the wake of Enron and numerous other corporate scandals. Interestingly, 71% of the respondents said they were more likely to use a credit union if they knew it was a cooperative. When consumers were asked whether they would be more or less likely to do business with an entity they know was a cooperative: * 73% were more likely to buy from a food cooperative * 69% were more likely to patronize independent, local businesses that belonged to a buying co-op * 69% were more likely to purchase food produced by a farmer-owned cooperative * 67% were more likely to buy electricity and telecomm services from a local utility co-op * 56% were more likely to use day care services provided by a parent-owned co-op * 55% were more likely to prefer health care services offered by a consumer-owned provider * 51% were more likely to hold policies with a mutual insurance company Consumer cooperatives have the best interests of the consumers in mind when conducting business, 77% of the respondents said, while less than half said the same for investor-owned corporations. Cooperatives also ranked higher on value, quality, price, and commitment to their communities. CUNA said the average household belonging to a credit union saves $149 a year over a bank or thrift. Research by the University of Minnesota showed that owners of cooperative housing save $16 a month in operating costs over rental units. “Public trust is the first casualty of corporate accountability scandals,” said CFA Executive Director Stephen Brobeck, at a press conference today. “Fortunately, this survey demonstrates that there’s a solution to consumer concern about their lack of control that goes beyond anything the Securities and Exchange Commission, the New York Stock Exchange, or Congress are willing to do. Consumers believe the nation’s more than 40,000 co-ops offer more democratic, accountable options and trustworthy options. And those are options they clearly prefer.” “The survey demonstrates that consumers know co-ops by their reputation for quality service and products,” NCBA President and CEO Paul Hazen said. “And those who are already members of co-ops have an even stronger loyalty to, and preference for them. Regardless of how you measure it-in terms of cost savings, value or satisfaction-consumers can get more for their money at cooperatives.” However, he acknowledged that consumer awareness and access to cooperatives must be expanded. In eight of 10 positive business attributes, like meeting the customer needs and high quality service, co-ops out scored investor owned corporations. Both types of entities scored nearly the same (57% for co-ops and 58% for for-profit businesses) for charitable giving. Investor-owned corporations outscored co-ops for marketplace choice, 62% to 53%. The survey found that only 47% said they were familiar with co-ops, 30% said there were not very familiar, and nearly a quarter (22%) were not at all familiar with cooperatives. Familiarity was higher among men and among 45-64 year olds. In addition, adults in households with annual income of $35,000 or more were more aware of cooperatives than those of lower income groups. Pointing out that this last figure represents all cooperatives and not just credit unions, NAFCU Communications Manager John Zimmerman said, “Credit unions to serve the underserved people and those of modest means. It doesn’t mean they don’t serve people of other incomes as well.” [email protected]

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