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Cooperative Case Studies

Agriculture | Credit Unions/Banking | Food | Harvard Business School Cases | Health Care | Housing | Miscellaneous | New Generation | Services/Purchasing | Tourism | Worker


Credit Unions/Banking



Health Care and Insurance



New Generation Cooperatives




Harvard Business School Cases

  • The Co-operative Bank
    by Robert S. Kaplan ; Srikant Datar
    Description: A British bank with strong roots in the cooperative movement encounters declining profitability in an increasingly competitive and deregulated financial services industry. It attempts to grow by broadening its customer base and increasing the range of on this new information.
  • Diamond Walnut Growers
    by Ray A. Goldberg ; Mollie H. Carter Description: Diamond Walnut Growers is the largest walnut marketer in the world. As a grower-owned cooperative, it is under pressure to operate as efficiently as independent handlers. Diamond is evaluating its high-margin consumer branded business, which has experienced little to no growth, and the low-margin but rapidly growing industrial business to determine its strategy regarding each. Teaching Purpose: To evaluate the unique issues facing cooperatives, particularly as their traditional markets come under pressure from non-cooperative competitors.
  • Finn Coop Pellervo
    by Michael J. Enright ; Jeffrey M. Cohn Description: Finland's proposed entry into the EEA and eventual entry into the EC would open the previously closed Finnish food sector to European competitors. The executive board of Finn Coop Pellervo, an umbrella organization for Finland's cooperative companies, wished to develop recommendations as to how Finland's three large cooperative meat companies could best face European competitors, many of which had far lower costs than the Finnish producers. Teaching Purpose: Allows for discussion of whether efficiency is best achieved through competition or cooperation. Also allows for discussion of the effects of the reduction of trade barriers on highly protected industries.
  • Fonterra: Taking on the Dairy World
    by Ray A. Goldberg , Jose Miguel Porraz Description: Fonterra was a cooperatively owned dairy company--New Zealand's largest company and the world's largest exporter of dairy products. To maintain its leadership, Fonterra had to respond to increased competition, new consumer tastes, consolidation of its customers, and increasing subsidies on milk by developing countries. This futuristic case identifies trends that the cooperative has to take into account for its future success. Can be examined as a model for other cooperatives in other commodity systems. Teaching Purpose: To gain a better understanding of the role of cooperatives in the global food system.
  • Gearing Up at REI
    by Dennis Madsen , Gardiner Morse Description: For the sixth year in a row, sporting-gear cooperative REI made Fortune's list of the 100 best companies for which to work. CEO Dennis Madsen shares his thoughts about the things the retailer seems to be doing right--among them, aligning corporate culture with employees' values and not getting too far ahead of customers.
  • MD Foods Amba
    by Ray A. Goldberg ; Carin-Isabel Knoop ; Cate Reavis Description: In 1998, MD Foods, a Denmark-based dairy cooperative, was searching for growth opportunities that would enable it to become northern Europe's preferred retail dairy supplier. The options being considered included expanding in existing markets, entering into new markets, or growing via product alliances and innovation. The experience of the company's U.K. subsidiary demonstrated that as the food retail sector consolidated, being the supplier of choice was becoming increasingly difficult. Product and service innovation was the key to survival. Teaching Purpose: The role of a dairy cooperative in expanding the European position.
  • National Cranberry Cooperative
    by Jeffrey G. Miller ; R. Paul Olsen Description: Requires an analysis of both the process flows and the production control system used in a cranberry receiving plant. Based on a case by J. Jucker.
  • Ocean Spray Cranberries: Environmental Risk Management
    by Richard H.K. Vietor ; Fiona E.S. Murray Description: Ocean Spray Cranberries, one of the nation's most successful agricultural cooperatives, faces some difficult environmental management problems associated with water usage and wetlands development. Because of federal and state wetlands laws, new bogs for expansion had become virtually impossible to develop. Moreover, to protect its valuable brand, Ocean Spray needs to make reasonably certain that its 800 grower-owners utilize the best possible environmental practices in water management and the use of agricultural chemicals. A single incident could cause the company significant harm. The case describes some of the innovative programs undertaken to facilitate best practices among the loose knit community of growers.
  • Rick Surpin
    by Kirk O. Hanson , David Bollier , Penelope Rowlands Description: A long-time community development worker creates hundreds of jobs for low-income women and minorities by forming a for-profit home health care cooperative, Cooperative Home Care Associates. May be used in Entrepreneurship, Strategic Management, Organizational Behavior, Human Resources Management, and Ethics courses to help students explore: 1) the motives of an entrepreneur starting a venture to meet a tangible social need--the "social entrepreneur;" 2) the concept of worker-ownership and its potential consequences; 3) how to simultaneously serve the needs of various groups in an economically deprived area; and 4) the creation of jobs for individuals many dismiss as "unemployable" (single mothers on welfare, etc.).
  • Tri Valley Growers: A New Age Co-op
    by Ray A. Goldberg ; Mollie H. Carter Description: Tri Valley Growers is a dominant co-operative in its industry and, yet, still suffers from poor returns. The board of directors worked with the new CEO to change the product, market, and financing focus of the co-op to assure a long and profitable future for its shareholders, employees, and growers. Teaching Purpose: To examine one approach to revitalizing a company with many core competencies in a highly competitive industry. Cooperatives, in general, have had a more difficult time in making adjustments. This case addresses their special values as well.


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