Fidan Ana Kurtulus Makes the Case for Employee Ownership and Cooperatives at a United Nations General Assembly Panel

Fidan Ana Kurtulus, economics, spoke in favor of broad-based employee ownership of firms and cooperatives and how governments can enact policies to encourage the adoption and prevalence of employee ownership and cooperatives at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on October 24, 2019. 

Kurtulus was part of an expert panel held by the UNGA Economic and Financial Committee (Second Committee) to understand emerging models of economic activities and their implications for sustainable development. The Committee aims to identify policy options for maximizing the benefits of emerging economic activities and minimizing their risks. 

Kurtulus, professor of economics and co-director of the Center for Employment Equity, suggested that governments should support co-operative firms by issuing fiscal incentives, promoting their benefits, and favoring them in government contracts. “The biggest reason why we don’t see a larger proportion of the population embracing employee ownership and cooperatives is because people don't know very much about these organizational forms and are not aware of their tremendous positive effects on workers, firms, and society as a whole,” Kurtulus said in her remarks.

Her research has shown that co-operative firms (with broad-based employee ownership) are more resilient in economic recessions and linked to greater job security. They are also more environmentally conscious and better at retaining workers. She cited the example of companies like Google and Ford who have broad-based employee share ownership stating that “about 20% of Fortune 100 companies” fall in the same category. Globally, cooperatives are even more prevalent especially in Europe and places like Quebec, Northern Italy, India, and Japan where they play a significant role in the national economy.

Kurtulus also talked about the “crucial role” that universities can play in educating students and the general populace about this organizational form. She teaches a course on cooperative enterprises at the University of Massachusetts Amherst which she described as being “quite rare.” The UMass Department of Economics also offers students a certificate in cooperative economics. 
 
Reflecting on her experience at the UNGA, Kurtulus said: “my goal was to convey information to UN country delegates from all over the world, and I was especially pleased when delegates from Brazil and China came up to me after my talk to ask questions about the practical implementation of employee ownership and cooperatives.”