Co-operatives and community benefit societies

Current project status

  • Initiation: Could include discussing scope and terms of reference with lead Government Department
  • Pre-consultation: Could include approaching interest groups and specialists, producing scoping and issues papers, finalising terms of project
  • Consultation: Likely to include consultation events and paper, making provisional proposals for comment
  • Policy development: Will include analysis of consultation responses. Could include further issues papers and consultation on draft Bill
  • Reported: Usually recommendations for law reform but can be advice to government, scoping report or other recommendations

The Law Commission has been asked by HM Treasury to review the legal framework governing co-operatives and community benefit societies. 

About co-operatives and community benefit societies 

Co-operatives and community benefit societies are business associations. They are alternatives, for example, to companies and partnerships.  

In rough terms, co-operatives do not prioritise making profits to reward investors. Rather, they aim to set the best possible prices for their members. There are more than 7000 co-operatives in the UK, with around 14 million members, contributing about £40 billion to the economy. A visible example on the high street is the Co-op chain of supermarkets. 

A community benefit society carries on business for the benefit of the community. They can engage in a range of activities, from owning a local pub, through publishing a newspaper or developing a local renewable energy network, to providing social housing. 

About this project 

Co-operatives and community benefit societies are governed by the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014. We have been asked to review the Act, to ensure that it is fitting to the nature and needs of co-operatives and community benefit societies, and to ensure that their the regulation is proportionate and effective. 

We are currently working on a consultation paper, which we plan to publish in the summer. The paper will discuss the current law and making provisional proposals for reform. We ask stakeholders for their views on our proposals. Once the paper is published, the consultation period will be open for 12 weeks. Stakeholders will be able to provide their responses through an online questionnaire. 


Anyone wishing to be added to our email list can contact us on the following address: 

Related projects 

You might also be interested in our review of the law relating to friendly societies. 

Project details

Area of law

Commercial and common law


Professor Sarah Green