The MONDRAGON Corporation is a corporation and federation of worker cooperatives based in the Basque region of Spain. It was founded in the town of Mondragón in 1956 by graduates of a local technical college. Their first product was paraffin heaters. Currently it is the seventh largest Spanish company in terms of asset turnover and the leading business group in the Basque Country. At the end of 2011 it was providing employment for 83,869 people working in 256 companies in four areas of activity: Finance, Industry, Retail and Knowledge.
Mondragon cooperatives operate in accordance with Statement on the Co-operative Identity maintained by the International Co-operative Alliance. The standard Statement of Co-operative Identity largely eliminates perverse incentives that contribute to many problems of governance found in organizations with more traditional management structures.
The ties that link the MONDRAGON Co-operatives are strong, as these bonds emanate from a humanist concept of business, interrelated by a philosophy of participation and solidarity and a shared business culture rooted in a number of Basic Principles, a shared Mission and the acceptance of a set of Corporate Values and General Policies of a business nature.
Over the years these links have been embodied in a series of operating rules approved on a majority basis by the Co-operative Congresses, which
regulate the activity of the Governing Bodies of the Corporation (Standing Committee, General Council), the Grassroots Co-operatives and the Divisions they belong to, from the organisational, institutional and economic points of view as well as in terms of assets.
This entire framework of business culture has been structured on the basis of a common culture derived from the 10 Basic Co-operative Principles, in which MONDRAGON is deeply rooted: Open Admission, Democratic Organisation, the Sovereignty of Labour, Instrumental and Subordinate Nature of Capital, Participatory Management, Payment Solidarity, Inter-cooperation, Social Transformation, Universality and Education.
This inspirational philosophy is complemented by the establishment of four Corporate Values: Co-operation, acting as owners and protagonists; Participation, which takes shape as a commitment to management; Social Responsibility, by means of the distribution of wealth based on solidarity; and Innovation, focusing on constant renewal in all areas.
This business culture translates into compliance with a number of Basic Objectives (Customer Focus, Development, Innovation, Profitability, People in Co-operation and Involvement in the Community) and General Policies approved by the Co-operative Congress, which are taken on board at all the Corporation’s organisational levels and incorporated into the four-year strategic plans and the annual business plans of the individual co-operatives, the Divisions, and the Corporation as a whole.
At Mondragon, there are agreed-upon wage ratios between the worker-owners who do executive work and those who work in the field or factory and earn a minimum wage. These ratios range from 3:1 to 9:1 in different cooperatives and average 5:1. That is, the general manager of an average Mondragon cooperative earns 5 times as much as the theoretical minimum wage paid in his/her cooperative. This ratio is in reality smaller because there are few Mondragon worker-owners that earn minimum wages, their jobs being somewhat specialized and classified at higher wage levels.
Although the ratio for each cooperative varies, it is worker-owners within that cooperative who decide through a democratic vote what these ratios should be. Thus, if a general manager of a cooperative has a ratio of 9:1, it is because its worker-owners decided it was a fair ratio to maintain.
In general, wages at Mondragon, as compared to similar jobs in local industries, are 30% or less at the management levels and equivalent at the middle management, technical and professional levels. As a result, Mondragon worker-owners at the lower wage levels earn an average of 13% higher wages than workers in similar businesses. In addition, Spain uses a progressive tax rate, so those with higher wages pay higher taxes, further diminishing the disparity in terms of disposable income....
Areas of activity
The Corporation’s companies operate in four different areas: Finance, Industry, Retail, and Knowledge, with the latter distinguishing Mondragon from other business groups. In 2010, the Corporation posted a Total Turnover (total revenue) of 14.8 billion euros, roughly 20 billion USD, and employed 100,000 workers, making it Spain's fourth largest industrial and seventh largest financial group.
This area includes the banking business of Caja Laboral, the insurance company Seguros Lagun Aro, and the Voluntary Social Welfare Body Lagun Aro, which had an asset fund totaling 4.2 billion euros at the end of 2009. The yield obtained from this fund is used to cover long-term retirement, widowhood, and invalidity benefits, complementary to those offered by the Spanish social security system.
Caja Laboral, for its part, ended 2009 with 18.6 million euros of deposits in a year in which it granted loans worth 16.4 billion, mainly to household economies and small and medium-sized enterprises. Its extensive experience with the Corporation’s Co-operatives enables it to offer SMEs services typical of large companies.
The Corporation’s companies manufacture consumer goods, capital goods, industrial components, products and systems for construction, and services to business.
In the consumer goods sector, with sales totaling 1.5 billion euros, MONDRAGON produces white goods: refrigerators, washing machines, ovens, dishwashers, and boilers, under the brands Fagor, Brandt, and Mastercook, and maintains a leadership position in Spain and France and co-leadership in Poland and Morocco. It also produces office furniture and home furniture. In the leisure and sports area, it manufactures Orbea bicycles, exercise equipment and items for camping, the garden and the beach.
In capital goods, MONDRAGON posted a turnover of 976 million euros in 2009, and is the leading Spanish manufacturer of chip removing (DANOBATGROUP) and sheet metal forming (Fagor Arrasate Group) machine tools. These machines are complemented by automation and control products for machine tools, packaging machinery, machinery for automating assembly processes and processing wood, forklift trucks, electric transformers, integrated equipment for the catering industry, cold stores, and refrigeration equipment. Specifically focusing on the automotive sector, the Corporation also manufactures a wide variety of dies, molds and tooling for casting iron and aluminium, and occupies a leading position in machinery for the casting sector.
In Industrial Components, MONDRAGON posted a turnover of 1.5 billion euros in 2009, a sector in which it operates as an integrated supplier for the leading car manufacturers, offering from the design and development of a part to the industrialisation and supply of components and assemblies. It has different business units such as brakes, axles, suspension, transmission, engines, aluminium wheel rims, fluid conduction, and other internal and external vehicle components. It also produces components for the main domestic appliance manufacturers in three business areas: white goods, home comfort, and electronics. And it manufactures flanges and pipe accessories for processing oil-gas, petrochemical plants and power generation, copper and aluminium electrical conductors, and components for conveyors.
In construction, sales totalled 974 million euros in 2009. This is a sector in which MONDRAGON has constructed emblematic buildings and important infrastructure projects. It designs and builds large metallic (URSSA), laminated wood and prefabricated concrete structures; supplies prefabricated parts in polymer concrete; offers solutions for formwork and structures (ULMA Group) as well as public works machinery and the industrialisation of the construction process, including engineering and assembly services. It also produces elevators (ORONA Group).
In services to business, sales totalled 248 million euros in 2008, including business consultancy services, architecture and engineering, property consulting, design and innovation (LKS Group), systems engineering for electromechanical installations, and integrated logistics engineering. It also offers a modern language service, manufactures educational equipment, and provides graphic arts services (MccGraphics).
In 2009 59.4% of total turnover came from international sales. Sales resulting from the export of products abroad and production generated in the 75 subsidiaries located in 17 different countries: China (13), France (9), Poland (8), Czech Republic (7), Mexico (7), Brazil (5), Germany (4), Italy (4), United Kingdom (3), Romania (3), United States (2), Turkey (2), Portugal (2), Slovakia (2), India (2), Thailand (1) and Morocco (1). Overall, in 2009 these 75 plants produced goods worth 3.1 billion euros and provided work for 14,506 people. The corporate industrial park in Kunshan, close to Shanghai currently houses seven subsidiaries.
Led by Eroski, Mondragon runs one of the leading retail groups in Spain, posting a turnover of 8.3 billion euros in 2010. It operates all over Spain and in the south of France, and maintains close contacts with the French group Les Mousquetaires and the leading German retailer Edeka, with whom it set up the Alidis international partnership in 2002. The worker-owners and consumer-members are involved in the management of Eroski, with both groups participating in the Co-operative’s decision-making bodies.
At the end of 2009, Eroski was operating an extensive chain of almost 2,400 stores made up of 113 EROSKI hypermarkets, 1,063 EROSKI/center, Caprabo and EROSKI/city supermarkets, 224 branches of the EROSKI/viajes travel agency, 58 petrol stations, 40 Forum Sport stores, 289 IF perfume stores, 7 Abac leisure and culture outlets and 40 goods depots. In addition to this chain, there are 481 self-service franchise outlets. Moreover, in the south of France it has 4 hypermarkets, 16 supermarkets and 17 petrol stations, and it has 4 perfume stores in Andorra.
At an Assembly held In 2008, its worker-members approved by a majority vote the process to expand the transformation into co-operatively run businesses to the Group as a whole. So work started on turning the Group’s subsidiaries into co-operatives, as well as on making their salaried workers worker-members. This process will be carried out gradually over the next few years.
The retail area is also home to the food group Erkop, which operates in the catering, cleaning, stock-breeding, and horticulture sectors and has as its leading name Auzo Lagun, a co-operative engaged in group catering and the cleaning of buildings and premises, and also offers an integrated service in the health sector.
This area has a dual focus: education-training and innovation, which have both been key elements in the development of the Corporation. Training-education is mainly linked to the dynamism of the University of Mondragón, the significant role that Politeknika Ikastegia Txorierri, Arizmendi Ikastola and Lea Artibai Ikastetxea play in their respective areas and the activity of the Management and Co-operative Development Centre Otalora.
The University of Mondragon is a university of a co-operative nature, which combines the development of knowledge, skills, and values, and maintains close relations with business, especially the Co-operatives. Technological innovation is generated by through the Co-operatives’ own R&D departments, the Corporate Science and Technology Plan, the work of the Corporation’s 12 technology centres and the Garaia Innovation Park.
For their part, the 12 technology centres, with a workforce totalling 742 people and an overall budget of 53.7 million euros in 2009, continue to play a fundamental role in the development of the sectors in which they focus their activity.