A more equitable society is possible through cooperation, Howard Brodsky says during 2020 Business Leader of the Decade acceptance speech


Howard Brodsky, an NCBA CLUSA board member, was on the cover of the July 2020 issue of Business NH Magazine. [photo: Business NH]
“I truly believe that family businesses are the core and fabric of our communities,” cooperative entrepreneur Howard Brodsky said last week in a video message. And the cooperative enterprise model, he added, can “save small businesses in America” and usher in a new era of shared prosperity.

Earlier this year, Brodsky, chair and co-CEO of CCA Global Partners in Manchester, was named the 2020 Business Leader of the Decade by Business NH Magazine and the New Hampshire Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives.

During his acceptance speech last week, Brodsky outlined the deepening economic disparities in America that put small businesses at risk, noting a “fading middle class” and a business culture beholden to shareholders that rewards “the Amazons, Walmarts and Home Depots of the world.”

“When five people in the world have the same wealth as half the world’s population—that’s 3.5 billion people—we know our economic structure is not aligned,” he said.

The long-term impacts of COVID-19 will only amplify that income gap, Brodsky added. “It is predicted that one in six family businesses will close by the end of the year. That’s almost four million businesses. What happens when they close? What happens to the employees that work for them? What happens to the communities where they’re the heart and soul?”

Still, cooperatives are a bright spot in the U.S. economy, he said. “I believe that there are two types of poverty: economic poverty and poverty of hope. So many are being left behind financially with little hope for a better life. But the cooperative model empowers people. It brings equity, diversity and democratic control.”

And it provides a model in which purpose and profit can coexist—an idea that the mainstream business community has only recently started to embrace. Bank of America CEO Brian Moynahin, who was recognized as the 2020 CEO of the Year by Chief Executive Magazine, said CEOs now have a “duty” to “deliver profits and purpose.”

“What took so long to realize that?” Brodsky said. “That was our mission from day one.”

“What took so long to realize that?” Brodsky said. “That was our mission from day one.”

Moynahin was one of nearly 200 CEOs who, in 2019, committed to being better corporate citizens by considering the interests of workers, customers and the environment—not just shareholder profits. But as NCBA CLUSA president and CEO wrote in September, these newly conscious corporations were instead quick to turn on employees and community members during the pandemic.

In contrast, cooperatives leaned in to their unique, people-centered business model. “We should always put people first, not profit,” Brodsky said. “Business should always be a force of good, and the cooperative business model has always contributed to a stable and vibrant economy.”

He concluded, “I envision a New Hampshire that will lead the nation in creating a more equal and equitable society, lifting up those left behind, protecting our children’s future, protecting our environment and ensuring a more vibrant and inclusive economy for all through the shared ownership of the cooperative business model.

I strongly believe that it takes each of us to make a difference for all of us.”

Watch the full speech

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