Cooperative Principles


Cooperatives worldwide generally operate according to the same core principles and values, adopted by the International Co-operative Alliance in 1995. Cooperatives trace the roots of these principles to the first modern cooperative founded in Rochdale, England, in 1844.

#1 Voluntary and Open Membership
Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political, or religious discrimination.

#2 Democratic Member Control
Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members -those who buy the goods or use the services of the cooperative-, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary cooperatives, members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote), and cooperatives at other levels are organized democratically.

#3 Member Economic Participation
Members contribute equitably to and democratically control the capital of their cooperative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the cooperative. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing their cooperative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the cooperative, and supporting other activities approved by the membership.

#4 Autonomy and Independence
Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so based on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their cooperative’s autonomy.

#5 Education, Training and Information
Cooperatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees to contribute effectively to the development of their cooperatives. They also inform the general public – particularly young people and opinion leaders – about the nature and benefits of co-operation.

#6 Co-operation among Cooperatives
Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement through local, national, regional, and international structures.

#7 Concern for Community
While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.