What is a cooperative?

“A cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.”

A cooperative is thus an organization that is owned and controlled by the people who use its products and/or services. Cooperatives can vary in their purpose but share in common the fact that they are formed to meet the specific objectives of members and adapt to member’s changing needs. Profits generated are either reinvested in the enterprise or returned to the members. Cooperatives bring people together in a democratic and equal way.

Cooperatives are businesses owned and run by their members. Whether the members are the customers, employees or residents they have an equal say in what the business does and a share in the profits. They allow people to take control of their economic future and because they are not owned by shareholders, the economic and social benefits of their activity stay in the communities where they are established.

The cooperative as a form of the business organization began during the Industrial Revolution. Cooperatives promoted the interests of the less powerful members of society. Workers, consumers, farmers, artisans and others found that they could accomplish more by combining their resources and working together.

Cooperatives can be used to address different needs:


Producers like farmers, artisans or industrialists utilize the cooperative to market or process their goods.
Workers in areas as diverse as bicycle sales, baked goods production and catalog sales use cooperatives to create employment that offers many of the benefits.
Consumers use cooperatives to gain better prices or locally sourced food or other goods.
Private business or public entities gain purchasing power through bulk buying and by obtaining products or services that are difficult for individuals.
Parents can gain quality childcare, preschool education, charter or private education.
Homeownership that is affordable or is developed to meet the needs of seniors, students or people with disabilities is created using the cooperative model.

Members are the Cooperative, they..


• have one vote according to the policies of the business and earnings are based on the amount of trade that each member does at the cooperative rather than the amount of money invested.
• support the cooperative by doing business.
• also support the cooperative by investing in it. It takes money for the cooperative to grow. When members put money into the cooperative, they help to build the business and at the same time invest in their future.
• support the cooperative by encouraging others to join.
• support the cooperative by keeping themselves informed of the activities and of important decisions that are made.

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Cooperative advantage

What is different about a cooperative identity: Cooperatives are uniquely member-owned, member-controlled entities that exist to provide benefits to members. […]

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Cooperative identity, values

A cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and […]

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Cooperative Principles

Cooperatives around the world generally operate according to the same core principles and values, adopted by the International Co-operative Alliance […]

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