What are co-operatives?
Co-operatives (Co-ops) are enterprises established by a group of individuals who are united to meet their common economic, social and/or cultural needs and goals. Co-operatives are businesses, serving the needs of its members. The operation and decision making of co-operatives are overseen democratically by its members.
What are the Seven Co-operative Principles?
Co-operatives all around the world are guided by the seven cooperative principles recognized by the International Co-operative Alliance. These are:
1. Voluntary and Open Membership
Co-operatives are voluntary organizations. The services and responsibilities of membership are open to everyone regardless of one’s gender, race, religion and political orientation.
2. Democratic Member Control
Co-operatives are democratically controlled by their members, who actively participate in establishing policies and the process of decision-making.
3. Member Economic Participation
Members equally contribute and democratically control the capital of the co-operative. The benefits that derive from co-operative operations go back to the owners, are reinvested in the co-operative, or used to provide services for its members.
4. Autonomy and Independence
Co-operatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members.
5. Education, Training and Information
Co-operatives provide education and hands-on experiential opportunities for members, representatives, and workers. This allows them to effectively contribute the growth of their co-operative, and become educators informing the broader community about the benefits and nature of co-operation.
6. Co-operation among Co-operatives
Co-operatives work to ensure their members are effectively served, and to strength the global movement by collaborating with local, national, regional and international structures
7. Concern for Community
Co-operatives operate for the best interest of its members, and working to achieve and improve the sustainable development of their communities through the policies its members implement
Unlike large corporations, co-operatives focus on member needs and the welfare of communities, including promoting social and economic development. Concrete benefits that co-operatives provide for members and local communities include:
- Creating jobs
- Fostering gender equality, diversity and participation in the workplace
- Favourable working conditions and benefits
- Promoting more sustainable and ethical business practices
- Community development programs and business incubation to meet community needs
- Training and capacity building for members, employees and community members
What types of co-operatives are there?
Co-operatives can be broadly grouped into several categories. Some of the categories include:
- Consumer Co-operatives
Co-operatives that are owned and managed by its consumers (e.g., supermarkets, services).
- Producer Co-operatives
Co-operatives that are owned by the producers (such as farmers, fishers, forest workers).
- Worker Co-operatives
Co-operatives that are owned by the workers of the co-operative.
- Purchasing Co-operatives
Co-operatives that are made up of groups of businesses that purchase services or supplies collaboratively.
- Hybrid Co-operatives
Co-operatives where different types of members (e.g., producers, consumers, workers) cooperatively operate, organize, and manage the business together
Cooperatives operate in a wide variety of economic sectors. These include:
- Artisanal goods (clothes, crafts, etc.)
- Food retail
- Other retail sectors (e.g., sporting goods)
- Agricultural commodities and products
- Financial Services (banking, insurance, etc.)
Where can I find a co-operative?
You can search for local co-operatives near you by visiting Ontario Co-operative Association