Although co-ops continue to change, the principles with which they operate remain essentially the same

  • Voluntary and open membership – anyone who wants to become a member can do so
  • Democratic member control – members control the cooperative by electing its board of directors and taking an active part in the co-op’s meetings
  • Member economic participation – contributing equitably to and democratically controlling their capital, margins or earnings are returned to members in proportion to the amount of business transacted with the cooperative
  • Autonomy and independence – self-help organisations controlled by their members
  • Continuing cooperative education, training and information – a duty to educate members and the public in general about the cooperative form of business as a unique and valuable part of the private enterprise system
  • Cooperation among cooperatives – understanding the reasons they belong to a cooperative means that co-op members see the value that comes from collaborating with other cooperatives as being one of the strengths of the cooperative business model
  • Concern for community – as a multigenerational business, while focusing on the needs of current members, co-ops work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members with the next generation of members in mind

It’s important to note that these principles were developed within a context: the postwar realignment of Europe and the developing and developed world after 1945. These principles are developed further in the International Cooperative Alliance’s Statement on Cooperative Identity