What is a co-op?

A co-operative is defined by the International Cooperative Alliance in the Statement on the Cooperative Identity as: 

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.

But what does this really mean?

Co-operatives are people-centred enterprises owned, controlled and run by and for their members to realise their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations.

Co-operatives bring people together in a democratic and equal way. Whether the members are the customers, employees, users or residents, co-operatives are democratically managed by the ‘one member, one vote’ rule. Members share equal voting rights regardless of the amount of capital they put into the enterprise. 

As businesses driven by values, not just profit, co-operatives share internationally agreed principles and act together to build a better world through co-operation. Putting fairness, equality and social justice at the heart of the enterprise, co-operatives around the world are allowing people to work together to create sustainable enterprises that generate long-term jobs and prosperity. 

Co-operatives 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. Profits generated are either reinvested in the enterprise or returned to the members. 

The co-operative movement is far from being a marginal phenomenon, at least 12% of humanity is a co-operator of any of the 3 million co-operatives on earth.