All co-operatives share a common set of values and principles.
Cooperatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, cooperative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.
The seven international co-operative principles are guidelines by which every co-op in the world put its values into practise.
- Voluntary and Open Membership: Co-operatives are open to everyone who wants to join, as long as are willing to accept the responsibilities of membership – which are different for every co-op.
- Democratic Member Control: Co-operatives are controlled by their members who actively participate in making decisions. Co-ops make decisions based on “one member, one vote”.
- Member Economic Participation: Members contribute money to the co-op and also make decisions about how the money within the co-op is used. Sometimes profits are used to make the co-op better, sometimes the profits are given back to the members (based on how much they have used the co-op), and sometimes profits are used for other things that the members decide on.
- Autonomy and Independence: Co-ops are controlled and led by their members. If they work with others, including governments, they only do it if their co-op is still controlled by their members.
- Education, Training and Information: Co-ops provide education and training for their members, Board of Directors, and employees. They tell people - especially young people - about co-ops and what co-ops do.
- Co-operation among Co-operatives: Co-ops work together and support each other.
- Concern for Community: Co-ops do things to build and support their communities, in ways their members think important.
Adapted from the statement on the Co-operative Identity, Adopted in Manchester (UK), 23 September 1995
To download a series of posters about the co-op principles, click HERE.