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“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.” – International Cooperative Alliance

All co-ops contain the following elements

  • Co-ops are owned and governed by their primary users (the member-owners).
  • Co-ops are democratically governed (one-member, one-vote).
  • Co-ops are businesses, not clubs or associations.
  • Co-ops adhere to internationally recognizes Cooperative Principles (aka Co-op Values).

Cooperative Principles

  1. Voluntary and Open Membership
    Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political, or religious discrimination.
  2. Democratic Member Control
    Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership.
  3. Members’ Economic Participation
    Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of the cooperative. The economic benefits of a cooperative operation are returned to the members, reinvested in the co-op, or used to provide member services.
  4. Autonomy and Independence
    Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their cooperative autonomy.
  5. Education, Training and Information
    Cooperatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperatives. They inform the general public about the nature and benefits of cooperation.
  6. Cooperation Among Cooperatives
    Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.
  7. Concern for Community
    While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.

Cooperatives operate according to seven basic principles. Six were drafted by the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) in 1966, based on guidelines written by the founders of the modern cooperative movement in England in 1844. In 1995, the ICA restated, expanded and adopted the 1966 principles to guide cooperative organizations into the 21st Century.

Types of Co-ops

  • Consumer – people who buy the products are members; all grocery co-ops!
  • Producer – farmers are the members/owners of the co-op.
  • Worker – these co-ops are owned by some or all of the workers/employees.  King Arthur Flour is a worker co-op.
  • Credit Union –  consumer-owned financial services cooperatives in which every depositor becomes a member-owner.
  • Retail or Purchasing – We are a member of the National Cooperative Grocers (NCG) along with 177 other grocery co-ops. NCG works to pool purchases from many of our common vendors and help us get products at prices competitive with corporate chain groceries.  They help us keep costs down and provide our customers with great sales!
  • Social – these co+ops have a social mission beyond service to its members.

Our cooperative vendors.

Learn more about the types of cooperative businesses.

Other Cooperative Resources