Strong principles run through every cooperative
Cooperative businesses are special because they are owned by the consumers they serve and are guided by a set of seven principles that reflect the best interest of those they serve. More than 100 million people are members of 47,000 cooperatives, enable consumers to secure a wide array of good and services such as insurance, housing, food, heating, credit unions, schooling and utility services.
All cooperative businesses adhere to these seven guiding principles.
No. 1: Voluntary and Open Membership
The services offered by the cooperative are available to all people willing to accept the responsibilities of membership.
No. 2: Democratic Member Control
Each member is an owner of the cooperative, and carries the same vote as all other members, regardless of the amount of services delivered or consumed. This differs from a for-profit company, where the control and votes are based on the amount of stock an investor owns in the company.
No. 3: Members' Economic Participation
Members contribute to and control the equity of the cooperative. A member's initial investment normally comes in the form of a small membership fee.
No. 4: Autonomy and Independence
Each cooperative is an independent company owned and controlled by the members. If a a cooperative enters into agreements with government agencies or other service providers, the agreements ensure that the members continue to own and control the operations of the cooperative.
No. 5: Education, Training and Information
Each cooperative provides education and training for its members, so that they can contribute to make informed decisions when deciding on votes, such as who will serve in the board room as a director of the cooperative. This education and information normally focuses on industry developments, legislative issues and the benefits of membership in cooperatives.
No. 6: Cooperation among Cooperatives
Cooperatives are heavily entrenched in the free enterprise system of the United States. Since cooperatives all operate using these seven principles, co-ops work together to find solutions to problems, to educate the general public on the benefits of cooperative membership and to education legislators on important issues.
No. 7: Concern for Community
While most cooperatives focus on the immediate needs of the members, they are also active members in the communities in which they serve. Many cooperatives can be seen supporting local education activities, community events, fund raisers and civic organizations.