Co-op Values

All Co-ops Share the Same Values

Historically, cooperatives emerged in response to the excesses of the industrial revolution. Cooperative pioneers developed a set of values and principles designed to shape and guide the structures and processes of cooperative businesses. These serve as the touchstones for all cooperatives, regardless of what segment of the global economy where they operate.

All cooperatives and cooperators around the globe are united by their acceptance of these values and principles. There are ten stated values. Six of them related directly to how the cooperatives business operates. Four are personal ethical values for cooperators.


Equality - Every person is respected and valued equally

Equity - Each person should be treated fairly and have access to all that is necessary to live a meaningful life

Mutual Self-help - People are interdependent and benefit from joining together to improve their lives

Self-responsibility - We are all responsible for our own actions and their impact on ourselves and others

Democracy - Every person has the right to have a say and influence all decisions that affect their lives

Solidarity - Shared, coordinated action creates a society and economy characterized by equity, equality and mutual self help


Honesty - Honest dealings appreciate the dignity of people and form a foundation of trust

Openness - There is open disclosure of information about the operations and governance of the business

Social Responsibility - Individual and group action has profound effects on individuals, groups and their relationships

Caring for Others - Active concern enables others to realize their potential and live full, satisfying lives

7 Co-op 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. In primary cooperatives, members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and cooperatives at other levels are organized in a democratic manner.
  3. Member Economic Participation — Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the cooperative. They usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing the cooperative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the cooperative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.
  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 — particularly young people and opinion leaders — 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 accepted by their members.