Co-operative Principles

The seven Co-operative Principles are operational guidelines as to how these values can be put into practice. They exist to help us organize how the co-operative operates and set standards by which we can assess our achievements and make decisions.

Voluntary and Open Membership - Co-operatives 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.

Democratic Member Control — Co-operatives 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 co-operatives, members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and co-operatives at other levels are organized in a democratic manner.

Member Economic Participation — Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-operative. Each person should have the same access to ownership. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the co-operative. 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 co-operative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the co-operative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.

Autonomy and Independence — Co-operatives 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 co-operative autonomy.


Education, Training and Information — Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They inform the general public — particularly young people and opinion leaders — about the nature and benefits of co-operation.

Cooperation among Co-operatives - Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.

Concern for Community - While focusing on member needs, co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies accepted by their members.

Co-operative Values

Equality - Every person is worthwhile in his or her own right and has the right to have his or her life, dignity and abilities respected and valued equally.

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

Mutual Self-help - People are interdependent and benefit from joining their individual efforts with others to achieve their aspirations and improve their lives.

Self-responsibility - Each of us is responsible for our own actions and the impact of those actions upon others and ourselves. Groups are also responsible for the impact of their actions on individuals, other groups and society in general.

Democracy – The human spirit is liberated, by democratic processes and structures, through which control is shared, and each person shares in the ability to influence decisions. Every person has the right to have a say and influence all decisions that affect their lives. The value of democracy is not limited to the actions of the state but extends to all decisions that have an impact on the lives of people.

Solidarity – Shared, coordinated action between individuals and groups is the best way to create a society and economy characterized by equity, equality and mutual self-help. After participating in an open democratic process to determine a position or course of action members support it. Solidarity limits our individual freedom, only to the extent required by a real respect for the dignity of others being equal to our own.


Personal Ethical Values for Co-operators

These are values that are logical extensions of the co-operative values. Without seeking to live by these values, co-operators would not be able to nurture strong co-operatives.

Honesty – Reliable honest dealings with members, customers, suppliers and the community rest on an appreciation for the dignity of people and are a key foundation of trust.

Openness – Honesty reaches full meaning only with the open disclosure of information about products and services, the way they are organized and presented and the operations and governance of the business. Openness is also the foundation of equitable access to participation.

Social Responsibility – The interdependence of people and recognition of their dignity leads to a realization that individual and group action has profound effects on individuals, groups and their relationships.

Caring for Others – Caring implies not just charity but active concern about how to act and create structures so as to enable others to realize their potential and live full and satisfying lives.