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The Co-operative Principle

(...as defined by resolution of the Centennial Congress of the International Co-operative Alliance on 23 September 1995)


A co-operative 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.


Co-operatives are based on the values of responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility, and caring for others.


The co-operative principles are guidelines by which co-ops put their values into practice.

1. Voluntary and open membership

Co-operatives are voluntary organisations, 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

Co-ops are democratic organisations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. All members who carry out a role on behalf of the co-op are accountable to the membership of the co-op. Co-op members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote).

3. Member economic participation

Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their Co-op. That capital is usually the common property of the Co-op. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership.

4. Autonomy and independence

Co-ops are autonomous, self-help organisations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organisations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensures democratic control by their members and maintain their Co-op autonomy.

5. 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.

6. Co-operation amongst Co-ops

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

7. Concern for community

Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.