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2012: The International Year of Co-operatives

The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2012 the International Year of Co-operatives through a resolution passed unanimously in 2009. The year was celebrated as co-op spirit exploded across the world, Canada and Ontario. Today, IYC marks a launching point for co-op advocacy and development in the years to come.

About IYC

The International Year was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to raise public awareness of co-operatives and their social and economic contributions to society. It was also an opportunity to support the growth and development of co-operatives in Canada and around the world and an opportunity to begin legacy initiatives that will outlive the International Year and inspire others to support the co-operative movement. On the whole, Ontario capitalized on the potential of IYC quite successfully.

To read the letter of congratulations sent by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty to the province's co-operatives as a result of IYC, look under the "related documents" link at the right of this page. See below for campaign specifics as well as a video recap and celebration of IYC 2012.

INTERNATIONAL THEME: Co-operative Enterprises Build A Better World
The IYC 2012 theme was Co-operative enterprises build a better world (en français, Les coopératives, des entreprises pour un monde meilleur). Many Credit Unions used the theme Credit Unions build a better world. You can find english tagline/ wordmark logos of this theme under "documents and downloads" at the right of this page.

LOGO: Various versions (ZIP, JPEG, etc.) of the IYC logo are also available under "documents and downloads." There is also a graphical standards document to outline your use of IYC graphic materials, including the logo and tagline wordmark. There is no licensing agreement required for any of these pieces, however, it is worth noting they have not been frequently reproduced since the end of 2012.

Canada's Official Launch (January 12, 2012)

While the official national launch of the United Nations International Year was promoted as taking place in 14 cities across Canada, many other communities held their own simultaneous launches. In Guelph, the International Year was marked by a flag-raising at city hall, with presentations from Mayor Karen Farbridge and MPP Liz Sandals. A reception followed afterward, hosted by On Co-op with support from The Co-operators. So many people tried to connect to the event's webcast that the site crashed and wasn't back up until later in the day. 


Prime Minister Stephen Harper praised Canada's co-operative movement in a message, which was read aloud at the IYC Ottawa launch on January 12th. Prime Minister Harper said, "The existence of co-operatives across all sectors of the economy speaks to the influence and relevance of the co-operative movement. Over 18 million Canadians can count themselves as members of co-operatives -- an impressive statistic with an impact on the nation's socio-economic strength." Ray Boughen, the Conservative MP for the riding of Palliser and a member of the Moose Jaw Co-op, also made a statement about the International Year in the House on February 6.


  • Click here to watch a video of the IYC flash mob at The Co-operators in Guelph.
  • Read more about the January 12th launch by downloading the document from the "related links" section at right.
  • Go to for a story on the #coop12jan Twitter campaign.
  • For ongoing news of the Canadian co-operative movement on Twitter, go to

Co-ops in Canada and on a Global Scale

  • There are close to 9,000 co-ops and credit unions across Canada, with more than 17 million members. Ontario alone has more than 1300 co-ops with 1.4 million members.
  • Some of Canada's best-known businesses are co-operatives, including Mountain Equipment Co-op, Co-op Atlantic, Gay Lea Foods, The Co-operators (insurance), Vancity (credit union), Agropur, Desjardins group, Federated Co-operatives Limited and UFA Co-operative Limited.
  • The co-operative sector controls over $275 billion in assets. 
  • The world's 300 largest co-operatives, nine of which are Canadian, have an aggregate turnover of $US 1.1 trillion, the size of the 10th largest economy in the world. 
  • According to the International Labour Organization, co-operatives provide more than 100 million jobs, more than all the world's multinational corporations combined.  

IYC around the world

The International Year of Co-operatives was co-ordinated internationally by the United Nations (UN) and the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA). The UN was responsible for developing and distributing the slogan, logo and common branding guidelines for the International Year. The ICA represents the global co-operative movement and set the international priorities for 2012. To find out more about these organizations and other organizations relevant to the co-op sector, see the links below.

 Regional Organizations

 International Sector Organizations


The proclamation of the UN International Year of Co-operatives was included in a resolution entitled Co-operatives in Social Development, which was adopted by the General Assembly in New York.
Since 1959, the UN has designated International Years in order to draw attention to major issues and to encourage international action to address concerns which have global importance.

On December 3, 2009, the Canadian federal government announced its support for the UN resolution; this is the first time a Canadian government has officially expressed its support for a UN International Year before it was proclaimed. "Our government fully recognizes the importance of co-operatives and their contribution to Canadian society," said the Honourable Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Minister of National Revenue and Minister of State (Agriculture), at a news conference in Ottawa.
Carol Hunter, executive director of the Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA), said Canadian co-operative leaders, together with partner organizations in Canada and around the world, will be working on a program of International Year activities aimed at highlighting the social and economic contributions of co-operatives and credit unions.
"Co-operatives and credit unions in Canada have more than 17 million members, but most Canadians are unaware of their social and economic impact on this country as a whole and on rural and urban communities across Canada," she said. "The International Year will provide us with ample opportunities to generate awareness of that contribution, and to encourage people to organize themselves into co-operatives to address their own economic and social needs."

"At a time when so many people around the world have a heightened interest in doing business with organizations whose values reflect their own, raising awareness of co-operatives and what they stand for is very important," said Kathy Bardswick, president and CEO of The Co-operators, who represents Canada on the board of the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA). "The International Year of Co-operatives is an opportunity for people everywhere to learn more about this diverse group of organizations that contribute so much to economies and communities in virtually every corner of the world."


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