Skip to content

The co-op model thrives because of its diversity. It is applied in every sector imaginable in a variety of ways.

See if you can recognize these co-op logos and photos. Download the "Co-op Names and Logos You Might Recognize" document from the menu at right.

Within the structure and regulations of Ontario's Co-operative Corporations Act, these diverse organizations fit into a number of categories including: service co-ops, consumers co-ops, supply co-ops, worker co-ops, marketing co-ops, producer co-ops, child care co-ops, housing and housing development co-ops, financing, farming and agricultural supply. 

This presentation explains the 4 main co-operative ownership models (worker, consumer, producer, and multi-stakeholder) and gives examples that exemplify each type of co-op.

To find out more about the types of co-operatives in Ontario, check out the various categories in the "Find a Co-op Directory":


Co-operative housing is owned and managed by the people living within each co-op. More than 110,000 people live in close to 600 housing co-ops in virtually every part of Ontario. Co-ops provide good quality, affordable housing, and they make good neighbours. Co-op members are an active part of communities throughout the province. 

Co-ops and related organizations also exist to provide development, management and consulting services, and support staff and members.  Specialized housing co-ops exist to support women, aboriginals, francophones and specialized communities such as artists or mobile home owners.

The Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada, Ontario Region is the provincial voice for housing co-ops.


A food co-op or buying club is organized to collectively buy the food needed by its members. There can be as few as five members, but the potential for savings increases with a larger membership. Food is sometimes purchased from farmers through community-shared agriculture, which links local producers to consumers in cities and towns. 

Local, organic and natural food co-ops exist, as well as buying, marketing and retail co-ops for fresh produce, chocolate/cocoa, coffee and other foodstuffs. Many support FairTrade and other equitable practices.

The Ontario Natural Food Co-op promotes and maintains an alternative, co-operative distribution system of organic, natural and ecologically-sound foods and household products for co-operative member organizations as well as for non-member buyers. The Ontario Natural Food Co-op serves over 5,000 individuals and families through its federation of member buying clubs and retail food co-operatives. ONFC is supporting the Local Organic Food Network.


Worker co-ops operate in the same marketplace as traditional firms, but are owned and governed by the people who work there. The underlying purpose of a worker co-op is to develop secure and meaningful employment, and to increase democracy in the workplace. Worker co-ops are in operation in a wide variety of sectors, including high-tech, natural resources, retail, food service travel and the arts.

The Ontario Worker Co-op Federation guides people through the process of starting a co-operatively-owned business, and provides a voice for worker co-ops in government and public relations.


Ontario's Agricultural co-operatives have their roots in two co-operative organizations founded in 1914. Today, farmers' co-ops still provide valuable services and products to their members.

The majority of Ontario's agricultural supply co-operatives and their 50,000 members belong to a vibrant North America co-operative system called the GROWMARK System. In Ontario, GROWMARK member Co-operatives and Country Depots offer Co-op and FS crop, feed, farm supply and consumer products and services in almost 150 Ontario communities. 

Co-ops also are involved in livestock, dariry, genetics, marketing, wholesale and retail sales.  Plus dairy and other transportation services.


Service co-ops include childcare, healthcare and retail co-ops.


Co-operative childcare centres provide high quality, often lower-cost solutions for childcare needs—infants, toddlers, preschool or school-aged children. What makes this unique and special is that parents are directly involved in the operation of the centre. Parents provide input, and have the opportunity to be involved in the program as volunteers. There are approximately 350 childcare/nursery school co-operatives in Ontario with 15,000 member families.

The Toronto and Distric Parent Participation Preschool Corporation (PCPC) is one of the professional organizations of childcare co-ops in Ontario.  Other co-ops related to child care include toy lending libraries  and drop in centres.

Healthcare and Social

Through co-ops, health care providers are saving money by joining forces to share services, equipment and resources. Healthcare providers like hospitals can form purchasing co-operatives to get access to necessary supplies at lower costs. Co-ops exists to support Seniors, new immigrants and marginalized people. Counselling services, mediatiation and employment are other areas co-operatives are involved in.

Co-operatives are involved in education and research, including environmental issues.


Retail co-ops are owned by their members, who are also their customers, and give them access to goods, often at more affordable prices. Mountain Equipment Co-op is a well-known example of a large retail co-op in Canada.  True North Community Co-op in Thunder Bay has a retail store for its membership and the community.  North Central Co-op and River Village Co-op operate retail grocery stores.


Credit unions, caisses populaires and insurance co-operatives make up the financial co-operative sector. Credit unions and caisses populaires are financial institutions which are owned and democratically controlled by their members. Deposits are re-invested in and profits are returned to the community. Insurance co-operatives provide affordable insurance to their members.  Other types of financial co-ops include feeder finance co-ops and accounting firms.  Mutuals are related to co-operatives, but are NOT co-operative business enterprises.

Renewable Energy Co-operatives - wind, solar, biogas.  Also energy distribution.

Buying Groups (purchasing co-ops)

All the others ...

The co-operative business model can be (and IS) applied to almost any type of enterprise:  funeral co-ops, travel agencies, marketing (food, products, ideas such as inventors' collectives) arts and culture (including film making, artists' collectives, cinemas, story telling and textiles & clothing), media (newspaper, radio, telephone/telecommunications, webdesign), community development




Follow Us On Social Media

Jul 14, 2015 - We're on social media. Hook us up!!!

Subscribe More… RSS


OCA Governance Forum

Oct 11, 2018 - The first ever Governance Forum non-financial co-operatives!

More Info More…

Find a Co-op


The On Co-op e-Directory is a comprehensive listing of more than 1,300 Ontario-based Co-operatives, Credit Unions and Caisse Populaires. Search by city, name, type of co-op or keyword.

Enter Become a member

On Co-op is a trade association and capacity-building organization that develops, engages, educates and advocates for Ontario's co-op businesses.