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The Co-operative Principles

Co-operatives around the world share the same seven principles as defined by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA). These principles are guidelines by which co-operatives put their values into practice. As principled businesses driven by people and not just profit, co-operatives act together to build a better world through co-operation.

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Principle 1

Voluntary & Open Membership

Principle 2

Democratic Member Control

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.

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 also organized in a democratic manner.

Principle 3

Member Economic Participation

Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control the capital of their co-operative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the co-operative. Members 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 their 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.

Principle 4

Autonomy & Independence

Principle 5

Education, Training & Information

Principle 6

Co-operation among Co-operatives

Principle 7

Concern for Community

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.

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

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

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

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