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What are Co-operatives?

People have always co-operated. Look anywhere in the world and you will find evidence of people working together to meet common needs. Today co-operatives are needed more than ever to help find solutions to common problems such as poverty and inequality.

Co-operatives share a common set of values and principles. They promote active citizenship by developing the skills of members who run the organisation. They also stimulate wealth creation by creating businesses that meet people’s needs.

Co-operatives have always been values driven enterprises. One of the great achievements of the Pioneers of Co-operation was to translate those values into a practical working model for ethical enterprise.

In 1995, the International Co-operative Alliance, the global body that unites and represents approximately 800 million co-operators in over 100 countries, adopted the Statement on Co-operative Identity, which also defined the values that underpin the global co-operative movement.

‘Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-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.’

International Co-operative Alliance,
Statement on Co-operative Identity, 1995

The co-operatives you might come across in the UK include:

  • Retail co-operatives (for example The Co-operative Group which runs convenience stores throughout the UK)
  • Co-operative Travel Agency
  • The Co-operative Bank and The Co-operative Insurance Society
  • Co-operative Funeral Care
  • Co-operative Pharmacies
  • Farmers co-operatives (which help farmers market their produce and share equipment)
  • Housing co-operatives
  • Workers’ co-operatives
  • Credit Unions
  • Farmers’ markets
  • Co-operative Football Supporters Clubs