The 7 Co-op Principles


The following principles were adopted by the 1995 Centenary Congress of the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA). They reflect how the co-operative values are put into practice.

1. Open membership

Everyone participating in a co-operative business has the right to membership. No-one should be refused membership on the grounds of race, sex, disability, politics or religion. However most employee owned businesses do have a probationary period for new employees before membership is offered.

2. Democratic control

All co-operatives are organised on the principle of one member, one vote. Everyone has an equal say, regardless of seniority or their amount of investment in the business.

3. Common ownership

The assets of a co-operative business are held in trust for the benefit of present and future members of the business. Members decide how the profits are distributed: they can be shared between the members, reinvested in the business, or donated to social causes. Many co-operatives put a high priority on reinvesting in the business.

4. Autonomy and Independence

Co-operatives are autonomous organisations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organisations, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their co-operative autonomy.

5. Education, Training and Information

Co-operatives provide training for their members, elected representatives and employees to contribute effectively to the development of the co-operative. They also aim to promote the nature and benefits of co-operation.

6. Co-operation among Co-operatives

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

7. Social aims alongside economic aims

Employee owned businesses consider the wider needs of the community in which they work and live. They can do this by providing a conscientious service to customers or supporting charitable community causes.

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