What is a Food Cooperative?
A co-op is a 100% member-owned, member-controlled business that operates for the mutual benefit of all members and according to common principles established for cooperatives.
At its core, a co-op is a business. It is subject to the same needs and demands of any business: co-ops require sufficient financing, careful market analysis, strategic and comprehensive planning, well-trained and competent personnel. Co-ops are not immune to the market and economic forces that cause small businesses to struggle and fail.
But in several important ways, co-ops are also unique and different. Most distinctly, a cooperative business is owned by the people who use its services—the members. Co-ops may resemble other businesses outwardly, but the fact that they are owned by members makes them unique. Cooperatives bring the idea of cooperation—working together—to the business world.
Values and Principles of Food Cooperatives
The “Statement on the Cooperative Identity” begins with a values statement that describes the beliefs common to all cooperatives:
"A cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise."
“Cooperatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, cooperative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility, and caring for others.”
7 Co-op Principles
- Open and Voluntary Membership
- Member Economic Participation
- Democratic Member Controlled
- Autonomy and Independence
- Education, training, and information
- Concern for Community
- Cooperation among cooperatives