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Co-op Principles and Values
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The statement on the co-operative identity of co-operative societies was adopted by the congress of the International Co-operative Alliance held in Manchester in the United Kingdom in 1995 and includes the definition of co-operative societies, co-operative values and co-operative principles.



A Co-operative Society is an autonomous union of people, who come together voluntarily with the aim of serving their financial, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a participatory and democratically controlled enterprise.



Co-operative societies are based on the following values:

  • · self-help
  • · self-responsibility
  • · democracy
  • · equality
  • · justice
  • · solidarity

According to co-operative tradition, the members of co-operative societies believe in the ethical values of:

  • · integrity
  • · honesty
  • · social responsibility
  • · caring for others.



1. Voluntary and open participation

Co-operative societies are voluntary organisations, open to all individuals able to use their services and willingly accept the responsibilities of membership, without national, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.

2. Democratic accountability of members

Co-operative societies are democratic organisations accountable to their members who participate in formulating policy and decision-making. Men and women who offer their services as elected officials are answerable to the members. Above all, the members of co-operative societies have the same voting rights (one member, one vote), while the co-operative societies are managed in a democratic manner.

3. Financial participation of members

The members participate on an equal basis in the capital of their co-operative society and its management, with democratic accountability. At least part of this capital is usually the common property of the co-operative society. The members usually receive limited compensation for the capital they pay, which constitutes a precondition for their participation. Members make the surplus available for all or any one of the following objectives: for the growth of their co-operative society, possibly through the creation of reserves, at least part of which must be indivisible; to offer benefits to members depending on their transactions with the co-operative society; and to promote other activities approved by the members.

4. Autonomy and independence

Co-operative societies are autonomous, self-help organisations, answerable to their members. If they enter into agreements with other organisations, including governments, or if they secure capital from outside sources, they must do so in conditions that safeguard the democratic accountability exercised by the members and retain their autonomy as co-operatives.

5. Education, training and information

Co-operative societies ensure the education and training of their members, their elected representatives and their employees so that they can actively participate in the development of their co-operative societies. They inform the public, particularly the younger generation and public opinion leaders, about the nature of the co-operative movement and the benefits it offers.

6. Cooperation between co-operative societies

Co-operative societies more effectively serve their members and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together at local, regional, national and international level.

7. Social interest

The co-operative societies’ work focuses on the sustainable growth of their communities, through policies decided by their members.