cooperative history and principles

Constitution Restoration Cooperative Association

The CRCA is a cooperative formed through the National Cooperative Business Association

Co-operative History

The Rochdale Pioneers

Co-operatives started out as small grassroots organizations in Western Europe, North America and Japan in the middle of the 19th century; however, it is the Rochdale Pioneers that are regarded as the prototype of the modern co-operative society and the founders of the Co-operative Movement. 

                         In 1844 a group of 28 artisans working in the cotton mills in the town of Rochdale, in the north of England established the first modern co-operative business, the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society (photo). The weavers faced miserable working conditions and low wages, and they could not afford the high prices of food and household goods. They decided that by pooling their scarce resources and working together they could access basic goods at a lower price. Initially, there were only four items for sale: flour, oatmeal, sugar and butter.

The Pioneers decided it was time shoppers were treated with honesty, openness and respect, that they should be able to share in the profits that their custom contributed to and that they should have a democratic right to have a say in the business. Every customer of the shop became a member and so had a true stake in the business. At first the co-op was open for only two nights a week, but within three months, business had grown so much that it was open five days a week.

The principles that underpinned their way of doing business are still accepted today as the foundations upon which all co-operatives operate. These principles have been revised and updated, but remain essentially the same as those practiced in 1844.

Statement on the Co-operative Identity


A co-operative 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.


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.

Co-operative Organizations


  1.    International Cooperative Association est. 1895
  2.          National Cooperative Business Association Est. 1916
  3.           Constitutional Restoration Cooperative Association est. 2008
  4.                  Fellowship for Intentional Community


1st Principle: Voluntary and Open   Membership

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.

2nd Principle: Democratic Member   Control

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.

3rd Principle: 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.

4th Principle: Autonomy and   Independence

Co-operatives are autonomous,   self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter to   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.

5th Principle: Education, Training   and Information

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

6th Principle: 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 structures.

7th Principle: Concern for   Community

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

The co-operative principles are guidelines by which co-operatives put their values into practice.


Statistical Information on the Co-operative Movement

The Co-operative Movement brings together over 800 million people around the world. The United Nations estimated in 1994 that the livelihood of nearly 3 billion people, or half of the world's population, was made secure by co-operative enterprise. These enterprises continue to play significant economic and social roles in their communities. Below are some facts about the Movement that demonstrate their relevance and contribution to economic and social development.

Large segments of the population are members of co-operatives

  • In Asia 45.3 million people are members of a credit union. (Source: Association of Asian Confederation of Credit Unions, Annual Report 2007/2008)
  • In Argentina, there are 12,670 co-operative societies with over 9.3 million members - approximately 23.5% of the population. (Source: "Las Cooperativas y las Mutuales en la República Argentina", Instituto Nacional de Asociativismo y Economia Social (INAES), 30 June 2008)
  • In Belgium, there were 29,933 co-operative societies in 2001
  • In Bolivia, 2,940,211 people or one -third of the population is a member of the 1590 co-operatives. ( Source: Diagnóstico Nacional Cooperativo (DNC), 2008 as reported in Boletín Informativo aciamé Nº65, December, 2008)
  • In Canada, four of every ten Canadians are members of at least one co-operative. In Quebec, approximately 70% of the population are co-op members, while in Saskatchewan 56% are members. Source: Co-operative Secretariat, Government of Canada.
  • In Colombia over 4.4 million people or 10.7% of the population are members of the 7,833 co-operatives in the country. The movement reports an annual growth rate of 11.27% with 453,180 new members joining co-operatives in 2008. (Source: CONFECOOP. Gestión Empresarial Socialmente Responsable: Desempeno del Sector Cooperativo Colombiano 2008)
  • Costa Rica counts over 10% of its population as members of co-operatives.
  • Finland, S-Group has a membership of 1,468,572 individuals which represents 62% of Finnish households. (Source: SOK Corporation Annual Report 2004)
  • In Germany, there are 20 million people who are members of co-operatives, 1 out of 4 people.
  • In Iran, there are over 130,000 co-operative societies with 23 million members or approximately 33% of the population. (Source:
  • In Indonesia, 27.5% families representing approximately 80 million individuals are members of co-operatives. (Source: Ministry of Co-operative & SMEs, Indonesia,2004)
  • In Japan, 1 out of every 3 families is a member of a co-operatives.
  • Kenya 1 in 5 is a member of a co-operative or 5.9 million and and 20 million Kenyans directly or indirectly derive their livelihood from the Co-operative Movement.
  • In India, over 239 million people are members of a co-operative.
  • In Malaysia, 6.78 million people or 27% of the total population are members of co-operatives.(Source: Ministry of Entrepreneur and Co-operative Development, Department of Co-operative Development, Malaysia, Statistics 31 December 2009)
  • In New Zealand, 40% of the adult population are members of co-operatives and mutuals. (Source: New Zealand Co-operative Association, 2007)
  • In Singapore, 50% of the population (1.6 million people) are members of a co-operative.
  • In the United States, 4 in 10 individuals is a member of a co-operative (25%).

Co-operatives are significant economic actors in national economies

  • In Belgium, co-operative pharmacies have a market share of 19.5%.
  • In Benin, FECECAM, a savings and credit co-operative federation provided USD 16 million in rural loans in 2002.
  • In Brazil, co-operatives are responsible for 40% of the agricultural GDP and for 6% of total agribusiness exports. In 2006 Brazilian co-operatives exported 7.5 million tons of agricultural products for a value of USD 2.83 billion to 137 countries. (Source: Brazil-Arab News Agency, 2 February 2007). .
  • In Bolivia, Cooperativa de Ahorro y Crédito "Jesús Nazareno" Ltda. (CJN) handled 25% of the savings in Bolivia in 2002.
  • Canadian maple sugar co-operatives produce 35% of the world's maple sugar production.
  • In Côte d'Ivoire co-operatives invested USD 26 million for setting up schools, building rural roads and establishing maternal clinics.
  • In Colombia, the over 7,300 co-operatives are responsible for 5.61% of the GDP in 2007 - up from 5.37% in 2006 and 5.25% in 2005. They employ over 110,000 people and some sectors are providing a significant proportion of the jobs - 24.4% of all health sector jobs are provided by co-operatives, 18.3% of the jobs in the transport sector,8.3% in agriculture and 7.21% of the jobs in the financial sector. Co-ops provide 87.5% of all microcredit in the country; they provide health insurance to 30% of all Colombians and are responsible for 35.29% of Colombian coffee production. (Source: Sector Cooperativo Colombiano 2007)
  • In Cyprus, the co-operative movement held 30% of the market in banking services, and handled 35% of all marketing of agricultural produce.
  • In Denmark, consumer co-operatives in 2007 held 36.4% of consumer retail market. (Source: Coop Norden AB Annual Report 2007)
  • Finnish co-operative groups within Pellervo were responsible for 74% of the meat products, 96% of dairy products; 50% of the egg production, 34% of forestry products and handled 34.2% of the total deposits in Finnish banks.
  • In France, 9 out of 10 farmers are members of agricultural co-operatives; co-operative banks handle 60% of the total deposits and 25% of all retailers in France are co-operatives. (Source: GNC Newsletter, No 348, June 2007)
  • Hungary, consumer co-operatives members of Co-op Hungary are responsible for 14.4% of the national food and general retail sales in 2004. (Source: Co-op Hungary, Statistical Data 2004)
  • In Iran, co-operatives contribute 6% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). (Source:
  • In Japan, the agricultural co-operatives report outputs of USD 90 billion with 91% of all Japanese farmers in membership. In 2007 consumer co-operatives reported a total turnover of USD 34.048 billion with 5.9% of the food market share. (Source: Co-op 2007 Facts & Figures, Japanese Consumers' Co-operative Union)
  • In Kenya, co-operatives are responsible for 45% of the GDP and 31% of national savings and deposits. They have 70% of the coffee market, 76% dairy, 90% pyrethrum, and 95% of cotton.
  • In Korea, agricultural co-operatives have a membership of over 2 million farmers (90% of all farmers), and an output of USD 11 billion. The Korean fishery co-operatives also report a market share of 71%.
  • In Kuwait, the Kuwaiti Union of Consumer Co-operative Societies whose members are 6.5% of the Kuwaiti population handled nearly 70% of the national retail trade in 2007.
  • In Latvia, the Latvian Central Co-operative Union is responsible for 12.3% of the market in the food industry sector.
  • In Mauritius, in the agricultural sector, co-operators play an important role in the production of sugar, vegetable, fruit and flower, milk, meat and fish. Nearly 50% of sugar-cane planters are grouped in co-operatives and the share of co-operatives in the National Sugar Production is 10%. Co-operative Societies also account for more than 60% of national production in the food crop sector - 755 of onion consumption, 40% of potatoes and about 70% of fresh green vegetables are produced by co-operatives. In addition, the Co-operative bus sector represents some 30% of the national bus transport. (Source: Ministry of Industry, Small & Medium Enterprises, Commerce & Cooperatives )
  • In Moldova, the Central Union of Consumer Co-operatives is responsible for 6.8% of the consumer market.
  • In New Zealand, 22% of the gross domestic product (GDP) is generated by co-operative enterprise. Co-operatives are responsible for 95% of the dairy market and 95% of the export dairy market. They hold 70% of the meat market, 50% of the farm supply market, 70% of the fertiliser market, 75% of the wholesale pharmaceuticals, and 62% of the grocery market. (Source: New Zealand Co-operative Association, 2007)
  • In Norway, dairy co-operatives are responsible for 99% of the milk production; consumer co-operatives held 24.1% of the market (Source: Coop Norden AB annual report 2007); fisheries co-operatives were responsible for 8.7% of total Norwegian exports; forestry co-operatives were responsible for 76% of timber and that 1.5 million people of the 4.5 million Norwegians are member of co-operatives.
  • In Poland, dairy co-operatives are responsible for 75% of dairy production.
  • In Portugal, approximately 3000 co-operatives are responsible for 5% of the Gross National Product of the country. (Source: Prime Minister of Portugal address to ICA Expo, 23 Oct. 2008)
  • Co-operatives and mutuals in Scotland account for 4.25% of the Scottish Gross Domestic Product, having an annual turnover of GBP 4 billion and assets of GBP 25 billion. ( Source: Co-operative Development Scotland web site, and "Co-operatives in Scotland: A powerful force....", 2007)
  • In Singapore, consumer co-operatives hold 55% of the market in supermarket purchases and have a turnover of USD 700 million.
  • In Slovenia, agricultural co-operatives are responsible for 72% of the milk production, 79% of cattle; 45% of wheat and 77% of potato production.
  • In Sweden, consumer co-operatives held 17.5% of the market in 2004. (Source: Coop Norden AB annual report 2004)
  • In the UK, the largest independent travel agency is a co-operative.
  • In Uruguay, co-operative produce 90% of the total milk production, 340% of honey and 30% of wheat. 60% of co-operative production is exported to over 40 countries around the world.
  • In Vietnam, co-operatives contribute 8.6% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
  • In the United States more than 30 co-operatives have annual revenue in excess of USD 1 billion. In 2003 the top 100 US co-operatives had combined revenues of USD 117 billion. In addition, approximately 30% of farmers' products in the US are marketed through 3,400 farmer-owned co-operatives.

Co-operatives create and maintain employment

  • Co-operatives provide over 100 million jobs around the world, 20% more than multinational enterprises.
  • In Argentina, co-operatives are responsible for providing direct employment to over 233,000 individuals. (Source: Instituto Nacional de Asociativismo y Economia Social (INAES), September 2007)
  • In Bolivia, 1590 co-operatives provide 32,323 direct jobs and 128,180 indirect jobs.
    ( Source: Diagnóstico Nacional Cooperativo (DNC), 2008 as reported in Boletín Informativo aciamé Nº65, December, 2008 )
  • In Canada, co-operatives and credit unions employ over 155,000 people. The Desjardins movement (savings and credit co-operatives) is the largest employer in the province of Québec.
  • In Colombia, the co-operative movement provides 123,643 jobs through direct employment and an additional 537,859 jobs as worker-owners in workers co-operatives - providing 3.74% of all jobs in the country. (Source: CONFECOOP. Gestión Empresarial Socialmente Responsable: Desempeno del Sector Cooperativo Colombiano 2008)
  • In France, 21,000 co-operatives provide over 4 million jobs. (Source: GNC Newsletter, No 348, June 2007)
  • In Germany, 8,106 co-operatives provide jobs for 440,000 people.
  • In Indonesia, co-operatives provide jobs to 288,589 individuals. (Source: Ministry of Co-operative & SMEs, Indonesia, 2004)
  • In Iran, co-operatives have created and maintain 1.5 million jobs. (Source: )
  • In Italy, 70,400 co-operative societies employed nearly 1 million people in 2005. (Source: Camere di Commercio d'Italia, "Secondo rapporto sulle imprese cooperative")
  • In Kenya, 250,000 people are employed by co-operatives.
  • In Slovakia, the Co-operative Union represents more 700 co-operatives who employ nearly 75,000 individuals.

The information provided here has been collected from a variety of sources including ICA's statistical questionnaire, information published by co-operative organizations, presentations made by co-operatives, and government statistical offices.  Last Updated: 04 September 2010


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