Co-operative Identity, Principles and Values
The principles and values are the distinctive elements of co-operative organizations and business. Already in 1844, the Rochdale Pioneers, founders of the first cooperative in history, had formulated a simple, clear set of principles, which assured the management of the organization for the benefit of its members.
The new Statement of Cooperative Identity adopted by the Second General Assembly of ICA held in September 1995 in the city of Manchester, on the occasion of the centennial celebration of the Alliance, includes a new definition of co-operative and a reviewed formulation of the cooperative principles and values. This new formulation retains the essence of a system of principles and values that has proven to be efficient in almost 170 years of history and helped transform the co-operative in one of the greatest social and economic forces in the world, while incorporating new elements in order to a better understanding of the current historical moment.
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.
The co-operative principles are guidelines by which co-operatives put their values into practice.
First Principle: Voluntary and Open Membership
Co-operatives are voluntary organisations, 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.
Second Princple: Democratic Member Control
Co-operatives are democratic organisations 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 organised in a democratic manner.
Third 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.
Fourth Principle: Autonomy and Independence
Co-operatives are autonomous, self-help organisations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organisations, 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.
Fifth 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.
Sixth 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.
Seventh Principle: Concern for Community
Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.