Cooperatives (or "co-ops") are legally incorporated organizations owned by their members who use their services or purchase their products. Co-ops can provide virtually any product or service, and can be either non-profit or for-profit enterprises.

As its name implies, a cooperative is people coming together to meet a common need. The cooperative business enterprise model is inherently ethical in its treatment of its members, employees, suppliers and the environment. Co-ops serve a range of sectors, including housing, food, worker, agriculture, service, financial,youth, aboriginal and community.

Co-ops are democratic,member-owned organizations. They are responsible to their own members. The members determine how the co-op will be run, elect the Board of Directors and allocate the profits of the co-operative among its member-owners.

As businesses driven by values not just profit, cooperatives share internationally agreed values and principles and act together to build a better world through co-operation.

  • There are approximately 9,000 cooperatives and credit unions in Canada, providing products and services to 18 million members.

  • Cooperatives exist in virtually every sector of the economy, from agriculture, retail and financial services to housing, child care, funeral services and renewable energy.

  • Cooperatives have more than $370 billion in assets, owned by their members and the communities they serve.

  • Cooperatives employ 150,000 people and are led by 100,000 volunteer directors and committee members.

  • Canada has the highest per-capita credit union membership in the world: 33 per cent of Canadians are a member of at least one credit union.

  • There are at least 2,000 communities with at least one credit union or caisse populaire and more than 1,100 communities in which a financial co-operative is the only financial services provider.

  • The survival rate of co-ops is higher than that of traditional businesses. A 2008 study in Quebec found that 62 per cent of new co-ops are still operating after five years, compared with 35 per cent for other new businesses. After 10 years, the figures are 44 per cent and 20 per cent respectively.

  • Cooperatives, credit unions and caisses populaires give millions of dollars back to their communities in the form of sponsorships and donations.

  • Manitoba has over 400 cooperatives representing nearly every sector of the economy.

  • Manitoba co-ops have more than $16 billion in assets, 6,500 employees, and$1.9 billion in revenue.

  • In 2007, Manitoba cooperatives returned over $135 million back to members in the form of patronage.

  • In Manitoba there are 68 rural communities where a credit union is the only financial institution.

(Facts and Stats from Co-operatives and Mutuals Canada)

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