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.
The International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) is the apex organization for cooperatives worldwide.
After a lengthy process of consultation involving thousands of cooperatives around the world, the Statement on the Co-operative Identity was adopted in 1995 by the members of ICA.
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.
The 7 cooperative principles are guidelines by which cooperatives put their values into practice.
The 7 Cooperative Principles in Action
Voluntary and Open Membership
Cooperatives 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.
Democratic Member Control
Cooperatives 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 cooperatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and cooperatives at other levels are also organized in a democratic manner.
Member Economic Participation
Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the cooperative. 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.
Autonomy and Independence
Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter into 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 cooperative autonomy.
Education, Training and Information
Cooperatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperatives. They inform the general public – particularly young people and opinion leaders – about the nature and benefits of cooperation.
Cooperation among Cooperatives
Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.
Concern for Community
Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.
Co-ops in Manitoba are incorporated under the Cooperatives Act of Manitoba.
Co-ops are a business model that can be adapted to virtually any type of business – whether it be a co-op to provide housing to its’ members or a co-op to provide employment for its’ workers. In Manitoba, there are 7 types of co-ops:
Producer Co-ops / Marketing Co-ops
Producer co-ops are generally owned by members who are independent producers or entrepreneurs who market their products and services and / or purchase their supplies and equipment through the co-op. Members join these co-ops as a way to reduce operating costs, increase marketing power and gain access to other services and supports.
Consumer co-ops are owned by members who are able to use the co-op’s services. They can be operated in different ways – as a buying club where members place orders and benefit from bulk buying, as retail stores where members come in and shop or as service providers where members are provided with services such as internet, cable or water.
Worker co-ops provide employment to their members. A worker co-op is owned by its’ employees and operated in a democratic fashion where the members / employees have input into the policies of the co-op.
Housing co-ops provide housing to their members. In Manitoba, most housing co-ops are incorporated as non-profit. Members purchase shares in the co-op and pay monthly housing charges to cover the anticipated costs of operating the co-op on an annual basis. Members have a vote in the decision making of the co-op.
Financial co-ops are essentially consumer co-ops that provide financial services to their members. The most common are credit unions or caisses populaires. Credit unions or caisses populaires can provide the same services as banks but are owned by the members.
New Generation Co-ops
New Generation cooperatives are typically found in agriculture, forestry, fishing and other industries that are supplied by producers. Members have both the right and obligation to deliver a certain amount of product to the cooperative each year. Typically, higher equity investments are required by members in order to establish a processing plant. Furthermore, the number of members is limited to those who purchase delivery rights, as well as by the processing capacity of the plant.
Multistakeholder co-ops allow groups that normally form separate co-ops, such as workers and consumers, to combine their resources to create a co-op together.
Register a Co-op in Manitoba
To register a co-op in Manitoba visit the Companies Office