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                                                                          Co-operative Principles, Values and Ethics

The seven co-operative principles


The co-operative values and principles identified by the Rochdale Pioneers to this day guide and define co-operative enterprises around the world. They were formally adopted by the 1995 Centenary Congress of the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA).


1. 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.


2. 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 their members. 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.


3. Member Economic Participation

Members contribute equitably to, and control democratically, the capital of their co-operative. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any 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 with their transactions with the co-operative; and supporting other activities as approved by membership.


4. 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.


5. Education, Training and Information

Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, and employees so that 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.


6. Co-operation among Co-operators

Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.


7. Concern for the Community

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


The important thing to understand about the principles is that they are not simply a menu of ethics that you can pick and choose from, rather they work together like an engine to drive a sustainable democratic enterprise. If any parts of the 'engine' are missing then the enterprise is more likely to fail as a co-operative or to damage the reputation of co-operatives.


The Co-operative Values

• Self-help

• Self-responsibility

• Democracy

• Equality

• Equity

• Solidarity


Ethical Values


• Honesty

• Openness

• Social responsibility

• Caring for others

The seven co-operative principles - Applied

The co-operative enterprise The co-operative individual


1) Voluntary and Open Membership

People can join – and leave I can find a common interest with others if I am open to their needs and if I behave in a way that enables them to co-operate with me.

2) Democratic Member Control Your voice will be heard Because I have an equal say in what happens, I listen and I communicate openly and honestly.

3) Member Economic Participation

You control the capital I keep a close eye on what we are trying to do together and the decisions I make are guided by this.

4) Autonomy and Independence

Together, you are autonomous I help others so that they can help themselves and they help me in the same way, so that together we are more in control of our future.

5) Education, Training and Information

You can develop yourself I am interested to learn from those and others around me so that I can behave in a more co-operative way.

6) Co-operation among Co-operatives 

You can be more successful by co-operating with others who know how to co-operate I look for opportunities to co-operate with others in new settings.

7) Concern for Community 

You can do something for your community even as you keep succeeding I am aware that I am part of a larger system and I am committed to doing what I can to make it better.