Cooperatives Operate for the Benefit of Their Members
A cooperative is a business. In many ways it’s like any other business, but in several important ways it’s unique and different. A cooperative business belongs to the people who use it — people who have organized to provide themselves with the goods and services they need. A cooperative operates for the benefit of its members.
These member-owners share equally in the control of their cooperative; they meet at regular intervals, review detailed reports and elect directors from among themselves. The directors hire management to manage the day-to-day affairs of the cooperative.
Members invest in shares in the business to provide capital for a strong and efficient operation. All net savings left after bills are paid ("profits" or margins) and money is set aside for operations and improvements are returned to co-op members.
- Credit unions have over 100 million members and assets in excess of $100 billion.
- Rural electric cooperatives operate more than half of the electric distribution lines in the United States and provide electricity for 26 million people.
- Over 50 million Americans are served by insurance companies owned by or closely affiliated with cooperatives.
- Food cooperatives have been innovators in the marketplace in the areas of unit pricing, consumer protection and nutritional labeling.
- 3 in 10 Americans are members of cooperatives.
- There are more than 40,000 cooperatives in the U.S.
(Statistics gathered from various sources as of 1995 and 2015.)
Principles, Values Define Cooperative Operations
Definition: 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.
Values: 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.