The International Co-operative Principles


The International Co-operative Alliance has a Statement on the Co-operative Identity which includes a set of co-operative principles, which have evolved from those laid out by the original Rochdale pioneers. They will continue to develop over time, to serve modern co-operatives.

The Co-operative Principles are guidelines by which co-operatives put their values into practice.


Principle 1: Voluntary and Open Membership

Co-operatives are voluntary organisations, open to all persons who wish to use their services, and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, racial, social, political or religious discrimination.

Principle 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 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.

Principle 3: 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.

Principle 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.

Principle 5: 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.

Principle 6: 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.

Principle 7: Concern For Community

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

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