A co-operative is an organization formed by people coming together to meet their common needs. Locally owned and democratically controlled by the members who use its services, co-operatives are founded on a common idea – that people know what’s best for them and can work together to achieve their goals. Based on co-operative principles, they empower individuals, and encourage healthier and stronger communities, by enabling them to pool their resources and share risks.
Co-operatives and credit unions are active in every sector of the economy, including finance, insurance, agri-food and supply, wholesale and retail, housing, health, and the service sector. They can provide virtually every product or service, and can be either non-profit or for-profit enterprises.
Unlike the private, public or voluntary sectors, all co-operative organizations around the world are guided by the same seven principles:
- Voluntary and open membership
- Democratic member control
- Member economic participation
- Autonomy and independence
- Education and training
- Co-operative among co-operatives
- Concern for community
Collectively, there are over 10,000 co-operatives and credit unions in Canada, providing products and services to over 10 million Canadians.