Definition - A co-operative 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 - Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility, and caring for others.
Principles - The co-operative principles are guidelines by which co-operatives put their values into practice.
1st Principle: Voluntary and open membership – A co-operative is a voluntary organisation, open to all persons able to use its services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.
2nd Principle: Democratic member control – A co-operative is a democratic organisation controlled by its members, who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions. Members serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In co-operatives other than co-operative groups members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote). Co-operative groups are organised in a democratic manner.
3rd Principle: Member economic participation – Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-operative. Usually, at least part of that capital is the common property of the co-operative. Usually, members receive limited compensation, if any, for capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members of a co-operative allocate surplus to be used for any or all of the purposes of –
(a) developing the co-operative, possibly by setting up reserves, at least part of which are indivisible; and
(b) benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the co-operative; and
(c) supporting other activities approved by the membership.
4th Principle: Autonomy and independence – A co-operative is an autonomous, self-help organisation controlled by its members. If a co-operative enters into agreements with other organisations, including governments, or raises capital from external sources, it does so on terms that ensure democratic control by its members and maintain its autonomy.
5th Principle: Education, training and information – A co-operative provides education and training for its members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of the co-operative. A co-operative informs the general public, particularly young people and opinion leaders, about the nature and benefits of co-operatives.
6th Principle: 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.
7th Principle: Concern for the community - Co-operatives, while focussing on member needs, work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies accepted by their members.