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What is a Co-operative?

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. In Australia there are approximately 2,800 co-operatives. The majority of these are in NSW and Victoria and are small organisations providing a variety of human services.

Co-operative Enterprises

Co-operatives are enterprises that put people at the centre of their business (and not capital) and can be defined in terms of three basic interests: ownership, control, and beneficiary. Because co-operatives are owned and democratically-controlled by their members, the decisions taken by co-operatives balance the need for profitability with the needs of their members and the wider interests of the community.

Co-operatives also follow a set of principles and values - The Co-operative Principles. The Co-operative Identity Statement elaborated in 1995 by the ICA is the internationally recognised definition of the co-operatives, its values, and principles.

Types of Co-operatives

The co-operative model of enterprise can be applied to any business activity. They exist in traditional economic sectors such as agriculture, fisheries, consumer and financial services, housing, and production (workers' co-operatives). Co-operative activity spans to large number of sectors and activities including education services, child-care, health and social care, funeral, orchestras and philharmonics, schools, sports, tourism, utilities, and transport.

The Role of Co-operatives

All over the world, millions of people have chosen the co-operative model of business enterprise to enable them to reach their personal and community development goals. Co-operatives create and maintain employment; they are responsible for producing and supplying safe and quality services to their members, but also to the communities in which they operate. By putting the Co-operative Principles and ethics in practice they promote solidarity, tolerance, and the rights of individuals. Co-operatives are socially conscious, responding to the needs of their members. Through their varied activities, co-operatives are, in many countries, significant social and economic contributors to national economies and social well being.

  • Over 800 million people are members of a co-operative worldwide.
  • Co-operatives provide 100 million jobs worldwide, 20% more than multinational enterprises.

Co-operatives – Facts and Stats

  • 8 in 10 Australians are Members of a co-operative
  • Profits made by co-operatives and mutuals are invested back into the organisation through Member benefits and improved services (and in the Co-op's case – student scholarships and sponsorships too!)
  • A co-operative's Members essentially hold a share in the organisation – so it is literally owned by them

To stay in-the-know on how the BCCM is tracking and progressing, or for more information, visit the BCCM website

You can also grab a copy of the International Year of the Co-operative commemorative yearbook, Building a Better Australia – exclusively stocked by the Co-op!