Advantages of the

Co-op Model

The co-op business model provides stability and empowers people to influence their own economic landscape.

People rely on co-ops in the following ways:

  • As a means of keeping a business alive or providing business continuity.  For example, many workers’ cooperatives are organized when a private business is no longer able to maintain the industry or the owners wish to retire.
  • To provide a service that other forms of enterprise are not offering.
  • To respond to a local opportunity, or solve a challenge affecting a particular community, region or group.
  • To increase their market power, or decrease the power that others hold against them in the marketplace, whether through purchasing or marketing cooperatives.
  • As a means of keeping profits and control of a business within the community, rather than with a large, remotely owned and operated corporation.  A cooperative is owned and controlled locally.  Therefore, the earnings of the cooperative stay in the community and are directed by members of the community.

Cooperatives and credit unions differ from other businesses in three key ways:

A Different Purpose

The primary purpose of cooperatives and credit unions is to meet the common needs of their members, whereas the primary purpose of most conventional investor-owned businesses is to maximize profit for shareholders. As the original social enterprise, co-ops serve a range of sectors, including finance, housing, service, food, worker, agriculture, youth, social and community. For example, the primary purpose of a worker cooperative is to provide stable and meaningful employment for its members.

Co-ops are founded on the idea that people know what’s best for themselves. Co-ops are an expression of the power people have when they recognize their shared interests and act collectively.

A Different Control Structure

A co-op business is democratically controlled by the members (owners), and is based on ethical values and principles. These principles include self-help, democracy, equality, and concern for community. Cooperatives and credit unions use the one member/one vote system, not the one vote per share system used by most businesses. This helps the cooperative or credit union serve the common need rather than provide benefits for a few at the expense of the many. The democratic model is a way to ensure that people come before profits.

The cooperative business model is inherently ethical in its treatment of its members, employees, stakeholders and the environment.

A Different Allocation of Profit

Cooperatives and credit unions share profits among their member-owners on the basis of how much they contribute to the co-op, not on how many shares they hold. Cooperatives and credit unions invest their profits in improving service to their members and improving the well-being of their communities.

In the Kootenay and Boundary Regions of Southeastern British Columbia, where the Co-op Council resides, there are over 40 incorporated cooperatives, including several credit unions, food co-ops, radio stations, artisans’ co-ops, land co-ops, housing co-ops, social service co-ops and carshare services, all doing business cooperatively.

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