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7 Principles of Co-ops

The history of modern-day cooperatives started when Rochdale Equitable Pioneers opened their doors on October 24, 1844 in England. After a year of selling household staples such as sugar, butter, flour and oatmeal, the co-op was serving 74 families. Cooperatives had existed prior to that time, but the members of Rochdale are responsible for penning the seven principles that guide cooperatives today. Below are the current versions of those principles.

Principle 1: Voluntary and Open Membership

Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination. More about Voluntary and Open Membership.

Principle 2: Democratic Member Control

Cooperatives are democratic organizations 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 cooperatives, members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and cooperatives at other levels are organized in a democratic manner. More about Democratic Member Control.

Principle 3: Member Economic Participation

Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the cooperative. They 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 the cooperative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the cooperative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership. More about Member Economic Participation.

Principle 4: Autonomy and Independence

Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their cooperative autonomy. More about Autonomy and Independence.

Principle 5: Education, Training and Information

Cooperatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperatives. They inform the general public — particularly young people and opinion leaders — about the nature and benefits of cooperation. More about Education, Training and Information.

Principle 6: Cooperation among Cooperatives

Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures. More about Cooperation among Cooperatives.

Principle 7: Concern for Community

While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies accepted by their members. More about Concern for Community.

To celebrate the International Year of Cooperatives, we're including a short article in our member newsletter each month providing more information about one of the principles and showing how we apply it here at Frontier. We'll add a "More about" link to each principle as that additional info becomes available for it.

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