Co-ops are uniquely poised to help create happier, healthier communities and more sustainable environments and economies. Why? Glad you asked…
First things first…what is a co-op anyway?
“Co-operatives are a reminder to the international community that it is possible to pursue both economic viability and social responsibility.” – Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General
“Co-ops are founded on a common idea – that people, no matter what their economic class or educational level, know what’s best for themselves and have the capacity, through, cooperation to meet their common needs.” -Ontario Co-operative Association
“The [co-op] store is the economic engine of the cooperative vision, and that’s a core part of what makes a co-op different from a mission-driven nonprofit. Co-ops perpetuate ethical commerce through its economic activity. A co-op user is connecting to the greater good, but even if they are not necessarily aware of it, the co-op has still achieved its purpose through an economic transaction that makes a difference in our world.” -Mark Goehring, CDS Consulting Group
A co-operative is an organization owned by the members who use its services or are employed there. Co-operatives can provide virtually any product or service.
The Seven Co-operative Advantages
Co-ops strengthen communities
“Co-operatives have a long and successful tradition both in Canada and around the world. They are driven not solely by profit, but by a desire to bring fairness, equity and justice to the marketplace, and as a result they can achieve many goals that other business models may not.” -Ontario Cooperative Association
Basically, this means that we are owned by our community and we return our profits to the in the form of member financial benefits (like member pricing and patronage dividends) and a wide variety of community giving programs and local purchasing.
Since most co-ops are community and regionally based, investment in, and surplus revenue from the co-op stay within the local community. Every dollar invested in the local co-op, has a significant multiplier effect within the community. Our profits do not leave the community to land in the bank accounts of shareholders we’ve never even met.
Co-operatives enable communities to have a degree of self-determination that is less subject to outside forces. Community-based ownership also make co-ops less vulnerable to takeovers and closures by outside decision-makers.
Co-ops democratize the economy
Co-operatives bring economic resources under democratic control, and that makes co-op’s uniquely among corporate governance structures; there are no other business models that have this claim to fame!
Because co-ops are open to everyone regardless of income or social status, and each member has an equal vote, co-ops can be more accountable and inclusive than other enterprises. And we don’t have shareholders who’s voice is greater than anyone else’s. Co-ops are democracy in action, everyday, all over the planet.
Co-ops are diverse and responsive
The co-operative model is a commercially efficient and effective way of doing business and delivering services. The co-op structure can work for any business or organizational purpose you can think of: grocery stores, media outlets, health care services, manufacturing, agriculture, retail, social services and more! Because they both serve and are owned by their members, it’s easy for them to keep their priorities straight!
Co-ops are flexible
They work on a very small scale…and on a very large scale.
For example, our co-op is an independent cooperative that thrives on providing food to our local community. In contrast, Blue Diamond Almond Growers is a co-operative of hundreds of almond suppliers in California that is markets their product all over the globe, including here at the Kootenay Co-op!
Co-ops are durable
There’s growing evidence suggesting that co-op businesses last longer, providing sustainable, long term employment and enjoying long-term partnerships within their communities and industries.
A recent study by Industry Canada found that:
- Six of every 10 co-ops survive after 5 years of operation, as compared to less than four of 10 other business enterprises
- Four of 10 co-ops survived after 10 years of operation, as compared to two of 10 other business enterprises
Co-ops are part of a global movement…that everyone can join!
The co-operative movement is worldwide. Are you a member of a co-op? Then you are part of the movement! Today the sector is estimated to have around 1 billion members and account for more than 100 million jobs around the world.
When you add up all these co-operative advantages, something magical happens!
People become authentically empowered, generous with each other, and excited about working together to make things better.
Just when you thought everything was heading up the creek without a paddle, along comes the mighty co-operative… not just afloat but full of happy paddlers! The solution to our problems is right here and has been riding the rapids successfully for many years, making real differences in the lives of real people all over the world.
Co-ops tend to be very practical and goal oriented and so often don’t spend much time promoting themselves to the general public. But the era of anonymity is coming to an end: people need to know there’s a better way to nourish communities, build economies and safeguard the environment.
The next wave of revolution is co-operative!
Want to join it?
Find out more about becoming a member of the Kootenay Co-op! Check out the Join Us page.
Already a member? Good on ya!
Did You Know:
In Canada, four of every ten Canadians are members of at least one co-operative.
In Quebec, approximately 70% of the population are co-op members, while in Saskatchewan 56% are members.
Source: Co-operative Secretariat, Government of Canada.