Co-operative enterprises
build a better world

Cooperative identity, values & principles

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.

Co-operatives are businesses owned and run by and for their members. Whether the members are the customers, employees or residents they have an equal say in what the business does and a share in the profits.

As businesses driven by values not just profit, cooperatives share internationally agreed principles and act together to build a better world through cooperation. 

The International Co-operative Alliance is an independent, non-governmental organisation established in 1895 to unite, represent and serve cooperatives worldwide.  The Alliance provides a global voice and forum for knowledge, expertise and co-ordinated action for and about cooperatives.   

In 1995, the Alliance adopted the revised Statement on the Cooperative Identity which contains the definition of a cooperative, the values of cooperatives, and the seven cooperative principles as described below. You can also consult the Guidance Notes on the Co-operative Principles and Values which give detailed guidance and advice on the practical application of the Principles to cooperative enterprise.

Cooperative values

Cooperatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, cooperative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.

Co-operative Principles

The cooperative principles are guidelines by which cooperatives put their values into practice.

1. Voluntary and Open Membership

Cooperatives are voluntary organisations, 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.

2. Democratic Member Control

Cooperatives are democratic organisations 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 co-operatives at other levels are also organised in a democratic manner.

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. Members 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 their 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.

4. Autonomy and Independence

Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organisations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organisations, 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.

5. Education, Training and Information

Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They inform the general public - particularly young people and opinion leaders - about the nature and benefits of co-operation.

6. Cooperation among Co-operatives

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

7. Concern for Community

Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.


What is the cooperative marque? 

Cooperative identity forms a key pillar of the Blueprint for a Cooperative Decade as we seek to increase visibility of the co-operative model. 2013 saw the launch of the global Cooperative Marque - the first significant change in the visual identity of the cooperative movement in almost 100 years. It is a clear signal that the cooperative form of enterprise is professional, contemporary and business-like.

The objective is to create a new image that will become the new global co-operative visual identity, used to provide a 'promotional umbrella' and 'unity of purpose' for the global cooperative movement.

Brand composition

Led by the core values and brand proposition, the visual identity comprises:

  • a logo known as the "Cooperative Marque"
  • the slogan "Cooperative enterprises build a better world"
  • a font and a colour palette - comprising seven colours
  • signature images - a range of seven photographs symbolising the cooperative values and principles across sectors and regions

Visit to know more about the cooperative identity & get involved!

Our aim is for the Cooperative Identity to become one of the best known ethical marques in the world by 2020. You can apply to use the Marque and get a .coop domain at