Definitions, values, principles and structure

Definition, values, principles and structure

What is a co-op?

Co-operatives are people-centered enterprises owned, controlled and run by and for their members to realise their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations.

Can a co-op be a non-profit?

Depending on the governing legislation, a co-operative is usually considered a non-profit if it does not distribute surpluses in the form of patronage dividends. This is often the case when co-ops aim to address social needs, such as housing, childcare, and health care co-operatives. Co-operatives can also obtain registered charitable status should they meet all the  necessary requirements.  

Values and principles

Co-operatiaves are based on some core values and principles that guide them in how they operate. Learn more about these values and principles on CMC’s website. 

Structure of a co-operative

A co-operative is both an association of people and an enterprise. It therefore has two different structures:

  • the association of people requires a democratic structure (general meeting, board of directors, other boards and committees) in which members or their representatives can participate directly or as delegates of groups or members; and,
  • the enterprise structure may be simple or complex, depending on the scale and nature of the economic activities. Through commercial strategies to sell products or services, the co-operative tries to maximize its economic, social and / or environmental impact, and ultimately to benefit the interests of its members as well as the community. (Source)

A co-operative is an organization owned by the members who use its services (a consumer co-operative or credit union), or by people who work there (a worker co-op), or by those who live there (a housing co-operative). When different stakeholder groups share a common interest in the success of an enterprise, these groups can use different classes of membership in the co-op’s bylaws to organize how they can work together (a multi-stakeholder co-op). You can look into the different types of co-ops in our website.

Visit our co-operative sector profiles page to download the latest information on Canadian co-ops. Please note that terminology and incorporation structures may vary according to provincial or territorial jurisdiction.

Co-operative movement in the world 

 The International Co-operative Alliance  (ICA) is the global administrator of the Statement on the Co-operative Identity which sets out the values ​​and principles of the co-operative movement. CMC acts as the representative of Canadian co-operatives with the ICA and helps to promote adoption of the model and .coop domain in Canada. 

For more details, please consult: