It isn’t difficult to recognize the significant social and economic value that a co-operative enterprise provides to its member-owners and their communities. If you are here, you probably have been thinking about starting a co-operative or are curious about starting a co-operative in the future – and we are so happy you found us!
Is there a specific need, challenge, or opportunity in your community that is not being met by a more traditional business model? A co-operative could be the perfect way to meet the need!
Is there a local or small business in your community that is closing, that you would like to see stay active? A co-operative conversion could be the perfect way to keep the business operating!
Do you and your fellow employees have an interest in coming together to purchase the business you work for from your employer? The co-operative business model is uniquely suited to facilitate business succession.
- Co-ops directly support local economic, business, and community development
- The co-operative business model is very versatile and can be applied to an organization of any size, in any sector
- Each shareholder (member) of a co-operative has one vote, as opposed to shareholders of a corporation who have one vote per share held
- Profits from co-operatives are distributed in a wide variety of ways, all of which directly benefit the communities the co-operative operates within
- Member liability is limited, as members are not responsible for the co-operative’s debt and can only lose what they have invested
- As legally incorporated entities, co-operatives can own property, take mortgages, and enter into contracts just like any other legally incorporated business
The Co-operative Principles
Co-operatives operate with seven key principles, or guidelines, in mind, which help them put their unique values into practice. These seven principles keep co-operatives on track and make sure the importance of their members and their communities are never forgotten.
Thank you Molly Margaret Art for the co-op principles illustrations, which are the result of her collaboration with the Social Justice Co-op NL to bring awareness to the co-op principles and their significance to the sector. The co-ops and credit unions that are featured in these illustrations are just a few examples of the extraordinary cooperation that takes place in Newfoundland and Labrador.
1. Voluntary and Open Membership
Co-operatives are voluntary organizations, which means they are open to all who can use their services and are willing to accept the responsibilities of membership. Membership has no gender, social, racial, political, or religious discrimination.
2. Democratic Member Control
Co-operatives are democratic organizations that are controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making important decisions. Those serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. Members have equal voting rights (one member = one vote), regardless of how much they have invested in the co-operative.
3. Member Economic Participation
Members contribute to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative. Members are responsible for voting on how surpluses will be allocated, the most common allocations are: developing the cooperative, benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the cooperative, and/or supporting a local charity operating within the community.
4. Autonomy and Independence
Co-operatives are autonomous organizations controlled by their members. If the co-operative enters into agreements with other organizations, including government, or raises capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members is retained and they maintain their cooperative autonomy.
5. Education, Training, and Information
Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so that they can contribute effectively to the development of the co-operative. They also inform the public – particularly young people and leaders – about the nature and benefits of co-operation.
6. Cooperation among Co-operatives
Co-operatives serve their members and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional, and international structures.
7. Concern for Community
Co-operatives work toward the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.
Starting a Co-op in NL
You will need to:
- Pick an available name for your co-operative
- Develop a business plan for your co-operative
- Decide on where your co-operative’s registered office will be located
- Appoint an interim or founding board of directors for your co-operative (at least three people)
Check out this helpful guide to Creating a Co-operative Enterprise in Newfoundland and Labrador, prepared in collaboration by the Newfoundland-Labrador Federation of Co-operatives, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, and the Government of Newfoundland Labrador.