Co-operatives

Lifestyle, cyclists talking

Co-operatives are organizations and businesses known for a values-driven approach to business and community.

Where and how you spend your hard-earned money is an important decision.  Good money management is about being intentional in your habits.  So think about how your money is spent, but know that you often have choices to make a greater impact.

When your values align, and you see your money at work in different ways, you can become even more motivated to stick to your financial plan.

 

Here’s an overview of how co-operatives work and if they may be right for you.

What is a co-operative?

There are a few things that define a co-operative.

First, it is a legally incorporated organization owned by a group of people who have common needs.

Second, it is an association of members. This means that, in most instances, to partake in the services offered by a co-operative you must join and become a member.

Third, co-operatives are very often values-driven.  Be it a commitment to the environment, ethical business practices to enhancing and upholding cultural values, or the shared interests of a specific community, co-operatives members frequently have shared ideals beyond just the provision of specific services.

What are the types of co-operatives?

According to Manitoba Co-Operative Association, there are seven types of cooperative. Here are the most common four:

  • consumer co-op provides products or services to its members, such as a retail co-op, housing, financial, health-care or child-care co-op
  • producer co-op processes and markets the goods or services produced by its members, such as independent entrepreneurs, artisans, or farmers
  • worker co-op provides employment for its members. In this type of co-op, the employees are the members and the owners.
  • multi-stakeholder co-op serves the needs of different stakeholder groups—such as employees, clients, and other interested individuals and organizations. This type of co-op is usually found in health, home care, and other social enterprises.

Profits and co-operatives

The operating principles of a co-operative organization are different than many privately or publicly owned organizations.  Two hallmarks for this difference can be seen in how it’s run, and where the profits go.

Decision-Making

In a co-operative, major decisions and selection of the Board of Directors are conducted through a democratic process, where the governing principle is often “one-member, one-vote.”  This means that as a member, you can become more involved and feel more accountable for what the organization does.

Where do the profits go?

In a co-operative, its members are the owners, so they can decide if profits should be re-invested for future growth or to distribute some or all of it back to the members.  Co-operatives can also be a non-profit entity where all profits are re-invested into the company.

For more information on co-operatives in Manitoba, visit Manitoba Co-Operative Association Inc. and to learn more about Canadian co-operatives more broadly, visit the Government of Canada’s resource page.