Cooperative Principles

A food co-op looks and offers products like any other grocery store, but it is owned by members of the community. Co-ops are based on values not unlike those we subscribe to individually, including self-responsibility, democracy, equality, honesty and social responsibility.

In addition to these common values, seven basic international principles serve as guidelines to provide a democratic structure for co-ops around the world. While adoption of these principles is not required, most co-ops choose to adopt them for their business.

In Whitewater, a group of individuals shared a vision for a grocery store that was highly involved with serving the community's food needs. We agreed that a cooperative business model makes sense and are now halfway toward our goal of opening a community-owned neighborhood grocer.

Cooperatives operate according to seven basic principles:

  1. Voluntary, Open Membership
    Open to all without gender, social, racial, political, or religious discrimination.

  2. Democratic Member Control
    One member, one vote. Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of the cooperative.

  3. Economic Participation
    The economic benefits of a cooperative operation are returned to the members, reinvested in the co-op, or used to provide member services.

  4. Autonomy & Independence
    Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members.

  5. Education, Training & Information
    Cooperatives provide education and training for members so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperatives. They inform the general public about the nature and benefits of cooperation.

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

  7. Concern For The Community
    While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies accepted by their members.