Co-ops around the world

Co-operatives are a huge global sector. Co-operatives operate and thrive around the world. The largest 300 co-ops and mutuals report a total turnover of 2,146 billion USD, according to the World Cooperative Monitor (2020).

More than 1.2 billion people, one in every six people on the planet, are members of any of the three million co-operatives in the world. This represents at least 12% of humanity.

As member-owned, member-run and member-serving businesses, co-operatives empower people to collectively realise their economic aspirations, while strengthening their social and human capital and developing their communities. Co-operatives contribute to the sustainable economic growth and stable, quality employment, providing jobs or work opportunities to 280 million people across the globe, in other words, 10% of the world’s employed population.

International co-operation

International Co-operative Alliance

The International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) is one of the largest non-governmental organisations in the world today, representing 1 billion co-operative members through its 318 members from 112 countries. It is the apex body representing co-operatives, which are estimated to be around 3 million worldwide, providing a global voice and forum for knowledge, expertise and co-ordinated action for and about co-operatives.

The ICA was established in 1895 to promote the co-operative model. Today it works with global and regional governments and organisations to create the legislative environments that allow co-operatives to form and grow.

At the United Nations, the ICA participates in high-level discussions of relevance to co-operatives through its consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), which it has had since 1946, the first non-governmental organisation to do so.

The ICA also has individual partnership agreements with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Labour Organization (ILO), and participates in the UN Inter-Agency Task Force on Social and Solidarity Economy.

Since 1971, the ICA has been a founding member of the Committee for the Promotion and Advancement of Cooperatives (COPAC), a multi-stakeholder partnership of global public and private institutions that promotes and advocates for people-centred, self-sustaining co-operative enterprises, guided by the principles of economic, social and environmental sustainable development.

Co-operative identity

The ICA is the guardian of the Statement on the Co-operative Identity, which includes a definition, ten values and seven operational principles: it is the minimum common denominator for all co-operatives in all sectors and all regions.

Co-operative identity, values and principles, ICA