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 2,170.99 billion USD, according to the World Cooperative Monitor (2022).

More than one billion people, one in every eight people on the planet, are members of any of the three million co-operatives in the world. (ICA)

Globally, there are more than three million active co-operatives and mutuals.

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-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 global apex for the co-operative and mutual movement, 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.

Global consultation on the Cooperative Identity

The International Cooperative Alliance (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.

The ICA is holding a worldwide consultation on the Cooperative Identity.

With an estimated 1 billion members and 3 million co-op businesses worldwide, how co-ops deliver on their purpose is driven by the underlying principles and values that guide them.

About the Statement on the Cooperative Identity

The ICA is the global steward of the Statement on the Cooperative Identity – the Values and Principles of the cooperative movement. In 1995, the ICA adopted the revised Statement on the Cooperative Identity, which contains the definition of a co-operative, the values of cooperatives, and the seven cooperative principles described below. You can also consult the Guidance Notes on the Cooperative Principles and Values which give detailed guidance and advice on the practical application of the Principles to the cooperative enterprises.

  1. Open and voluntary membership
  2. Democratic Member Control
  3. Member Economic Participation
  4. Member autonomy and independence
  5. Education, Training and Information
  6. Co-operation amongst co-operatives
  7. Concern for community (social responsibility)

Consultation into Cooperative Identify

The ICA is currently conducting a Consultation into Cooperative Identify.

The 33rd World Cooperative Congress, themed on Deepening Our Cooperative Identity, kicked off a consultative process to explore how well cooperators understood the Statement on the Cooperative Identity and whether it has stood the test of time.

Following on from Congress, the ICA Board set up the Cooperative Identity Advisory Group (CIAG) to continue the reflection and consultation on cooperative identity. Chaired by ICA Board Member Alexandra Wilson from Canada, the Group comprises 23 persons from all ICA regions, and includes cooperative thinkers, leaders and practitioners, including BCCM CEO Melina Morrison.

Learn more about the consultation, and how you can have your say.

Australian and New Zealand perspectives on Cooperative Identity

Joining with our New Zealand counterpart, Cooperative Business New Zealand (Cooperative Business NZ), we invited members, business leaders, stakeholders and anyone with an interest in the co-op movement to join an online discussion exploring how we think about, communicate and live our co-operative identity as member-based businesses.

In an age of ESG and B Corp, our organisations are positioned for the future we currently face. We want to ensure, as first-world economies, that our principles propel and advance our business success and provide us with a competitive advantage.