Co-ops are uniquely poised to help
create happier, healthier communities
and more sustainable environments
and economies.

First things first… What is a co-op?

A co-operative is an organization owned by the members who use its services or are employed there. Co-operatives can provide virtually any product or service. According to Ban Ki-Moon, former UN Secretary General, “Co-operatives are a reminder to the international community that it is possible to pursue both economic viability and social responsibility.” This is a major aspect of co-ops that lend genuine hope for our future. Co-ops demonstrate an incredible potential to meet the needs of members and community, making us more able to build the world we want, the world that our children and grandchildren deserve.

“Co-ops are founded on a common idea – that people, no matter what their economic class or educational level, know what’s best for themselves and have the capacity, through cooperation, to meet their common needs” (Ontario Co-operative Association).

Co-ops help us to build the community we want with the products and services we need. It isn’t some top-down investor installing a cookie-cutter version of something that worked in some other place; co-ops are made up of community members coming together to cooperatively contribute to a stronger, more resilient, more ethical community.

The [co-op] store is the economic engine of the cooperative vision, and that’s a core part of what makes a co-op different from a mission-driven nonprofit. Co-ops perpetuate ethical commerce through economic activity. A co-op user is connecting to the greater good, but even if they are not necessarily aware of it, the co-op has still achieved its purpose through an economic transaction that makes a difference in our world. (Mark Goehring, CDS Consulting Group)

Every time we shop at the Kootenay Co-op, we are making a difference in our community. This difference is especially pronounced every time we take a cooking class, or submit feedback, or sit on a member-run board, or vote at the AGM, or otherwise engage with our member-owned grocery store. Simply put… co-ops are a constructive and effective way to create lasting change and meet everyday needs.

Co-ops Strengthen Communities

“Co-operatives have a long and successful tradition both in Canada and around the world. They are driven not solely by profit, but by a desire to bring fairness, equity and justice to the marketplace, and as a result they can achieve many goals that other business models may not.” – Ontario Cooperative Association

Basically, this means that we are owned by our community and we return our profits in the form of member financial benefits (like member pricing and patronage dividends) and a wide variety of community giving programs and local purchasing.

Since most co-ops are community- and regionally-based, investment in, and surplus revenue from the co-op stay within the local community. Every dollar invested in the local co-op, has a significant multiplier effect within the community. Our profits do not leave the community to land in the bank accounts of shareholders we’ve never even met.

Co-operatives enable communities to have a strong degree of self-determination that is less subject to outside forces. Community-based ownership also make co-ops less vulnerable to takeovers and closures by outside decision-makers.

Co-ops democratize the economy

Co-operatives bring economic resources under democratic control, and that makes co-ops unique among corporate governance structures; there are no other business models that have this claim to fame!

Because co-ops are open to everyone regardless of income or social status (required by law in the Co-operative Rules of Association), and each member has an equal vote, co-ops can be more accountable and inclusive than other enterprises. And no shareholder has more power than any other. Co-ops represent democracy in action, every day, all over the planet.

Co-ops are diverse and responsive

The co-operative model is a commercially efficient and effective way of doing business and delivering services. The co-op structure can work for any business or organizational purpose you can think of: grocery stores, media outlets, health care services, manufacturing, agriculture, retail, social services and more! Because they both serve and are owned by their members, it’s easy for them to keep their priorities straight!

Co-ops are flexible

They work on a very small scale… and on a very large scale.

For example, our co-op is an independent cooperative that thrives on providing food to our local community. In contrast, Blue Diamond Almond Growers is a co-operative of hundreds of almond suppliers in California that markets their product all over the globe, including here at the Kootenay Co-op!

Co-ops are durable and resilient

There is growing evidence suggesting that co-op businesses last longer, provide sustainable, long-term employment and enjoy long-term partnerships within their communities and industries.

One Industry Canada study found that:

  • Six of every 10 co-ops survive after 5 years of operation, as compared to less than four of 10 other business enterprises
  • Four of 10 co-ops survived after 10 years of operation, as compared with two of 10 other business enterprises

Co-ops are part of a global movement…
that everyone can join!

The co-operative movement is worldwide. Are you a member of a co-op? Then you are part of the movement! Today, the sector is estimated to have around 1 billion members and account for more than 100 million jobs around the world.

Co-ops rock!

When you add up all these co-operative advantages, something magical happens!

People become authentically empowered, generous with each other, and excited about working together to make things better.

Just when you thought everything was heading up the creek without a paddle, along comes the mighty co-operative… not just afloat but full of happy paddlers! The solution to our problems is right here and has been riding the rapids successfully for many years, making real differences in the lives of real people all over the world.

Co-ops tend to be very practical and goal-oriented and so, often don’t spend much time promoting themselves to the general public. But the era of anonymity is coming to an end: people need to know there’s a better way to nourish communities, build economies and safeguard the environment.

The next wave of revolution is co-operative!

Want to join in?

Find out more about becoming a member of the Kootenay Co-op! Check out the Join Us page.

Already a member? Good on ya!

Did You Know:

  • In Canada, four of every ten Canadians are members of at least one co-operative.
  • In Quebec, approximately 70% of the population are co-op members, while in Saskatchewan 56% are members.

Source: Co-operative Secretariat, Government of Canada.