In September of 1995 the International Cooperative Alliance approved the revised cooperative principles while adding a definition and value statement. The definition, value statement and principles act as a compass, guiding cooperative ventures from around the globe.
Definition: A cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise.
Values: Cooperatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, cooperative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.
1. Open and voluntary membership
Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.
2. Democratic member control
Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members who actively participate in setting policy and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to membership. In primary cooperatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and cooperatives at other levels are organized in a democratic manner.
3. Member economic participation
Members contribute equitably to and democratically control the capital of the cooperative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the cooperative. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing the cooperative (possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible); making distributions to members in proportion to their transactions with the cooperative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.
4. Autonomy and independence
Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with or raise capital from other organizations, including governments or external sources, they do so in terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their cooperative autonomy.
5. Education, training and information
Cooperatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperatives. They inform the general public – particularly young people and opinion leaders – about the nature and benefits of cooperatives.
6. Cooperation among cooperatives
Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional 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.