A co-operative 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.

Co-operatives are businesses owned and run by and for their members. Whether the members are the customers, employees or residents they have an equal say in what the business does and a share in the profits.

As businesses driven by values not just profit, cooperatives share internationally agreed principles and act together to build a better world through cooperation.

The International Co-operative Alliance is an independent, non-governmental organization established in 1895 to unite, represent and serve cooperatives worldwide.  The Alliance provides a global voice and forum for knowledge, expertise and co-ordinate action for and about cooperatives.

In 1995, the Alliance adopted the revised Statement on the Cooperative Identity which contains the definition of a cooperative, the values of cooperatives, and the seven cooperative principles as described below. You can also consult the Guidance Notes on the Co-operative Principles and Values which give detailed guidance and advice on the practical application of the Principles to cooperative enterprise.