Shared values and principles
Cooperatives vary in type, membership size and services, but all are formed to serve their members and are structured around core values and principles adopted by the International Cooperative Alliance. Cooperative values are based on honesty, openness, social responsibility and equality. The following seven principles are guidelines by which cooperatives put their values into practice.
The seven cooperative principles
Voluntary and open 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.
Democratic member control
Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies, making decisions and electing representatives. Members have equal voting rights—one member, one vote.
Member economic participation
Members contribute to and equally control the capital of their cooperative. Any profit of the cooperative is returned to its members, reinvested in the cooperative and/or used to provide owner services.
Autonomy and independence
Cooperatives are self-governed organizations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organizations or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members.
Education, training and information
Cooperatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute to the development of their cooperatives. They also inform the general public about the nature and benefits of cooperation.
Cooperation among cooperatives
Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, regional, national and international structures.
Concern for community
Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.
Decision-making and elections
Members have the ultimate authority for establishing cooperative policies and making decisions that affect the cooperative. Members can propose ideas and issues to be discussed at cooperative meetings. Policies and decisions are then made through a voting process—each member typically has one vote. Members also elect the cooperative’s board of directors, and any member can nominate a candidate for a director seat.Learn more about the CHS Board of Directors
An annual meeting is a legal requirement for cooperatives. The purpose of the annual meeting is to review progress and performance of the cooperative for the past year, elect directors, present bylaw changes, vote on articles of incorporation and review plans for the future. It’s also a place where members can express their views to the board of directors, management and employees.View highlights from the most recent CHS Annual Meeting
Developing future cooperative leaders
The CHS New Leaders Forum provides younger farmers with opportunities to learn about cooperative governance and develop leadership skills.Learn about CHS New Leaders