International Year of Co-operatives
In December 2009, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming 2012 the International Year of Co-operatives in recognition of the contribution co-operatives make to the social and economic development of communities around the world. The UN held its own launch of the International Year during a General Assembly session in New York on October 31, 2011 and several other countries held national launch events on January 12, 2012.
A provincial launch event took place in Regina on January 12, 2012 together with 13 other regional events and the national launch. Other planned celebrations include:
- May 28 – June 3: Co-operative Week of Volunteering, province-wide
- October 14 – 20: Co-op Week, province-wide
- November 1 – 3: Co-operating to Build a Better West Conference, Saskatoon
A co-operative is an enterprise that is owned and democratically controlled by its members. It's a business that is owned and controlled by the people who use its services or by the people who work there.
Co-operatives exist in virtually every sector of the economy, from agriculture to financial services, from housing to health care, from retail stores to renewable energy. There are child care co-operatives, car sharing co-operatives, elder care co-operatives, artists' co-operatives, funeral co-operatives...the list is endless. What they all have in common is that they are membership-based, they are driven by social as well as economic concerns, and are guided by seven internationally-recognized principles. In short, they care about the needs of their members and the quality of life in their communities, as well as the bottom lines of their businesses.
Co-operatives (which include credit unions) differ from other businesses in three specific ways:
- A different purpose: The primary purpose of co-operatives is to meet the common needs of their members, whereas the primary purpose of most investor-owned businesses is to maximize profit for shareholders.
- A different control structure: Co-operatives use the one member/one vote system, not the one-vote-per-share system used by most businesses. This helps the co-operative serve common needs rather than the needs of a handful of individuals. It is also a way of ensuring that people, not capital, control the organization.
- A different allocation of profit: Co-operatives share profits among their member-owners on the basis of how much they use the co-operative, not on how many shares they hold. Most co-operatives invest a significant portion of their profits in improving service to members and promoting the well-being of their communities.
Co-operatives in Canada: Facts and figures
- Co-operatives have more than a billion members around the world and more than 18 million members in Canada.
- There are more than 9,000 co-operatives in Canada, with more than 155,000 employees and more than $370 billion in assets (2011).
- Co-operatives operate in virtually every sector of the Canadian economy, including financial services (credit unions), retail, agriculture, housing, health care and energy.
- Co-operatives have existed in Canada for about 150 years. Agricultural and consumer co-operatives were created in the 19th century, and Canada's first credit union was established by Alphonse Desjardins in Lévis, Quebec in 1900.
- In 2008, the most recent year figures are available, the world's 300 largest co-operatives generated revenues of USD 1.6 trillion – equivalent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the world's ninth largest economy. Eight of the world's 300 largest co-operatives are Canadian.
- Some of Canada's best-known co-operatives include Desjardins Group (financial services), Federated Co-operatives Limited (consumer); La coop fédérée (agriculture/meat processing); Agropur (agriculture/dairy products) The Co-operators (insurance), Mountain Equipment Co-op (consumer); UFA (farm supplies) Gay Lea Foods (agriculture/dairy products); Vancity (financial services), Co-op Atlantic (consumer), and Arctic Co-operatives Limited (consumer).
- Research shows that co-operatives are more durable that other types of businesses. Studies conducted in Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta have found that new co-ops are likely to survive longer than other new businesses over the same period of time.
- The Canadian co-operative movement works closely with partners in developing countries to help reduce poverty through the creation and strengthening of co-operatives. There are four Canadian organizations which focus on international co-operative development: the Canadian Co-operative Association, SOCODEVI, Développement international Desjardins and Rooftops Canada.