Eighth International Co-op Principle Introduced

Since 1895, the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) has provided education and support to cooperatives around the world. In 1995, the Seven Cooperative Principles were adopted by the ICA, which identify the values and principles of all co-ops. The values shared by cooperatives include self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity. The ICA took these shared values and wrote them into the Seven Principles to be used as guidelines by cooperatives in every industry.

1. VOLUNTARY & OPEN MEMBERSHIP: Cooperatives are completely voluntary organizations to join. Ownership is open to everyone regardless of gender, political view, race, religion, or lifestyle.

2. DEMOCRATIC MEMBER CONTROL: Cooperatives are democratically controlled by their ownership. Each owner has an equal vote and can serve as an elected representative on the Board of Directors. We saw this principle in action when you all voted on our co-op’s merge with Just Local Food Co-op in 2021.

3. MEMBER ECONOMIC PARTICIPATION: Owners contribute to the co-op equitably and democratically.

4. AUTONOMY & INDEPENDENCE: Co-ops are completely autonomous organizations.

5. EDUCATION, TRAINING, & INFORMATION: Education is provided to owners and community members about cooperatives and their benefit to communities.

6. COOPERATION AMONG COOPERATIVES: While we are all independent organizations, co-ops aim to strengthen the cooperative movement.

7. CONCERN FOR COMMUNITY: Co-ops wouldn’t exist without their community and give back in as many ways as possible.

In addition to the support of the ICA, over 200 retail cooperatives throughout the United States are members of a larger cooperative known as National Co+op Grocers (NCG). Pooling our resources allows NCG to advocate for sustainable farming, negotiate fair pricing on regional and national brands, and provide support to new and existing food co-ops. Over the last few years, there has been a push to add an eighth principle, DIVERSITY, EQUITY, & INCLUSION, to explain how cooperatives seek to incorporate diversity, perform equitably, and ensure inclusion at all levels of their organizations so they can better serve members, show them they are valued, and offer equitable service. NCG officially adopted this as the eighth co-op principle earlier in 2023 and has recommended that all co-ops do the same, knowing that we are all stronger when everyone has a seat at the table. Our board and staff will likely make a decision on whether to adopt it as well after expansion.

This article was originally published in the September/October 2023 issue of our bi-monthly newsletter, The Morsel. If you’d like to read more stories like this one and stay up to date on the latest co-op news and events, pick up a print copy in-store on your next grocery run or find more news on our website here.

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