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It's In Our Name
What is a co-operative?
Generally speaking, a co-operative is a business owned and democratically controlled by the people who use its services. The user-owners are called members and they benefit in two ways from the co-operative:
- Products and services are customized to suit their needs
- Profits are distributed to members based on the amount of business they do with the co-operative.
Co-operatives can provide almost any product or service, can be either non-profit or for-profit organizations, and thrive equally in urban and rural centres.
What’s the difference between co-ops and corporations?
Co-operatives are community-based organizations that care not only about their business’ bottom line, but also about their members’ needs and the quality of life in their communities. Co-ops and credit unions successfully compete in the marketplace without abandoning the values and principles that set them apart from other business models.
Co-operatives and credit unions differ from other businesses in terms of purpose, control structure and allocation of profit. As a financial co-operative, we’re different from other financial institutions, too:
We’re committed to our clients in all parts of Canada. When it comes to changes regarding coverage, we’ll work with our clients to make the best mutually beneficial decisions.
We’re controlled by the member organizations that use our products and services. People control the organization, not money; each member-owner has an equal voice.
Allocation of profit
As we profit, so do our member-owners. Profits are shared among member-owners and employees, invested in improving service to clients and used to promote the well-being of the communities where we live and work.
How we follow the seven co-operative principles
All co-operatives around the world share the same seven principles as defined by The International Co-operative Alliance. We adhere to these principles in the following ways:
Voluntary and open membership
We strive to have diversity in our membership in terms of geography, demographics and sectors to allow different perspectives in our governance.
Democratic member control
Our members are involved in all levels of governance, including our Board, whose members are 100% derived from the membership. Each member-owner has two votes at the Annual General Meeting (AGM), and input into our Democratic Structure Review, future direction and strategy sessions. There are also member representatives on our Corporate Giving and Community Economic Development Fund (CED) committees.
Member economic participation
When The Co-operators is profitable, our Member Loyalty program pays members in relation to the amount of business they do with us. If necessary, members can use this payment to offset their one-time membership fee.
Autonomy and independence
The Co-operators Group Limited is 100% Canadian owned. All strategic decisions are approved by the Board of Directors, which is distinctly separate from Management.
Education, training and information
One of our most important mandates is towards the principle of education, training and information:
- We provide significant training for members, delegates and the Board at region meetings and the Annual General Meeting (AGM), and we encourage networking to share best practices.
- We offer our expertise to the co-op sector through several initiatives, including client education on insurance, safety and prevention, strategic planning, sustainability, governance and enterprise risk management (ERM).
- We support post-secondary programs in research and management of co-ops. Our company leaders take leadership roles in co-op associations and networks to give them strength and direction.
- We provide sponsorship and staff leaders for co-op youth camps held across the country.
Co-operation among co-operatives
The Co-operators is highly regarded for our role in connecting co-ops to each other, whether or not they are our members. We support emerging co-ops through the Co-op Development Program (CDP) and we are active participants and supporters of local, national and international networks of co-ops, both in our industry and generally.
We are advocates for the co-op sector through our relationship with governments. We provide customized products and services for co-ops and programs for members of member-owners to increase the value of membership in their organizations. To measure our success, we conduct a member engagement survey every two years.
Concern for community
We provide significant financial support for the communities in which we live and work in several ways.
- We have been designated a “Caring Company” by Imagine, for donating no less than 1% of pre-tax profits to charity.
- We encourage healthy communities through our Signature safety programs and volunteerism initiatives.
- We provide funding to community programs through The Co-operators Foundation.
- We participate in sustainability programs designed to reduce our environmental footprint and engage youth in sustainability leadership.
- We have been placed on the list of 50 Best Employers in Canada for eight years, and we’re part of The Green 30.