What is a co-operative?

Co-operatives were originally set up in reaction to the exploitative employment practices of some 19th century business owners. Since then co-operative groups have formed all over the world, each coming together in a democratically run organisation with a common business, economic, social or cultural goal or aspiration.

Open to all

The core feature of a co-operative is that they are open to everyone, and are owned and run by members for members. Retail societies such as Central England Co-operative therefore do not have shareholders, with all benefits being returned to their members and the communities in which they trade. There are currently almost 5,000 UK co-operative businesses with more than 11 million members and supporting over 200,000 jobs.

Values and principles

All co-operatives subscribe to a set of values and principles which guide everything they do.


The co-operative values we subscribe to are:

  • self-help – helping people to help themselves
  • self-responsibility – being accountable for all we do
  • democracy – all members have a say in how the society is run
  • equality – all members have one vote
  • equity – doing business fairly and without bias
  • solidarity – working with other co-operatives

The ethical values of all co-operatives are:

  • honesty
  • openness
  • social responsibility – caring for the world and encouraging communities to look after each other
  • caring for others – giving a percentage of our profit to those in need


The seven co-operative principles help us to put our values into practice

  1. Voluntary and open membership – membership is open to anyone willing to accept the responsibilities this involves
  2. Democratic member control – co-operatives are run by their members, who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions
  3. Member economic participation – members contribute to and control the assets of their organisation
  4. Autonomy and independence – even if they enter into agreements with other organisations, co-operatives retain their democratic rights and operate autonomously
  5. Education, training and information – co-operatives provide education and training for their members and officials, and offer information for young people and public leaders in the benefits of co-operation
  6. Co-operation among co-operatives – working together to benefit and strengthen the co-operative movement as a whole
  7. Concern for the community – working to improve conditions for local communities and worldwide neighbours

Central England Co-operative Society subscribes to all the co-operative values and  principles, and we have also established our own vision and values.