The consumer cooperative model spans almost all business sectors, from a credit union to a CSA farm membership. So, what is a consumer cooperative? It’s a business owned by its customers, for the mutual benefit of its customers.
The purpose of consumer cooperatives is to offer goods and services at the lowest cost to the customer-owners — in contrast to companies that serve the interests of stockholders. A consumer co-op retains profits as capital with mutual ownership or invests the funds into the growth of the organization. The member-owners control the business and share a common goal to deliver quality products and services at low prices.
Key Facts About Consumer Cooperatives
Millions of Americans are involved in consumer co-ops. Below are a few key facts:
- More than 7000 credit unions serve 100 million customers in the U.S.
- More than 42 million customers receive electricity from The National Electric Cooperative Association
- Over 1 million families have an affordable, pleasant place to live through consumer housing cooperatives
- PCC Natural Markets in Seattle is the largest consumer-owned food co-op at more than 56,000 members
- Examples of consumer cooperatives include REI, PCC Natural Markets, Navy Federal Credit Union and The National Electric Cooperative Association.
Consumer Co-ops: How They Work
Co-ops operate under the guidance of the seven cooperative principles. The most important principle for a consumer cooperative is democratic member control in which each member has one vote.
Every member has the power to control the business by voting on leaders and deciding how to run the co-op. An elected board of directors is charged with hiring managers and monitoring the co-op’s progress toward financial and other goals. Each co-op holds regular membership meetings and maintains a set of bylaws or another organizing document.
In a consumer cooperative model, every member is a shareholder, so everyone’s voice is heard. Consumer co-ops focus on serving their customers, not turning a quick profit, and work within a mutually supportive economic model.
Associations for Consumer Cooperatives
National and international organizations stand with consumer cooperatives in their mission to serve members:
- Credit Union National Association
- National Grocers Association
- National Association of Housing Cooperatives
- International Co-operative Alliance
- Cooperatives for a Better World
NCBA CLUSA Supports Consumer Co-ops
Did you know that 65,000 cooperative enterprises operate across the U.S.? At NCBA CLUSA, we provide a voice for these co-ops. Through resources and education, we create platforms for cooperatives to participate, lead and partner with others in the global community.
NCBA CLUSA and its members aim to advance development, advocacy, public awareness and thought leadership in the cooperative movement.
If you’re ready to build a better world and a more inclusive economy together, become a member today.