Cooperatives are in a unique place among business enterprises because they mix the enterprise with democratic principles of control and do not solely seek to maximize profit, but to maximize the benefits to the members, the owners who are the employees in a worker’s co-op.

Cooperatives are enterprises that are democratically owned and controlled by the people who benefit from them and are operated collaboratively for the purpose of providing services to these beneficiaries or members.

The International Cooperative Alliance defines a cooperative as “an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.” A co-op is an enterprise formed by a group of people to meet their own self- defined goals. These goals may be economic, social, cultural, or as is commonly the case, some combination.

In a cooperative, only participants who have met the requirements for membership are allowed to be owners. All cooperatives operate on the principle of “one member, one vote”, so control is allocated evenly among the users of the co-op without regard to how much money each has invested. Cooperatives operate for the benefit of members, and those benefits are distributed in proportion to each member’s transactions with the cooperative.

From “Cooperative Equity and Ownership: An Introduction,” (PDF) Margaret Lund

Co-ops come in a wide variety of forms, from worker coops to consumer coops to investor coops. Coops may also use a mix of preferred, common, and non-voting stock, or may utilize subsidiaries or trusts or other methods to incorporate investor capital into the enterprise. For a complex and thorough view of new forms of agricultural coops see: “Understanding New Cooperative Models,” (PDF) Chaddad and Cook

Notable worker co-ops are:

New Era Windows Cooperative

Evergreen Cooperatives

Mondragon Corporation

Notable co-op organizations are:

ICA: International Co-operative Alliance

Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance

Cooperative Grocer Cooperation in Action


Recent Posts

Employee Ownership Conference, April 8-10, 2014, in Atlanta

Saw a press release through Digital Journal and also PR Web detailing the events at this year’s NCEO Employee Ownership Conference.

Here’s the first few paragraphs from the press release:

Verit Advisors will have five presenters at the 2014 NCEO Employee Ownership Conference in Atlanta, April 8-10, 2014. This annual conference is a premier gathering on employee ownership and over 1,200 attendees are expected.


Verit Advisors CEO, Mary Josephs, will moderate the Newcomer Orientation and moderate a panel on the closing day on “Questions and Lessons Learned as a New ESOP.” Josephs founded Verit Advisors in 2009 and has nearly three decades of experience in corporate finance. She is a nationally recognized leader and has advised structured and closed more than 200 financings for middle market companies. Ms. Josephs is a past two term board member of NCEO (National Center for Employee Ownership).


On Tuesday, April 8 Neal Hawkins will be a panelist discussing “Unique Structuring Issues with ESOPs.” This session, presented from the point of view of both the seller and the trustee, will explore how different ESOP transaction structures for both new ESOPs and existing ESOPs affect valuation, financing, and legal considerations.

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