Cooperative businesses are special because they are owned by the consumers they serve and are guided by a set of principles that reflect the best interests of those consumers, including:
- Voluntary and open membership--Cooperatives are open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.
- Democratic member control--Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions.
- Members' economic participation--Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative.
- Autonomy and independence--Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members.
- Education, training and information--Cooperatives provide education and training for members, elected directors, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperatives.
- Cooperation among cooperatives--Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional, and international structures.
- Concern for community--While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies accepted by their members.