There are seven principles governing co-ops as spelt out by the International Cooperative Alliance.
Co-ops are voluntary organisations, open to all persons who are able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.
Notwithstanding the above, the eligibility of an individual's admission into a co-op's membership is subject to the criteria as set out in the co-op's own by-laws of the jurisdiction.
Co-ops are democratic organisations controlled by members, who actively participate in setting their own policies and decision making. This means members vote on policies passed and vote for elected representatives.
All members contribute equitably to their co-op’s capital. Generally, part of the co-op’s capital is common member property. Usually members get limited compensation for the subscribed capital given as condition of their membership.
Surplus capital may be allocated for any, or all, of the following:
Members of Co-ops are responsible for their own governance, subject to the legislation and any orders by the Registry. If they make agreements with other organisations, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and their co-op autonomy.
Co-ops provide education and training to their members, elected representatives, managers and employees so that they can contribute to the development of their co-ops.
Co-ops serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-op movement by working through local, national, regional and international structures.
While focusing on members’ needs, co-ops work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by the members.