What is a Co-op?

Co-operatives are independent, democratically controlled enterprises. They are owned and governed by their members, with the aim of meeting common social, economic and environmental needs.

There are a range of different types of co-operative, reflecting the relationship between the co-operative, its members and the products and services they provide.

Rather than being 'non-profit' they seek to operate on a 'more-than-just-profit' basis - delivering direct benefits to their members and the wider community.

Co-operatives can take a number of different legal forms. In the UK the most common legal structures are Industrial & Provident Society and Company Limited by guarantee. Industrial & Provident Societies must demonstrate to the Financial Services Authority that they are 'bonafide co-operatives'. Co-operatives can also be established as private, member-controlled companies, with Company Limited by guarantee being the most common form.

With increasing interest in social enterprise as a business model the government has created a new legal form - the Community Interest Company (CIC). The assets of a CIC are held in perpetuity for the good of the community. Co-operatives UK has developed model rules for a co-operative CIC. Development Trusts have also been established as co-operatives - generally using an Industrial & Provident Society model.




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