A co-op is a business – a business with a difference.
The following are frequently asked questions about co-op stores.
Co-op is a business. We pay municipal property taxes and federal and provincial income taxes, just like any other business.
But Co-op is a business with a difference. Your local Co-op, as a co-operative, is owned and controlled by its members.
A Different Purpose.
- The main purpose of a co-operative is to provide benefits to members.
- The main purpose of a private or public business is to maximize returns for shareholders.
A Different Control Structure.
- Members of a co-operative each own only one share. In a private or public business one or a few shareholders can own all or a majority of shares and may override the wishes of smaller shareholders. This cannot happen in a co-operative because each member has only one share and one vote.
- Co-operatives are accountable and accessible. Co-operatives publish local financial reports and hold local annual meetings to report on operations and answer questions. All Co-op personnel, right up to the General Manager and President of the Board of Directors, are accessible to the customers.
A Different Distribution of Earnings.
- In a co-operative, earnings are distributed to members based on their purchases during the year. In private business earnings are paid to shareholders based on the number of shares held.
- In a co-operative, earnings are widely distributed based on member purchases. Over the past 10 years, over $1.6 billion in cash has been distributed to more than 1.5 million members across Western Canada. In private business all or most of the earnings can end up with one or a few shareholders.
Every Store is Different.
Each Co-op store reflects the needs of its local community. Local needs guide the selection of products and services offered. For example:
- Calgary Co-op, a large retail co-op, focuses on supermarkets and gas stations.
- Avonlea Co-op, a smaller co-op, focuses on farm petroleum and farm supplies.
- Amachewespimawin Co-op, located in Northern Saskatchewan, serves the aboriginal community of Stanley Mission with food, hardware, clothing and petroleum.
Based on local needs, co-ops provide one or more of the following services:
- Building materials
- Auto fuel
- Farm fuel
- Crop supplies
- Farm hardware and equipment.
Some stores are ultra-modern urban supermarkets and some are small country general stores, but they all have a friendly, welcoming atmosphere.
Your local Co-op is locally owned by people just like you! Owners - or members - are usually regular shoppers. Co-operatives are the only businesses where the shoppers own the store.
Co-operatives are democratically controlled using a system of “one member one vote”. “One member one vote” ensures that your local Co-op acts for the common good and not just for a few individuals.
- Members control the Co-op through a locally elected Board of Directors.
- A member can become a Director of the Co-op by allowing their name to stand at an annual election.
- Members can also exercise control by attending annual meetings, by proposing or voting on resolutions, or by offering suggestions to Co-op management and directors.
- Decisions affecting the Co-op are made locally in the best interests of the members and the community, and not in remote head offices.
Membership information can be found on our Membership Benefits page.
Part of your community: As part of your community, Co-op tries to operate in a responsible, quiet and considerate manner.
Co-op returns earnings to local members, either in equity or cash. In either case the money stays in the local community. That means shopping at your local Co-op:
- Helps to strengthen the local economy
- Keeps profits at home
- Provides employment and stability for people in the local community.
Being locally owned and controlled means that co-ops are there to meet the needs of local residents, not outside investors.
Co-ops believe in giving back to the community and typically support a wide range of charitable and community organizations that contribute to the social, cultural and recreational needs of the community.
Co-op employees are encouraged to volunteer with local community organizations.
Each individual co-op has its own way of contributing to the quality of life in its home community. To see some of the ways your local co-op is making a difference in your community, please see other pages on our site.
Employment: Co-ops provide employment for local people and offer competitive salaries and benefits.
Co-ops typically employ full-time, long-term, well-trained employees. The Co-operative Retailing System (CRS) employs more than 19,000 people in Western Canada.
For information about careers in the CRS, please visit our Co-op Careers page.
An opportunity to get involved: Co-op provides an opportunity for you to learn about business, to work with other people and to take advantage of training programs provided for directors.
Co-op aims to observe and apply, in all activities, the following ethical standards:
- All claims, statements, information, advice and proposals shall be honest and factual.
- Sufficient disclosure of pertinent facts and information shall be made to enable others to adequately judge the offered product, service or proposal, and its suitability for the purpose to be served.
- Due regard shall be given to public decency and good taste.
- Unfair exploitation in any form shall be avoided.
- Comparison of co-op merchandising, products, services, philosophy, principles or practices to those of others shall only be made honestly and fairly, and without intent to harmfully disparage.
- The interests of the membership as a whole shall be paramount to the interests of the institution.
- The co-op shall aim to be equitable in the treatment of its members. Knowingly advising or persuading individuals to take action that may not be in their best interests shall be avoided.
- The test for compliance to this code shall be the effect of a communication or action on the ordinary or trusting mind. It is not sufficient that a discerning, knowledgeable, or analytical person may derive a correct interpretation if others may be misled.
Co-op is dedicated to something more than selling groceries or gas. Our mission, which is much larger, is:
- To give people an opportunity to own and control a business where they shop, and
- To improve the economic position of members within a responsible democratic structure.
The goal of your local Co-op is to provide value for your dollar. This does not mean that the price on every item will always match the lowest competitor's price. It does mean, however, that Co-op is consistently checking prices at competitors that offer the same level of quality and service to ensure that the prices represent fair value to Co-op members.
In addition, Co-op has programs and policies that benefit you:
- The "Value Priced Every Day" program offers everyday low prices on thousands of everyday items.
- The very popular Warehouse Sales are offered four times a year at participating food stores.
- Many Co-ops offer Seniors' or Family Day discount promotions.
- Co-op stocks reasonable quantities of products that are on sale and offer a liberal “rain check” policy.
- Co-op gives you multiple-item pricing on single item purchases.
- Co-op tries to operate in a very cost-conscious manner and return any earnings to members either in cash or as equity.
Your local Co-op is part of the Co-operative Retailing System (CRS), an organization consisting of approximately 220 retail co-operatives across Western Canada, operating in more than 500 communities and serving over 1.6 million active members. The CRS employs more than 19,000 people at retail co-ops, in a wide variety of commodities including food, petroleum, agricultural products, hardware, building materials, feed, and administrative positions.
For more information about the CRS, please visit the Co-op Connection website.
Along with the other retail co-ops of the Co-operative Retailing System (CRS), your Co-op is a member-owner of Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL), a multi-faceted organization that is based on the principles of co-operation. FCL provides central wholesaling, manufacturing, marketing and administrative services to its member-owners.
For more information about FCL, please visit the FCL website.