“Founded on the principles of private initiative, entrepreneurship and self-employment, underpinned by the values of democracy, equality and solidarity, the co-operative movement can help pave the way to a more just and inclusive economic order” — Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary-General
What is a co-op?
Many people are familiar with the term “co-op,” without having a concrete idea of what it means. A co-op, an abbreviation for cooperative, is an organization that takes the idea of people working together and puts it into a business structure.
Cooperatives are generally initiated to provide services to their members that are otherwise unavailable. In the case of Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op, the cooperative was formed in the early 1970s to bring whole foods to the Roanoke Valley at a time when such foods were largely inaccessible in our area.
The cooperative business structure permits people to provide for themselves. The benefits of this are many, and the positive impact of cooperatives in their communities is limited only by the organization’s wherewithal.
Because member-owners control their cooperatives through an elected Board of Directors and a management team, at Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op there is no distant “corporate headquarters” calling all the shots.
Further, the cooperative business structure returns profits to all owners, who own equal amounts of shares. Most corporations benefit the few, those investors who profit (and vote) in proportion to the number of shares they own in the business. In a co-op, the rule of thumb is “one owner, one vote.”
There are many types of cooperative businesses –such as food co-ops like ours, farming co-ops, electric co-ops, housing co-ops, and credit unions. National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA) estimates that 730 million people worldwide are members of cooperatives.