What is a co-op?
A co-operative is an enterprise which is owned and controlled by its user members and operates for the benefit of its user members.
Co-operatives place considerable emphasis on the ethos of member benefit, member participation and member loyalty. Transparency openness and democratic accountability are also a part of the co-operative ethos. If, in the organisation of the new venture, practical measures and policies can be put in place to cultivate and sustain these values, the co-operative corporate form should yield competitive advantages over use of a company structure.
It is perhaps in the area of identity and ownership that both corporate forms differ most. Co-operatives are uniquely associated with the idea of democratic control and being open accountable businesses accessible to all those who are able to use their services and are willing to accept the responsibilities that being a co-operative entails. Thus singular emphasis is put on the idea that those members who actively used the services of the co-operative are the persons who should be in control and should benefit from its services. A corollary to this idea is that these members should also contribute to the financing of the business in proportion to the use they are making of it.
|Limited liability||Yes (value of the share capital given by the individual members)||Yes|
|Can issue share capital||Yes||Yes|
|Can reduce & expand share capital||Yes||Yes, but with strict criteria|
|Minimum number of members||7 individuals||1 or 2|
|Back-up services||See below - Section 8. ICOS Back-up services and co-operative development||Separate legal fees and consultant costs|
|Power of nomination of shares||Yes, up to €15,000||No|
|Taxation status||Same for both co-operatives and private companies||Same for both co-operatives and private companies|
|Are model rules available?||Yes||No|
For further information about starting a co-op please consult the following two documents: