Co-operatives operate in virtually every economic and social aspect of society. Co-operatives are as varied in their structure as they are in their membership. Co-ops can be structured as for-profit or not-for-profit co-operatives.
Like people, co-operatives are unique and diverse, and often can fit into more than one of the following categories:
Read Through our co-op profiles! They highlight some of our communities' amazing co-ops!
Consumer Co-operatives – buy products or supplies in bulk and sells the products such as groceries, petroleum, sports equipment, supplies or other consumable goods to its members. The surplus or 'savings' generated by the co-op belongs to the members and can be repaid in cash or allocated to members' equity accounts.
- Examples include: retail grocery and gas co-ops, Steep Hill Co-op, Mountain Equipment Co-op.
Credit Unions – are financial co-operatives owned and controlled by its members. Credit unions provide financial services similar to banks and trust companies (such as savings and chequing accounts, term deposits, mutual funds and loans). Credit Unions are governed by their own Act in Saskatchewan, The Credit Union Act (1998).
Employment Co-operatives – provide employment for their workers. The workers are the member-owners, who operate their business together and make decisions about all the important issues including wages, production methods and finances. Generally members must be individuals and employees of the co-operative, however employment of non-members may be permitted. There are many worker co-operatives in the forestry, printing and publishing businesses.
- Examples include:Thundercreek Publishing, Planet S and Prairie Dog Newspapers, Just Us! Coffee Roasters Co-op.
Insurance and Trust Co-operatives – provide a wide range of services to credit unions, their members, co-operatives, organizations and individuals. Examples include:
- The Co-operators provides insurance, financial and related services across the country and is the largest Canadian-owned multi-line insurer. It is owned and controlled by co-operatives, credit union centrals, farm and other co-operatively oriented organizations.
- Many Nations Benefits Co-op provides pensions, employee benefits, insurance, retirement planning, and risk management culturally appropriate solutions for their customers.
Producer and marketing co-ops - act on behalf of producers (i.e. grain, dairy or livestock) to sell their products. Allows members to share processing and packaging equipment and pool their marketing to reach more customers. It sells the products of members who may be producers or service providers.
- Examples include: Farmer Direct Co-operative Limited, OceanSpray Cranberries Inc.
Service Co-operatives - provide services to their members that are primarily for the benefit of the public or general welfare of the community. Examples include:
- Community Service Co-operatives - Access Communications Co-operative Ltd. operates as a non-profit, community-owned service co-operative. Their members include both community organizations and individuals. All of their profits are reinvested in improving their co-op.
- Housing Co-operatives - give members secure access to apartment units and houses, which they co-operatively own. Housing co-ops work to provide housing for their members at the lowest possible cost. They are formed when people join with each other on a democratic basis to own or control the buildings in which they live.
- Childcare Co-operatives – provide childcare, pre-school or daycare services that are directed and controlled by parents. Parents can be more involved in the care of their children and have more control of the cost of the services.
- Community Clinics / Healthcare Co-ops – providing health or hospital services to its members and their dependants on a mutual benefit plan; establish, maintain and operate facilities for group medical practice of duly qualified medical practitioners; establish, maintain and operate facilities for health care; or encourage and provide financial assistance for medical research in the community.
- Other Services - These co-ops provide various services to their members, such as access to expensive equipment or assets. Examples include the Saskatchewan Filmpool Co-operative, the Regina CarShare Co-op and the Saskatoon CarShare Co-op.
New Generation Co-operatives (NGCs) - provide a third model of co-operative organization, with their own Act. NGCs combine the features of a traditional co-operative with an investor-owned corporation. Most NGCs are involved in processing an agricultural commodity (i.e. grain or livestock) into a value-added product (i.e. pasta or packaged meat). This allows the producer-member to participate in and benefit from opportunities in primary production and marketing.
Multi-stakeholder, or solidarity, co-ops include different types of members, with the rights of each class of membership set out in the co-op's bylaws. For example, a produce market co-op may bring together farmers, customers and workers within one co-op. Multi-stakeholder co-ops are a structure that can be used to empower disadvantaged groups and address socio-economic issues facing communities. The flexibility of the model encourages communities to work democratically together and build involvement and participation in the community.