Cooperativism: Transformative and evolutionary principles

Cooperativism: Transformative and evolutionary principles

Cooperativism makes a difference for co-op members and promotes social, economic and environmental transformation

3 minutes read

Cooperative movement is a social-economic activity, dating back to England in 1844, when a group of artisans in the cotton mills had decided to put forces together in search for better life conditions.

The Organization of Brazilian Cooperatives (OCB) remarks that cooperative culture has been observed in Brazil since Portuguese colonization period, then stimulated by government and military officers, independent professionals, factory workers, and European immigrants.    

The Organization quotes that the movement officially started in Brazil in 1889, in Minas Gerais State, by the foundation of the Financial Cooperative of Public Officers of Ouro Preto, an agricultural consumer cooperative. Henceforth, other co-ops came from diverse segments in the States of Minas Gerais, Pernambuco, Rio de Janeiro and Rio Grande do Sul. 

The Regional Cooperative of Coffee Farmers in Guaxupé, known as Cooxupé, is part of the movement in Minas Gerais. It currently represents more than 16 thousand farmer families – most of which are small holders and family-farming growers – who rely on cooperativism and coffee farming for generating income, development, sustainability, and progress.

For 89 years Cooxupé has been playing its role in regional cooperativism, praising this movement that makes a difference in co-op members’ lives.

Aligned with OCB, we do recognize cooperativism beyond a business model. We see it as a philosophy of life aimed to change the world into a fancier, happier and more equitable place, with better opportunities for everyone. It proves the feasibility of combining economic and social development, productivity and sustainability. In addition, individual and collective actions cooperate for the same goal, in an organization where everyone owns his/her business.

Worldwide Performance

In order to have a glance at the importance of the cooperative movement, we highlight de performance of Cooperativism worldwide:

  • 2.6 million co-ops generate 250 million jobs.
  • Co-ops are present in 100 countries, assembling 1 billion people.
  • 1 out of 7 people is part of a co-op.
  • If the world’s 300 largest co-ops were a country, they would be the world’s 9th economy.

(Source: OCB)

The movement is also of great importance in Brazil. According to OCEMG (Organization of Cooperatives of the State of Minas Gerais), there are 6,828 co-ops in Brazil, most of them in South and Southeast regions. In Minas Gerais, the 756 co-ops subscribed in the Organization have a share of 9.6% in the State GDP. It is a sector that involves almost 2 million co-op members, 45 thousand employees, and moves BRL 60.8 bln a year.


In order to keep evolving in cooperativism, one may closely observe the Seven Principles stated by the International Cooperative Alliance. (link para a página da ICA que explica os princípios)

  1. Voluntary and open membership
  2. Democratic member control
  3. Member economic participation
  4. Autonomy and independence
  5. Education, training, and information
  6. Cooperation among cooperatives
  7. Concern for community

For cooperativism to succeed, those principles must be stuck in the DNA of people involved. I dare and declare that the movement is inspiring and enthralling. Not only does it have to make a difference in members’ lives, but also to generate social, economic, and environmental transformation wherever it is present.

It is all about an overall vision of care, love, and responsibility. Far beyond the workplace environment, it is a movement where democracy is experienced in fact. Co-ops and members have voice and freedom to share ideas. OCB has suitably figured out:

“There is no cooperativism without sharing ideas. Being cooperative is believing that nobody loses when everybody wins; is being in a quest for one’s own benefits while contributing on the whole; is being based in values of solidarity, responsibility, democracy, and equity. The co-op movement works in a unique way.”

We do agree with such vision. Cooperativism is way more than generating income in accordance with common interests. For the movement changes the environment we live in, making it sustainable, where values – which allow us to wonder of a better world – do prevail.