What is a cooperative and do I create one?


Wednesday, November 25, 2015
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When we consider the student cooperative, Desjardins Group, the Coop fédérée, we see that the cooperative is a legal form that may be suitable to businesses of all sizes and active in different sectors. What are the characteristics of a cooperative and what are the different stages in its implementation?

A cooperative brings together people or businesses with mutual needs that join forces to operate a business according to cooperative principles in order to meet those needs. Members exercise their power democratically. Like a corporation, a cooperative is a legal person distinct from its members, and each member's liability is limited to the value of the shares they hold. However, a cooperative differs from other types of businesses because of the way surpluses are distributed. Among other uses, they are given to members in the form of dividends according to their use of each of the cooperative's services.

Even though cooperatives must be profitable, their primary objective is to meet members' needs as effectively as possible. They also belong to all their members equally. When decisions must be made, they are made democratically according to the 1 member, 1 vote principle.


  • an association of people who collectively carry out their entrepreneurial responsibilities;

  • a company whose co-owners are users;

  • a company whose objective is to maximize the advantages that members enjoy as entrepreneurs, users and citizens;

  • a company that uses capital but does not base members' power on it;

  • a company whose rules guarantee members the equal exercise of power and the fair distribution of contributions and sharing of profits;

  • a company that promotes inter-cooperation to develop its business and contribute to the development of its community;

  • a company makes education 1 of its key operational mechanisms, particularly through sharing knowledge and information.


Do you want to set up a new cooperative but don't know where to begin? Consult Desjardins’ complete article to discover the 10 different steps involved in creating a cooperative.