Co-operatives adhere to the International Co-operative Alliance’s (ICA) Statement of Identity, Values and Principles.
The co-operative principles in the ICA’s Statement define the nature of a co-operative organisation. These principles describe a co-operative as an autonomous, member owned and democratically run organisation that is established to pursue the common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations of its members. They are part of a global movement of enterprises with a social responsibility and a commitment to helping each other.
Co-operative values include ethical values of openness, honesty and social responsibility that are values the board should aspire to inculcate across the organisation creating a culture of co-operation. The board of directors of a co-operative must chart a course to ensure their decisions are consistent with the co-operative principles, and their behaviour as managers of the co-operative evinces the co-operative values.
Australia has incorporated the co-operative principles into the legislation governing co-operatives.
Research shows that co-operatives whose boards appreciate and are committed to the co-operative principles are equipped to perform well because they understand the organisation and its people. Boards that commit to the co-operative principles demonstrate this in their decision-making and tend to instil a culture throughout the co-operative of the importance of the co-operative values and principles.
In 2018, the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM) released the Governance Principles for Co-operative and Mutual Enterprises (CMEs).
The Governance Principles for CMEs provide guidance and practical advice to help directors incorporate the co-operative values and principles into their decision-making, planning, policies and processes.
Compliance with these principles provides a sound basis for good governance in all co-operatives.
Through Co-operative Farming, BCCM has prepared a prototype survey tool to help co-operatives track their maturity against the CME Governance Principles.