- Aasa Marshall

7 Facts About Co-ops That Will Impress Your Friends


The co-op business model is at least 519 years old.

The Shore Porters Society in Aberdeen, Scotland claims to have established the world’s first co-operative in 1498. Though it’s no longer a co-op, this removals and storage company still exists today.

The world’s biggest co-operative is Credit Agricole Group

According to the International Co-operative Alliance’s list of the the world’s top 300 co-ops, Credit Agricole Group is the world’s biggest co-op. This credit union in France generated $103 billion in revenue in 2008. The first Canadian co-operatives to join the top-300 list is Desjardins, which sits in the 36th spot, and Federated Co-operatives Ltd at 52nd in the world.

New Zealand is the world’s “most co-operative economy.” 

Co-operatives make up 20 per cent of the country’s economy, with the world’s highest co-op revenue to GDP ratio. It also boasts the highest percentage of co-op employees relative to the population. New Zealand is followed in the rankings by Netherlands, France, and Finland.

Forty per cent of Canadians belong to a co-op.

In Quebec this number rises to 70%; and, in Saskatchewan, it’s 56%.

Co-ops have a better chance of surviving an economic crisis.

Co-operatives have a different focus than other business models, and it can help them survive a downturn in a shrinking local market or economic slowdown. As community-driven, member-controlled organizations, co-operative business start ups are twice as likely to succeed and still be in business after 5 years. They also tend to stay in business longer. When times or markets are tough, co-ops are often there.

Co-ops exist in every sector.

If you’re thinking of starting a business and wonder, “Can ____ be a co-operative?” the answer is likely “Yes”. Most people know that grocery stores and gas stations can be co-operatives, but have you ever heard of a tourism co-operative? A music co-op? How about a co-op radio station? Daycares, breweries, community gardens, and renewable energy producers are among the endless examples of co-operatives.

There are over one billion co-op members in the world.

That’s a lot.