The Rochdale Principles

The Rochdale Principles

Over the years the original rules and recommended practices of the Rochdale Pioneers Equitable Society have been summarised and from them extracted what are known as the Rochdale Principles of Co-operation.

The original rules of conduct as published in the Pioneers’ annual almanac were:

  • That capital should be of their own providing and bear a fixed rate of interest.
  • That only the purest provisions procurable should be supplied to members.
  • That full weight and measure should be given.
  • That market prices should be charged and no credit given nor asked.
  • That profits should be divided pro rata upon the amount of purchases made by each member.
  • That the principle of ‘one member one vote’ should obtain in government and the equality of the sexes in membership.
  • That the management should be in the hands of officers and committee elected periodically.
  • That a definite percentage of profits should be allotted to education.
  • That frequent statements and balance sheets should be presented to members.

The Values and Principles embraced by today’s worldwide co-operative movement have evolved from the ideals of the early co-operators of the 18th and 19th centuries. They are embodied in the Statement on the Co-operative Identity published by the International Co-operative Alliance.

Co-operative Values

Co-operatives throughout the world share a set of values that give them their distinctive character.


In co-operatives, people help each other whilst helping themselves by working together for mutual benefit.


Individuals within co-operatives act responsibly and play a full part in the organisation.


A Co-operative will be structured so that members have control over the organisation – one member, one vote.


Each member will have equal rights and benefits (according to their contribution).


Members will be treated justly and fairly.


Members will support each other and other co-operatives.

Ethical Values

In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of:

  • Honesty
  • Openness
  • Social responsibility
  • Caring for others

Co-operative Principles

The co-operative principles are guidelines by which co-operatives put their values into practice.

1st Principle: Voluntary and Open Membership

Co-operatives are voluntary organisations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.

2nd Principle: Democratic Member Control

Co-operatives are democratic organisations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary co-operatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote), and co operatives at other levels are also organised in a democratic manner.

3rd Principle: Member Economic Participation

Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-operative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the co-operative. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any of the following purposes: developing their co-operative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the co-operative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.

4th Principle: Autonomy and Independence

Co-operatives are autonomous, self-help organisations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organisations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their co-operative autonomy.

5th Principle: Education, Training and Information

Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They inform the general public – particularly young people and opinion leaders – about the nature and benefits of co-operation.

6th Principle: Co-operation Among Co-operatives

Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the Co-operative Movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.

7th Principle: Concern for Community

Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.