What is a co-op?

Co-ops take many forms, from worker co-ops to consumer co-ops, but all co-ops are democratic organizations that are owned and controlled by the members who use their services. Co-ops exist to serve the needs of their members. Karma Co-op is a non-profit, consumer owned, retail food store. At Karma, many members work in the store, help decide what products we stock, and manage the co-op through our Board of Directors.

All co-ops are governed by 7 Co-operative Principles of:

  1. Open and Voluntary Membership
  2. Democratic Member Control
  3. Member Economic Participation
  4. Autonomy and Independence
  5. Education, Training and Information
  6. Co-operation Among Co-ops
  7. Concern for Community

10 Interesting facts about food co-ops (Source: Jon Steinman) :

  1. There are 300+ natural food co-ops across Canada and the U.S. (mostly in the U.S.). In Ontario, a new wave of natural food co-op development is taking place. There are another 300+ conventional food co-op stores in Canada.
  2. When asked; “Who owns the grocery store you shop at?” – members of food co-ops can proudly reply, “me!”
  3. Your grocery bill is an investment: For every $1,000 spent at a natural food co-op, $1,604 is generated in the local economy
  4. Community giving: Food co-ops contribute 3 times more toward charities and community groups vs. conventional stores.
  5. Local food: On average natural food co-ops source 20% of their products from local producers vs. 6% at conventional stores.
  6. Employ more people: A local food co-op’s head office is located within the store itself. This means there are more people employed by a local food co-op than at a chain store.
  7. Democratic: At most local food co-ops, any member is eligible to run for the co-op’s board of directors. Members are also eligible to vote for directors at the annual election.
  8. Recirculating profits: Food co-ops don’t profit off of their members. They can’t! Profits are reinvested into the co-op and often returned back to the members in the form of dividends.
  9. Education, training and information: All co-ops adhere to the principle of Education, Training and Information. At food co-ops, this often shows up in the form of incredible cooking classes, guest speakers and workshops, and helpful publications distributed to members.
  10. Food co-ops are community hubs: Food co-ops often become a hub of community activity and connection. With the more-than-usual number of conversations often had at a local food co-op, a quick stop for a litre of milk might very well take a half hour of your time.