Back to top

Cooperative companies function in line with the principle of free enterprise, and make people their top priority, with a focus both on the long-term and on competitiveness. They have an unusual profile, combining a democratic economy and an entrepreneurial model based on fairness and social responsibility. 

At a time when the issue of fair consumption is being raised ever more strongly, the cooperative model is being rediscovered. This new interest is not only motivated by ethical considerations. The financial crisis of 2008 clearly showed the excesses of the financialisation of the economy and the need to rebuild it on new foundations. In this respect, the cooperative model, in France and worldwide, is the bearer of new solutions, since cooperative companies have proved their resilience in the face of the crisis. 

1. The different types of cooperative companies in France

Cooperative companies can be classified into different families. 
The simplest classification is based on two criteria: who is the partner, a cooperative member and holder of at least a small share in the capital? What is its business activity? 
Another group can also be identified: 
Users’ cooperatives (the partners use the goods and services produced): Consumer cooperatives, school cooperatives, real-estate co-ownership cooperatives, social housing cooperatives  
Cooperative banks (the partners are the clients, savers or borrowers) 
Cooperative companies (the partners are the entrepreneurs): agricultural cooperatives, maritime cooperative, trades cooperatives, haulage cooperatives, shopkeepers’ cooperatives, etc. 
Production cooperatives (the partners are the employees): Scops (Cooperative and participative companies) Scics (Public interest cooperatives), multi-sector cooperatives (involving several stakeholders: at least the employees and the beneficiaries of the activity).
‐ European cooperative companies (ECC) which allow the creation of a single cooperative operating in several countries of the European Union. This is the most recently created form of cooperative. 

Take a look at the website to learn more.

2.  France, Europe’s cooperative leader 

France has the highest number of members and employees of cooperative companies and generates the highest sales from cooperative activity! 

France has the highest number of members: more than 26 million, ahead of Germany (22.2 million), the Netherlands (16.9), the United Kingdom (14.9) and Italy (12.6). 40% of the French population are members of a cooperative. 
With over 1.2 million employees in cooperative companies, France is also in first place ahead of Italy (1.1 million), Germany (860,000), Poland (300,000) and Spain (290,221). 
And France is also number one in terms of sales, with 307 billion euros, ahead of Germany (€195bn), l’Italie (€150 bn) and the Netherlands (€81 bn).
France is number three in terms of the number of cooperative companies, behind Italy (39,600) and Turkey (33,857) and ahead of Spain (20,050).
10 French cooperatives are ranked in the top 30 large European cooperatives.

3. The cooperative companies family in Europe and worldwide 

Key figures for cooperatives in Europe (2015):

‐ Nearly 180,000 cooperative companies 
‐ Over 140 million members 
‐ Over 4.5 million employees 
‐ Nearly 1,000 billion euros in sales 

Over 17% of the European population is a member of a cooperative. 
Since 2009, the number of cooperative companies has increased by 12% in Europe and the number of members by 14% (16% in the European Union).

4. Divers sectors  

Industry and services are the biggest sectors in Europe in terms of numbers of cooperatives (61,964 cooperative companies, or 36%). Agriculture with over 30% (51,392) and housing with over 22% (37,570) are in 2nd and 3rd positions.

Banking is the largest sector in terms of numbers of members, with more than 43% of all cooperative members in Europe, or 60,440,105. Consumer goods with nearly 27% (37,385,400) and insurance with over 12% (16,711,800) are in 2nd and 3rd positions. 
Industry and services have the highest number of cooperative employees with more than 27% (1,313, 696), followed by trade with nearly 24% (1,142,658) and banking with nearly 19% (867, 345).
Agricultural is the biggest sector in terms of sales, with over 39% (€347bn), followed by trade with nearly 30% (€264.38bn) and consumer goods with nearly 12% (€102.6bn).

5. Cooperatives, a worldwide movement 

Cooperatives operate across the world, on all continents. The sales of the world’s 300 biggest global cooperatives are equivalent to the size of the economy of the world’s 9th biggest economy. 

An estimated 3 billion people are directly involved in cooperative companies. The United Nations estimates that the life of half of the world’s population depends substantially on cooperative companies.

For more information::
Coopératives d'Europe (Coopseurope)
Alliance Coopérative internationale 
World Monitor
International Summit of Cooperatives