Types of Cooperatives

We recognize five broad categories that the cooperatives we work with fall into. Cooperatives vary depending on the services or products offered and the way that the members are organized. They may also differ depending on the type of economic activity they are engaged in or how members use the cooperative. Cooperatives also vary based on their unique form of management and the way that they conduct their management practices.


Consumer cooperatives are owned by the people who buy the goods or use the services of the cooperative. They sell consumer goods such as food and outdoors equipment. They provide housing, electricity, and telecommunications. And they offer financial (credit unions), healthcare, childcare, and funeral services. Almost any consumer needs can be met by a cooperative.  


Worker cooperatives are owned and democratically governed by the employees of the business. They operate in all sectors of the economy and provide workers with both employment and ownership opportunities. Examples include employee-owned food stores, processing companies, restaurants, taxicab companies, sewing companies, timber processors and light and heavy industry.


Purchasing and shared services cooperatives are owned and governed by independent business owners, small municipalities and, in some cases, state governments that band together to enhance their purchasing power, lowering their costs and improving their competitiveness and ability to provide quality services. They operate in all sectors of the economy.


Producer cooperatives are owned by farmers who grow crops, raise cattle, milk cows, or by craftsmen and artisans. By banding together, they leverage greater bargaining power with buyers. They also combine resources to more effectively market and brand their products, thereby improving the incomes of their members.


As our economy has grown ever more complex, so too have the variety of types of cooperatives. We use the term “hybrid” to describe the complexity of cooperatives and they ways they serve the needs of their members. Cooperatives can vary in their particular purpose but share in common the fact that they are formed to meet the specific objectives of members and adapt to member’s changing needs.