Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Co-operative Definition:

A group of people formed as a separate organization and which has as a stated purpose either in regards to the public at-large or in regards to the common interests of the members.

A group of people formed as a separate organization and which has as a stated purpose either in regards to the public at-large or in regards to the common interests of the members.

Also spelled "cooperative".

An organization or corporation typically non-profit (operated as nearly as possible at cost), organized by people with similar needs or common purpose and for whom the co-operative pursues the developments thereof.

Typically, a co-operative is distinguished from a for-profit corporation in that rather than raise capital by selling shares, the co-op would sell memberships; and rather than extend voting rights to shareholders, voting rights would be given to those who have bought memberships.

In the development of common law related to independent legal person, corporations which are not profit-seeking, nomenclature throughout common law jurisdictions has not been consistent. For what at the core represents a non-profit corporation, the terms used by jurisdictions include society, not-for-profit, non-profit, club, association and co-operative.

The Canadian jurisdiction of Ontario has a Co-operative Corporations Act which sets out the requirements for registration and membership and the core concept of any non-profit, that "the enterprise of the corporation is operated as nearly as possible at cost" (¶1).

New South Wales in Australia has a 1992 Co-operatives Act but not restricted to non-profit activities. An incorporated (or "registered") cooperative in NSW can be  trading" or a "non-trading cooperative", the salient feature of the latter stated in the legislation as follows:

"A non-trading co-operative must not give returns or distributions on surplus or share capital to members other than the nominal value of shares (if any) at winding up."

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