cooperative values

Are Cooperative Values Still Valued Today?

Recent conversations with a Chase Bank Executive, an Executive Director of a multi-state cooperative council, a nationally respected Cooperative consultant and an internationally recognized author on Cooperative Management and Professor Emeritus in Strategic Business Planning, resulted in discussions regarding a single, common question about cooperative values:

“Are cooperative values still valued by cooperatives today?”

In other words, do present-day cooperatives continue to believe that the VALUES of the original founders which gave rise to the creation of their individual cooperatives, still provide significant VALUE for their cooperatives today?

Chase Bank is not a cooperative. Profit drives the motivations and machinery which undergird Chase Bank’s planning and implementation. Yet, the discussion with the Chase Bank executive provided some of the strongest support on the role of VALUES when looking for strategic competitive advantages within a capitalistic-driven marketplace. 

Business value is often defined as the benefits which a firm or organization generates for its stakeholders and members. This value is often related to the impact on the quality of life which the business has on its employees, customers and communities.

Strategic Competitive Advantage describes the capabilities that allow a business to outcompete in a competitive market. Although often thought of in terms of more efficient processes, integrated systems, and consistent procedures, strategic competitive advantages are now being understood as being able to develop RELATIONSHIPS with the customers and members.

Which brings me back to the question: “Are cooperative values still valued by cooperatives today?”


Within the foundation of cooperative values, is set the cornerstone of relationships. Many cooperatives which were formed in the first half of the 20th century included the term ‘Association’ in their name. Association is defined as any group of people who have joined together for a particular purpose, ranging from social to business, and usually meant to be a continuing organization. It was the RELATIONSHIPS within the formal cooperative associations, which made the cooperative business model sustainable in the midst of an adversarial, profit-driven, competitive marketplace. 

From my conversations with Investor Owned Business (IOB) Executives, as well as nationally recognized Cooperative leaders, it seems that profit-driven businesses are increasingly recognizing the ‘value of values-driven relationships’ in order to be successful in the current competitive marketplace. However, cooperative leaders are observing a shift among cooperatives away from a focus on relationships with their members, toward ‘more efficient processes, integrated systems and consistent procedures’. 

As one Amish man said to his neighbor, “Your actions are speaking so loudly, that I can’t hear a word that you are saying”. Almost every one of the 29,000 cooperatives in the United States will state their commitment to the 7 Cooperative Principles, and the 6 Cooperative Values. However, when observing the daily ACTIONS of the cooperative employees, management and directors, I believe it is a valid question to ask:

“Are cooperative values still valued by cooperatives today?”

The mission of is to help cooperatives answer this question, by providing online education and training opportunities, as well as virtual access to consultants and mentors, which seek to imprint a values-based ‘cooperative conscience’ upon the next generation of cooperative members, employees, management and directors.

-Rick Petty, retired Cooperative CEO


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