Consumer co-operatives provide essential services or products that most individuals require or ‘consume’, and include Food and Housing Co-ops, as well as other industries.
A food co-operative is owned by the individuals who shop there or use it. In small food co-operatives, members decide which food is sold, where those items are sourced, and which food safety and quality standards both products and vendors have to meet. Typically in larger co-ops, these roles are delegated to management through the board of directors which is elected by and made up of members. Such co-ops have been pioneers in unit pricing, nutritional labeling and the sale of bulk and natural products since they aim to provide high quality foods at fair prices and keep funds in communities. If you prefer locally sourced, organic, or specialized dietary produce- a food co-op may be the right choice for you!
Francophones / official language minority community
Co-op Moonbeam a great example of a business that underwent a conversion from a for-profit sole proprietorship organization to a food co-operative grocery store. Located in the Francophone community of Moonbeam, Ontario, L’epicerie co-op Moonbeam was a community’s collective response to potential food insecurity in their region of Northern Ontario. Many remote Canadian communities face declining populations, which makes it difficult to preserve essential businesses. So, when the owner of the only grocery store in Moonbeam decided he would close his doors unless he found a suitable buyer by August 2012, residents of Moonbeam decided to unite in pursuing the consumer co-operative model for the continuation of this crucial store. This successful conversion is a great source of inspiration to other Canadian communities that risk the loss of essential privately owned establishments. This transition positively impacted the community by:
- Maintaining the sole local grocery store, which the community considered a key economic and social institution
- During the COVID-19 pandemic, residents in high risk groups did not need to travel outside of their community for groceries
- Community members have been empowered to prevent food insecurity and local economic decline
BIPOC, immigrants, racialized groups
This co-operative is led by and serves members of equity-denied groups such as BIPOC and other racialized individuals, women, seniors, youth, and recent immigrants within the diverse area of the St. James community in Toronto, Ontario. This food co-op is committed to constructing inclusive communities through healthy, affordable food and impactful engagement. It operates as a non-profit organization, and as such any profits generated must be used to achieve its mission. They host various cultural workshops and offer programs to combat food insecurity, economic stagnancy, and climate change. One of their main programs the ‘Oasis Microfarms Network’ is positioned to encourage members to have autonomy over their own ‘food sovereignty’- a term that denotes the right of people to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through sustainable methods.
Housing co-operatives are designed to combat issues of housing affordability. Owned and managed by the residents themselves, co-operative housing often offers significant monetary savings over living in physically comparable single-family homes or rentals. Members control the co-operative by electing a board of directors, voting on the co-op’s annual budget, and creating a community through the organization of social events and welcoming newcomers. For many Canadians, housing co-ops represent more than just a roof over their heads, they provide an affordable, secure alternative with a sense of community- in a world that is becoming increasingly individualistic and impersonal. Resident members purchase shares of the co-op in small amounts and pay housing charges to cover utilities, repairs, taxes, mortgage interest, and other operational costs. When members leave the co-operative, their shares are redeemed by the co-op for the same price they paid.
Other Consumer Co-operatives
This category is quite vast and covers all other types of consumer co-ops . They may provide services such as funeral arrangements, childcare, books, utilities, cable television, community services, etc. View below for some examples of consumer co-ops that fall in this category.
Conversion: Read more about their business conversion process
Read more about their business conversion process
This business underwent a conversion from a for-profit sole proprietorship to a consumer owned co-operative. In 2013, the local Curves Fitness franchise was sold to a new owner who threatened to permanently close the business. The gym members (many retired or nearing retirement) were troubled by the idea of no longer having a place to gather, exercise, and pursue their health journeys. Thus, they decided to band together to take over the business. They pursued the business-to-cooperative conversion model and successfully acquired the franchise, later renaming it to Kincardine Ladies Fitness. The conversion has benefited the community by preserving not only the establishment, but its impact on the relational bonds between community members.
This Cooperative is partially led by and serves members of Indigenous communities in Alderville First Nation and Beausoleil First Nation, and describes itself as “a cultural hub that welcomes everyone in the community”. As a consumer co-op, it is a non-profit business owned and managed by its members. The Co-op spearheads cultural and artistic events and aims to ensure financial stability, responsibility, and environmental stewardship for the community. In addition, they also work to promote Indigenous art, film, and culture in their rural region. Passionate about bridging the knowledge gap between worldviews of Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, the Co-op has established an Indigenous Program Committee for this type of outreach.