Co-operatives exist to make a positive difference to the lives of people everywhere. When the first co-op store in Britain was opened in 1844 it wasn’t opened just to sell goods. Its founders wanted it to be a shining example of honesty and equality. These values remain at the core of co-operatives today. Co-ops value democracy, education and loyalty. They work to promote opportunity for all and invest in communities as they strive to improve people’s lives.

“Do you want to prevent men from ever oppressing other men? Arrange matters such that they never have the opportunity. Do you want them to respect the liberty, rights and human character of their fellow men?

Arrange matters such that they are compelled to respect them – compelled not by the will or oppression of other men, nor by the repression of the State and legislation, which are necessarily represented and implemented by men and would make them slaves in their turn, but by the actual organization of the social environment, so constituted that while leaving each man to enjoy the utmost possible liberty it gives no one the power to set himself above others or to dominate them, except through the natural influence of his own intellectual or moral qualities, which must never be allowed either to convert itself into a right or to be backed by any kind of political institution.”

How to organize society in such a way that every man and woman who comes into the world may find approximately equal provision for the development of his or her various faculties and for their exercise through labour; how to organize society which, by making it impossible for one man to exploit the work of another, allows each to share in the enjoyment of social wealth – which in fact is produced only by labour – only to the extent that he has contributed his own to its production.”

Michael Bakunin, 1864