Co-operative and Cooperativism

Because we believe in the democratic and participative union of people, without profit, fighting for a cause and its members being able to satisfy their economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations.

We will summarise the co-operative sector in Portugal and in the world.


A co-operative start as an association of several people who unite voluntarily to defend a common goal or cause. It aims to satisfy the economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations of members, without profit and through cooperation, mutual assistance and with respect for the cooperative principles.

Co-operatives are owned and run by and for all members where they have an equal say in what the organization is doing and a share of the resulting surplus. They based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity.

Cooperatives are driven by value and not just for profit. In Portugal, they are organized in several cooperative branches and can carry out any economic activity. They are organisations of the civil society and Social Economy sector which, through the cooperative principle of sustainable development of their communities, classifies them as Non-Governmental Organizations.​

Legal Form

The legal form of cooperative is an alternative to the model associated with for-profit enterprises (commercial companies). In the Portuguese law, it is enshrined in the Cooperative Code (revised in 2015), the Foundations Laws for the Social Economy (created in 2013) and the Portuguese Republic Constitution.

The organisational structure of a cooperative resembles the model of associations with altruistic purposes by sharing a similar management structure and the same democratic values.

Co-operative Principles

The co-operative principles are guidelines by which co-operatives put their values into practice.

1. Voluntary and open Access – Co-operatives are voluntary organisations, open to everybody that is able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of the membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.

2. Democratic Management by its Members – Co-operatives are democratic organisations managed by it’s members, who participate actively in the creation of its policies and decision making.

3. Economic Participation of its Members – Members contribute in an equitable way to the creation of capital of their co-operatives and control it democratically. The surplus is used for the development of the co-operative, for the benefit of the members in proportion to their participation on the co-operative and on the support of activities approved by its members.

4. Autonomy and Independence – Co-operatives are autonomous organisations of mutual aid, controlled by it’s members.

5. Education, Training and Information – Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives.

6. Cooperation among Co-operatives – Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.

7. Concern for their Community – Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.

Cooperative Sectors

In Portugal, co-operatives have to choose one or more sectors for their actions, from the 12 available sectors:

  • Agriculture
  • Crafts
  • Sales and Trade
  • Consumers


  • Credit
  • Culture
  • Education
  • Housing e construction


  • Fishing
  • Industry
  • Services
  • Social Solidarity

References and Resources

Portuguese legislation

  • Portuguese cooperative code (English translation) – PDF | CASES
  • Portuguese cooperative code (in Portuguese) – PGDLisboa | PDF
  • Portuguese cooperative sector legislation aggregate (in Portuguese) –  CASES
  • Foundation Laws for the Social Economy in Portugal (in Portuguese) – PDF
  • Sectoral Legislation (in Portuguese) – CASES

Other resources

International Co-operative Alliance – ICA

Co-operative Identity, Values and Principles – ICA

The Meaning of Rochdale: The Rochdale Pioneers and the Co-operative Principles – Braitt Fairbairn

History of the Modern Co-operative Movement – ICA

Co-operation and the new co-operative (in Portuguese) –