A cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise.

The ILO views cooperatives as important in improving the living and working conditions of women and men globally as well as making essential infrastructure and services available even in areas neglected by the state and investor-driven enterprises. Cooperatives have a proven record of creating and sustaining employment – they are estimated to provide at least 250 million jobs today; they contribute to promoting decent work and advancing sustainable development goals. The ILO activities are guided by the international standard on cooperatives, the ILO Recommendation on the Promotion of Cooperatives, 2002 (R.193).

Focus on this July

  1. International Day of Cooperatives 2016: The power to act for a sustainable future

    Cooperatives and the Sustainable Development Goals: A contribution to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

    1 July 2016

    In preparation for the new global development agenda ILO COOP, jointly with the International Co-operative Alliance, undertook an initiative to bring cooperative voices into the debate to better understand how cooperative enterprises contribute to this agenda and the role they could play in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

A bit of history

  1. Cooperative History Timeline

    Discover history timeline which navigates milestones of the cooperative movement and the ILO's work on promotion of cooperatives from the 18th century to date.

  2. Highlights on Cooperatives


  1. ILO Message on Cooperative and Social Economy Legislation in Greece