A co-operative 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.
Co-operatives are businesses owned and run by and for their members. Whether the members are the customers, employees or residents they have an equal say in what the business does and a share in the profits.
As businesses driven by values not just profit, cooperatives share internationally agreed principles and act together to build a better world through cooperation.
Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, mutual help, equality, care for others and cooperation. In the tradition of their founders, cooperative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.
Co-ops are voluntary organisations, open to all persons who are able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.
Notwithstanding the above, the eligibility of an individual's admission into a co-op's membership is confined within the criteria as set out in the individual co-op's constitution and the laws of the jurisdiction.Democratic member council
Co-ops are democratic organisations controlled by members, who actively participate in setting their own policies and decision making. This means members vote on policies passed and vote for elected representatives.Members’ economic participation
All members contribute equitably to their co-op’s capital. Generally, part of the co-op’s capital is common member property. Usually members get limited compensation for the subscribed capital given as condition of their membership. Surplus capital may be allocated for any, or all, of the following:
- To develop the co-op
- To set up or build reserves
- To benefit members in their transactions with the co-ops
- Supporting other activities approved by the members
Members of Co-ops are responsible for their own governance, subject to the legislation and any orders by the Registry. If they make agreements with other organisations, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and their co-op autonomy.Education, training and information
Co-ops provide education and training to their members, elected representatives, managers and employees so that they can contribute to the development of their co-ops.Co-operation amongst co-operatives
Co-ops serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-op movement by working through local, national, regional and international structures.Concern for community
While focusing on members’ needs, co-ops work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by the members.
The Co-operative Movement Making the Difference for more than 90 Years
The Co-operative concept was introduced in Singapore as early as 1924 at a time when money lending was a roaring business. There were, at that time, no institutions, finance companies or banks which wage earners, who were struggling to make ends meet, could depend upon for financial relief in times of need.
The Straits Settlement Co-operative Societies Ordinance was passed in 1924 and came into force in 1925. The first thrift and loan society to be established was the Singapore Government Servants' Co-operative Thrift and Loan Society Ltd, which was registered on 7 October 1925, with 32 members.
Between 1925 and 1940, more people began to see the usefulness of the co-operative concept of self-help and mutual assistance. Altogether 43 thrift and loan societies were formed to cater to the needs of civil servants, teachers, custom officers as well as those working in the private sector.
The growing number of societies made it necessary to create a central organisation to enable co-ordination and collaboration. Thus on 16 November 1933 the Singapore Urban Co-operative Union Ltd was established. It was renamed Singapore Co-operative Union Ltd in July 1954 and later, Singapore National Co-operative Union Ltd in May 1972
On 18 September 1980, SNCF was formed as the apex body of the co-operative movement. The Singapore National Co-operative Union assumed its new role as Singapore Amalgamated Services Co-operative Organisation Ltd in 1982 and became an affiliate of SNCF.
SNCF believes that Singaporeans can make the greatest difference to society through the Co-operative Movement. With a base of more than 1.4 million people, one in three working Singaporean is a member of a Co-operative Enterprise.
The Movement’s massive reach and relevance has touched almost every corner of a Singaporean’s life, while contributing more than $600 million to the Singapore economy (based on Gross Domestic Product 2010) annually. From moderating the price of staples at grocery outlets and food courts, to ensuring the affordability of healthcare and medicine; from providing peace of mind and financial security through affordable, accessible insurance to catering to the tender needs of the early childhood education sector, from providing employment and continued skills upgrading to security and civil service personnel to inculcating character values at campuses, and providing members with access to credit facilities.
Learn more about the co-operative stories here.