Every October since 1940, Coastal Electric Cooperative has celebrated Cooperative Month. During this time, it makes sense to highlight the qualities that make electric cooperatives different from other types of utilities and businesses.
For starters, electric co-ops are owned by those they serve. That’s why those who receive electric service from America’s electric cooperatives are called members, not customers. Without members, there would be no cooperative.
Members maintain democratic control of their co-op, which means they elect fellow members to represent them on the board of directors/trustees at an annual meeting. As a bonus, co-op members receive special benefits through co-op programs and many co-ops return margins (“profits”) to their members in the form of capital credits.
One principle that sets co-ops apart from other businesses is their concern for community. Cooperatives have a special responsibility to support the areas in which their members live and work. From sponsoring a local school’s baseball team to supporting new jobs and industry through our economic development efforts, co-ops stand as a driving force in their communities.
Of course, co-ops span all industries, including credit unions, dairy operations, health care, housing, and much more. There are more than 29,000 co-ops across the nation. And not all are small or rural. Just look at nationally known co-ops like Sunkist, Ace Hardware, and Land O’ Lakes.
Overall, co-ops are more accessible than other types of businesses. They give their members a voice, and are local—living and working alongside those they serve.
That’s the cooperative difference.