Mar 04 2015

Survey of Co-operative Capital

Capital underpins co-operatives. From financial institutions to fisheries, members come together to pool capital and do more together than they could alone. But the other side of the capital coin is that when co-operatives can’t get enough, because of either regulation or long-standing practice, they may get bogged down or fail to get off the ground in the first place.

This report undertakes a survey of capital in co-operatives around the world. It addresses capital in the broad sense of the range of debt and equity instruments used to finance the assets and operations of co-operatives. More narrowly defined regulatory capital is an important subset for the financial co-operatives—co-operative and mutual banks, credit unions, and co-operative and mutual insurance companies—that make up 45% of the 300 largest co-operative and mutual organizations. Some specific observations are provided on regulatory capital issues, but the main focus of this report is capital more broadly.

While access to capital is a challenge for any business, particularly a start-up, recent experience among co-operatives in many countries demonstrates that these challenges are far from insurmountable. Provided that the legal framework adequately provides for a range of capital instruments, co-operatives can draw on the experience of the largest 300 co-operatives and mutuals and many smaller co-operatives to meet their capital needs. Click on the Download Spreadsheet button above to access a spreadsheet of the largest 300 co-operatives and mutuals from around the world. 

This report includes the following:

  • A taxonomy of capital instruments and structures adopted by co-operatives around the world 
  • A discussion of the special circumstances that apply to smaller and start-up co-operatives, providing an overview of selected programs and innovations internationally
  • Insights from the analysis of the capital structure of the largest 300 co-operatives and mutuals
  • Special issues for financial co-operatives
  • Recommendations for policymakers and co- operative leaders

Filene thanks our generous partners for making this important research possible. 


Report Number 352