7 principles that set cooperatives apart - Carolina Country
October 2017
7 Cooperative Principles

Cooperatives are a culture, not just a business. A set of seven shared principles grounds cooperatives – from food co-ops to retailers and electric cooperatives – in a culture of service. In recognition of National Cooperative Month, we’re sharing the seven principles that guide us, and you might be surprised to learn how they set us apart.

Voluntary and open membership

You are a member (more on that next!) of Union Power Cooperative, along with all who receive electricity from us. We are glad to accept into our membership all who can reasonably use our services, regardless of gender, social, racial, political or religious affiliations.

Democratic member control

The people, called members, who purchase a cooperative’s goods or services (in our case, electricity), control the cooperative’s business. As members of Union Power Cooperative, you elect our board of directors, giving your vote and voice to the group of people responsible for setting our co-op’s policies and strategic direction. Membership explained!

Members’ economic participation

You contribute equitably to the financial capital of the cooperative by purchasing electricity. This capital allows us to do all the things we need to in order to continue to provide electricity in a safe, reliable manner. This includes purchasing wholesale power, equipment and materials, on-going operations and maintenance activities, as well as building new infrastructure necessary to deliver electricity to your home. If we collect more than what’s needed to cover expenses, we allocate that back to you in the form of capital credits. Ultimately, after the cooperative has met its financial requirements, and after a period of time, capital credits are retired (paid); representing the return of member-furnished capital. Yep, we return money.

Autonomy and independence

Union Power Cooperative is proud to be a part of a network of 26 electric cooperatives in North Carolina and more nationally, but each one of these is independent and controlled by their own members. Local members always elect their co-op’s board of directors, meaning every co-op can stay in tune with local needs.

Education, training and information

We provide members with information like what you see right here in the Cooperative Review or on our website at union-power.com, so you have the knowledge you need to contribute effectively to the development of the cooperative and make informed energy decisions. We also provide ongoing training to our employees so they can best serve you and work hard to keep our elected officials informed about local and national energy issues.

Cooperation among cooperatives

Have you ever seen a truck with another co-op’s logo roll through after a big storm? That’s because we all work together under the belief that we serve our members most effectively through shared efforts. This may be most obvious in an outage situation when peer cooperative crews help, but it happens daily in the form of sharing resources, ideas and best practices with our counterparts in North Carolina and across the nation.

Concern for community

Our kids go to school together. We see you in church and at the grocery store. We’re neighbors, and we are all part of this shared community. We want to see this community thrive, and because of that, we’re committed to dedicating resources to its development. This spans from securing loans and grants that bring new businesses to the area to providing teachers with a source of funding for innovative classroom projects that enrich the lives of our children.

As a not-for-profit business, our heart is always in service to you, never in making a profit; these seven cooperative principles guide us in that service every day.

Learn more about Union Power Cooperative at union-power.com

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