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Do you co-op? Chances are you do

(NC) When you think of a co-operative, what comes to mind? The Canadian Co-operative Association conducted a survey this past May to find the answer to that exact question. What they discovered was that 85 per cent of the respondents were familiar with this type of business and 41 per cent were members of a co-operative or credit union. Whatever you identify as a co-op in your neighbourhood, this unique business model plays an important economic role in Canada and around the world.

As a reflection of that important role, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared 2012 the International Year of Co-operatives. This special year will also focus attention on the role of co-operatives in socio-economic development, especially in terms of their impact on poverty reduction, job creation and social integration. Ultimately, under the theme “Co-operative Enterprises Build a Better World,” the UN hopes to raise awareness of co-operatives to increase their creation and growth around the world.

Facts about the co-operative movement in Canada and around the world

Did you know that?

• Co-operatives are democratic, mutually-beneficial and member-owned; their core values include honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.

• Canada has more than 9,000 cooperatives that employ approximately 150,000 people who serve more than 18 million members in a wide variety of industries.

• Canadian co-operatives (including credit unions) own assets valued at approximately $252 billion.

• Mountain Equipment Co-op is the largest outdoor equipment retailer in Canada, with more than 2.1 million members.

• Eight of Canada's cooperatives rank among the 300 largest cooperatives in the world.

• Desjardins Group, with $210 billion in assets, is among the top 10 largest credit cooperative groups in the world.

• Each year, Canadian cooperatives give more than $120 million back to the community in the form of donations and sponsorships.

• Gay Lea Foods in Ottawa is owned by 1,200 farmers, representing a quarter of the dairy farms in Ontario.

• 35% of the maple syrup consumed worldwide is produced by Quebec cooperatives.

• Sunkist, the company behind the renowned Sunkist oranges, is the biggest fruit and vegetable marketing co-op in the world. Founded in 1893, its members are fruit growers in California and Arizona.

• The popular four-time NFL Super Bowl champions, the Green Bay Packers team are a cooperative, owned by 112,000 fans.

• The United Nations estimates that cooperatives ensure the livelihood of some three billion people (nearly half of the world's population).

• There are more than 750,000 cooperatives worldwide with approximately one billion members in more than 100 different countries.

To learn more about the Canadian co-operative movement and for more information about Desjardins Group, visit

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