Co-operatives, also known as regulated social enterprises, are business entities where people voluntarily unite to achieve a common social or economic aim.

To elaborate – A Co-operative is a membership-based business formed to address social or economic needs. It operates on the principles of self and mutual help; and has a social mission that benefits its members or society at large.

3 Traits of Co-ops are:

  • Member-owned
  • Operate on principles of self-help and mutual assistance
  • Have social missions that benefit their members or society at large

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1. Examples of local co-operatives in Singapore

These are some examples of co-ops in Singapore:

Campus Sector
Credit Sector
NTUC Sector
Service Sector 

Find out about more co-ops on SNCF’s affiliate directory:


2. Background about co-operatives

The establishment of the Rochdale pioneers in 1844 is regarded as the official birth of the modern co-operative movement. Although they were not the first to devise dividend principles or to institute democratic management, they played a critical role in making these principles coherent.

Like many other co-operators throughout the United Kingdom, this 28-men group was motivated by the desire to collectively reduce the cost of living by opening a store that would buy in bulk, by-pass the middleman and sell basic necessities cheaply to members.


3. How co-operatives impact society and the economy positively


  • Co-operatives are not for profit
  • Serve social and members needs Member owned, creating more autonomy as compared to businesses with investors
  • Follow the principle of self & mutual help (Membership instil a spirit of independence, cooperation and tolerance.
  • Provide benefits to members

To avoid confusion, they are NOT charities, government-linked, a sole proprietorship.


4. Future of Co-ops


Back in the 1970s, Singapore was a third world, blue-collar economy and masses were mostly poor. There were compelling social needs and co-ops were set up to meet the needs of those times.

With Singapore’s rapid progression and transformation into a first-world economy, co-op’s need to ensure that they never lose sight of its operating principles.

The movement must continue to stay relevant to meet the emerging needs of society, remain nimble and adaptable by embracing a mindset of change, whilst always staying true to its purpose of serving the community and membership.


5. What are the benefits of setting up co-operatives in Singapore?


  • Applicable to apply to CCF grants for financial and development aid.
    • Capacity Development Grant
    • CCF Development Grant
    • New Co-op Grant

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  • Owned by members, co-ops are not driven to make big profits for shareholders but to create the best value for its members and customers.
  • Success has proven by Co-ops like NTUC FairPrice
    • “While cooperatives are not profit-driven, some highly successful ones do make good surpluses. FairPrice achieved a group revenue of $3.2 billion and a net surplus of $144.1 million last year.” (ST 20 Jul 2015)
  • Differentiate yourselves from the competition by your unique social mission.

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This article was written by Ee Kaye Lin Tanya, a first-year Business student from the National University of Singapore. Tanya is a scholar from SNCF, passionate about creating new ideas and innovation. She enjoys adventures and spending time with her dogs.