Key figures

Number of cooperatives per sector
Employees and members per sector
Key figures
Key figures

Research overview

Responding to challenges and existing knowledge gaps facing the cooperative movement, this mapping research seeks to provide exhaustive information on cooperatives around the world.

This is achieved through a process jointly conducted by the ICA and its four regional offices – Cooperatives of the Americas, Cooperatives Europe, ICA Africa, and ICA Asia-Pacific – using a common methodology, designed with the support of external experts from the European Research Institute on Cooperative and Social Enterprises (Euricse).

Each office collected the input of ICA members present in the countries within its geographic area, by using a common questionnaire, and completing it with relevant national statistics, in order to obtain a picture of the national situation. As a result, the data above is collected following two strategies: 1) a survey targeting ICA cooperative members 2) collecting national statistics already available in the country. The numbers above provide aggregated data from ICA members on the number of cooperatives, as well as the number of cooperative employees and memberships in the country. More methodological information is available in the full report. In Brazil, the data is collected for the reference year 2018.

Mapping out cooperatives in each country provides a more precise picture of the cooperative context at national and regional levels, enhances the movement's visibility, networking, partnerships opportunities, as well as advocacy, and empowers cooperators by providing tools for positive change.

This webpage presents a snapshot of the research results for Brazil. For more information and the full research results, you can download the report by clicking on the links above.



In Brazil, the culture of cooperation has been observed since the time of Portuguese colonization, stimulated by public officials, the military, liberal professionals, workers and European immigrants. Officially, the movement began in 1889, in Minas Gerais, with the founding of the Economic Cooperative of Public Employees of Ouro Preto, whose focus was the consumption of agricultural products. Later, other cooperatives appeared in Minas Gerais and also in the states of Pernambuco, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Rio Grande do Sul.

The OCB website also mentions that in 1902, the Swiss priest Theodor Amstad founded the first credit union in Brazil: Sicredi Pioneira, which is still active today. Based in Nova Petrópolis (RS), the cooperative was the solution found by Amstad to improve the lives of the residents of the municipality, who until then had no bank. Starting in 1906, it was the turn of agricultural cooperatives, idealized by rural producers and immigrants, especially of German and Italian origin.



Brazil counts 7 ICA member organisations:

- Organización de Cooperativas de Brasil (OCB), is a full member and is the APEX organisation in Brazil.

- Confederación Nacional de Cooperativas Médicas (UNIMED), is a full member in the health sector.

- Central Nacional das Cooperativas Odontológicas (UNIODONTO do Brasil), is a full member in the health sector.

- Central de Cooperativas e Empreendimentos Solidários do Brasil (UNISOL do Brasil), is a full member and an intersectoral national organization.

- Central Nacional Unimed – Cooperativa Central (CNU), is a full member in the health sector.

- Seguros UNIMED, is a full member in the insurance sector.

- Cooperativa de Trabalho Médico de Ribeirão Preto (COMERP), is a full member and an intersectoral national organization.

- Cooperativa de Crédito de Livre Admissao de Associados Pioneira da Serra Gaucha - SICREDI Pioneira RS, is a full member in the finance sector.


In Brazil the research questionnaire was distributed to and completed by 3 ICA member organisations. The data collected was for the reference year 2018.

Legal framework

Legal framework
Legal framework
Legal framework

The legal framework analysis aims to provide general knowledge of the national cooperative legislation and of its main characteristics and contents, with particular regard to those aspects of regulation regarding the identity of cooperatives and its distinction from other types of business organisations, notably the for-profit shareholder corporation.

It aims to evaluate whether the national legislation in place supports or hampers the development of cooperatives, and is therefore “cooperative friendly” or not, and the degree to which it may be considered so, also in comparison to the legislation in force in other countries of the ICA region, or at the supranational level.

In addition, the research aims to provide recommendations for eventual renewal of the legal frameworks in place in order to understand what changes in the current legislation would be necessary to improve its degree of “cooperative friendliness”, which is to say, to make the legislation more favourable to cooperatives, also in consideration of their specific identity. This webpage presents a snapshot of the legal framework analysis results for Brazil.


In Brazil, there is specific legislation for national cooperative societies, which regulates cooperativism throughout the territory. Article 5, Item XVIII of the Federal Constitution of October 10 1988 provides for “the creation of associations and, in the form of the law, of cooperatives, which are independent of authorization, being prohibited state interference in their operation”. Article 146, subsection III, subparagraph (c) indicates that it will be incumbent upon the complementary law to establish general rules on tax legislation, especially on “adequate tax treatment of the cooperative act practiced by cooperative societies”, while Article 174 §2 defines that “the law will support and stimulate cooperativism and other forms of associativism”.


Cooperative Friendliness

The current Brazilian legislation for cooperatives can be summarized stating that it has a "limited friendship with cooperatives". The need for updating is latent, due to the growth of cooperatives in the country, operating in public and private markets and in various economic and social activities.


Key recommendations for improvement

  • Approval of Bill no. 519/2015, new General Law of Cooperatives, which democratizes and modernizes Brazilian cooperatives.
  • Regulation or reformulation of the Work Cooperative Law.
  • Regulation or reformulation of the Law of Social Cooperatives.
  • Facilitate and foster the creation of credit unions.
  • Creation of specific legislation on the Cooperative Tax Regime, with the proper tax treatment of the cooperative act practiced by cooperative societies and the establishment of a simplified accounting system with reduction of the tax burden for small cooperatives.
  • Ensure that cooperative education is included at different levels of education.



Cooperativism in Brazil still has a vast field for growth, with the improvement of legislation and effective implementation of cooperative education in the education system, various sectors and market niches can be accessed or supplied by cooperatives.




The legal frameworks analysis is a tool developed under the ICA-EU Partnership #coops4dev. It is an overview of the national legal frameworks at the time of writing. The views expressed within are not necessarily those of the ICA, nor does a reference to any specific content constitute an explicit endorsement or recommendation by the ICA. 

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