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 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 Finland, the data is collected for the reference year 2017.

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 Finland. For more information and the full research results, you can download the full report and highlights using the links above.



Although the cooperative movement in Finland can be said to have been firmly established in 1903 following the passing of the first cooperative law in 1901, Finland’s harsh climate and rugged terrain necessitated working together for survival long before this. Prior to this, Finns had already joined up to establish formal rules for purposes such as hunting, harvesting crops and constructing houses. In 1866, the first account of the Rochdale Pioneers was published in Finnish, whilst certain groups of factory workers formed societies during the 1870s and 1880s. The impetus for cooperation was initially stronger in urban settings than rural areas, with the first farmers’ trading association not appearing until 1898.

The influence of Hannes and Hedvig Gebhard on the development of the Finnish Cooperative movement was also profound. Drawing inspiration from other countries, Hannes Gebhard of Helsinki University published his book Agricultural Co-operation in Other Lands in 1899. During this period, Finland was part of the Russian Empire and the cooperative movement was connected to the country’s struggle for independence. In this book, Gebhard made the claim that “farmers' cooperation is the rock upon which the major social improvements and perhaps in the future nationhood and independence is possible to build up.”

Gebhard would go on to set up the cooperative information office Pellervo, which deployed university students to rural areas to promote cooperation. Pellervo became an ICA member organisation in 1902 and quickly grew to become the country’s main cooperative federation, with nearly all Finnish agricultural cooperatives being part of Pellervo’s network today, and more than half of its membership consisting of cooperative banks.

By the 1950s, Finland had arguably the strongest cooperative movement in the world on a per-head basis. In 1951, Finnish cooperatives accounted for more than double the percentage of total retail sales in the country compared to neighbouring Sweden and marketed more than 60% of the country’s agricultural produce.

The strength of the Finnish cooperative sector has continued to apply in the modern context, with a 2018 article from Pellervo stating that 90% of Finns are a member of a cooperative.Following the decline of Nokia, some ex-employees set up A. Vipunen, an inventor’s cooperative with 160 inventor members in the north of the country, which has led to an increase in patents registered in the region. In 2020, there were over 4000 cooperatives in Finland, the most significant in terms of membership are in the retail and banking sectors, whilst mutual insurance is another important sector.




Finland counts 2 ICA member organisations, Pellervo Coop Center, or Osuustoimintakeskus Pellervo in Finnish, and SOK Corporation.

Pellervo is a service organisation for Finnish cooperatives and a forum for cooperative activities. It is an organisation of expertise on cooperative matters and Pellervo provides advice, publications and seminars, among other things, to approximately 300 members.


SOK Corporation comprises Suomen Osuuskauppojen Keskuskunta (SOK) and its subsidiaries. SOK, which is owned by cooperatives, serves as a central company and provides expert and support services – such as chain management, product range, procurement and marketing services – for the cooperatives of S Group. SOK itself is also part of the S Group network of cooperatives and is responsible for its strategic guidance and the development of the business chains. SOK’s business operations supplement S Group’s offering in Finland and the neighbouring regions


In Finland, the Mapping questionnaire, was distributed to, and completed by 1 ICA member organisation in the country. The data below was gathered through compiling the member’s replies to a common questionnaire. Data collected was for the reference year 2017.




Pellervo represents 288 cooperatives in the country, with a total number of memberships of 6 362 053, and a total number of 88 482 employees. For further information, readers are invited to download the full report and country highlights, available by clicking the links above. 


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 Finland. 



Cooperatives are regulated by a special law in Finland, namely the Law on Cooperatives. The Law on Cooperative Banks and Other Credit Institutions in the Form of Cooperatives, pertains to some organisational features specific to these financial institutions. They concern mainly prudential mechanisms. In addition, there is a special Law on housing stock companies. These companies are to a certain extent comparable to housing cooperatives in other countries. The following laws are those relevant to cooperatives: 


Main laws relevant to cooperatives in Finland


Law on Cooperatives - Osuuskuntalaki, 14.6.2013/421

Law on Cooperative Banks and Other Credit Institutions in the Form of Cooperatives - Laki osuuspankeista ja muista osuuskuntamuotoisista luottolaitoksista, 28.12.2001/1504

Law on housing stock companies - Asunto-osakeythiölaki, 22.12.2009/1599

Law on European Cooperatives - Eurooppaosuuskuntalaki, 19.10.2006/906


There is no specific, explicit or implicit, reference as such in the Act to the ICA principles (cooperative principles), as laid down in the 1995 ICA Statement on the cooperative identity (ICA Statement).




Cooperative friendliness

From the perspective of ICA member organisations, the cooperative friendliness of the national legislation can be considered to be significantly so, with the Act providing sufficient opportunities for the development of cooperatives. On the basis of its flexibility and comprehensiveness, in the opinion of the contributing member organisations, Finnish national legislation could serve as an example of legislation regulating cooperatives in other countries.


Key recommendations for improvement

The research identified four main points of improvement. Firstly, further consideration as to whether it is adequate to allow for the formation of one-person cooperatives. Secondly, it could be beneficial to evaluate the impact of the financing possibilities, for example financial instruments which are typical of stock companies, on the cooperative principles, as a basis for further legislative action. Thirdly, in Finland, the understanding of what cooperatives are, the lack of which is commonly shared in many countries, might not be facilitated by using language which belongs to the world of capital-centered companies, but rather might be facilitated by using terminology which expresses the cooperative difference. Finally, unrestricted divisibility of the reserve fund is also questionable, in light of the third principle of the International Cooperative Alliance, Member Economic Participation.



Cooperative law in Finland may be considered to have a sufficient framework, and it can be stated that legislative changes are not presently needed. A more complete picture of the Finnish cooperative law requires further work on bylaw autonomy, as well as exploring other areas such as competition law or labour law, or accounting standards. The case of Finland, with its wide bylaw autonomy under the Act, has taken the 4th ICA cooperative principle of autonomy to its maximum. This demonstrates how important it would be to conduct further research into the way the cooperatives put the cooperative principles into legally recognised practice through their bylaws, in order to see how cooperatives might translate these principles into practice.




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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