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 France, 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 France. For more information and the full research results, you can download the highlights and the report by clicking on the links above.
The origins of the cooperative movement in France date back to the middle of the 19th Century, with the aims of improving working conditions during the industrial revolution and gaining fairer distribution of wealth. The country benefits from a broad history of cooperation with various currents, including agricultural, financial, worker and consumer cooperation, as well as other forms.
The revolutionary events of 1848 were followed by the emergence of numerous worker associations and production cooperatives between 1849 and 1855, with the production cooperatives most often linked to trade union activism. By 1890, around 200 cooperatives were counted by the Ministry for Industry, mostly city-based artisans. Freedom of association became progressively more developed towards the end of the 19th Century.
After the Second World War, the General Law on cooperatives of 1947 had a large impact on shaping the variety of cooperative types in France and provided a general framework to build on the initial legal provisions that had gradually developed in sectors including agriculture, low-cost housing cooperatives, production, worker cooperatives and consumer cooperatives.
Despite a crisis in the consumer cooperative movement, the latter half of the twentieth century saw a stronger increase in employment and job creation by cooperative enterprises than the economy as a whole. For example, for worker cooperatives, the cooperative society (SCOP) and its regulation under the 1978 law was linked to strong growth in the French cooperative movement, and by 1983 the Confédération générale des Scop counted nearly 1300 member cooperatives representing 24,000 worker-members.
In 2001, legislation emerged on the Société coopérative d’intérêt collectif (SCIC), allowing people to organise around a common objective with the aim of social utility, or with a link to the sustainable development needs of an area. They also enable a variety of stakeholders to go into partnership on a common project and their membership includes employees, services users and contributors.
Since 1968, the broad and wide ranging cooperative movement in France has been represented by Coop FR. The French cooperative movement has continued to evolve in size and importance, and Coop FR today spans 23,000 cooperatives, with nearly 29 million members and 1.2 million employees. The French cooperative sector notably makes up 40% of the country’s food industry, 30% of the retail industry and 70% of retail banking.
France counts 5 ICA member organisations.
In France the research questionnaire was completed by NCC. The data collected was for the reference year 2018.
ICA members represent nearly 22 589 cooperatives in the country, with a total number of memberships of 28 740 713, and an estimated 1 290 664 employees.
Member organisations are active in several sectors, including banking, wholesale and retail trade, agriculture and food, industry and transport. Sectoral information is provided by CoopFR. For a complete overview, see the full report. The graphics above provide more information.
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 France.
The French Constitution makes no explicit reference to cooperatives under its provisions.
Regarding ordinary legislation, the basis for cooperative legislation is the general cooperative law on cooperatives: n. 47-1975 of 10 September 1947 (loi portant statut de la cooperation), (hereinafter, ‘the General Law’). There are also around thirty different cooperative legal forms regulated by special laws or special provisions on general codes. Further, there are provisions for companies with a variable capital in the Commercial Code, which are only applied to cooperatives.
Most of the ICA principles are included in the French cooperative legislation, under art. 1 of the General Law. However, the seventh cooperative principle of concern for the community, apart from the collective interest cooperative for which social and community interest is the main objective, is not mentioned.
French cooperative legislation is considered as significantly cooperative friendly, with best practices including the acknowledgement of cooperatives undertaking any kind of economic activity, limitations on voting rights and capital contributions of the investor members and the indivisibility of reserves as a general rule during the cooperative’s life and in case of dissolution. However, areas for improvement are also identified, including an excessive number of special cooperative laws, a general lack of recognition for the seventh ICA principle on concern for the community, and the lack of legal research and knowledge.
To address any shortcomings, as well as strengthen and further expand the already existing good practices of the French cooperative legislation, a non-exhaustive list of recommendations is submitted. This list includes, among other recommendations, clarifying the relationship between company law and cooperative law, revising the General Law to make it more comprehensive, and promotion of legal research and study, potentially by incorporating cooperative law into the main curricula of law schools and universities.
The richness and pluralism of the good practices of French cooperative legislation outweigh its shortcomings and, thus, leads to its consideration as a significantly friendly legal environment for cooperative development, while acknowledging significant room for improvement.
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.