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 Norway. Prior to the completion of the research on key figures, the statistics available above are sourced from The Power of Cooperation – Cooperatives Europe Key Figures (2015).
Cooperatives are not regulated in the Norwegian Constitution, but by the Cooperative Act, which was passed by the Norwegian Parliament on 29 June 2007. This was the first time that cooperatives were regulated in a general and specific cooperative law. The Act includes a definition of a cooperative and all the necessary requirements and obligations that cooperatives need to meet. In addition to the general Cooperative Act, there are separate laws for housing cooperatives that are not regulated by the general Cooperative Act.
The ICA Principles of Cooperative Identity are not mentioned explicitly in the Cooperative Act, although they formed the basis for drafting the Act.
The national expert considers cooperative law in Norway to be cooperative friendly in the sense that it gives predictability and a clear framework for interpreting and understanding both the cooperative principles and how to practically run a cooperative. The Equality Principle is cited as important for the cooperative movement in Norway. This means, for example, that official registration of a new cooperative is as easy for cooperatives as any other type of enterprise. Furthermore, the national expert notes that the cooperative housing movement in Norway has had influence over legislation, ensuring updates are to the benefit of housing cooperatives and cooperative housing associations. As a recent example, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, regulation of deadlines and alternatives for conducting board meetings and general meetings have been implemented quickly for housing cooperatives.
The national expert recommend more frequent updates to the Cooperative Act to make sure it corresponds to changes in the legal framework for other types of enterprise. This can ensure that the cooperative business model will be attractive and relevant for start-ups, as well as to guarantee predictability for current cooperatives. More information about the cooperative model in the education system and among government officials is also proposed. Finally, the national expert recommends that government support programs could be better suited to the nature of cooperatives, with more emphasis on improved quality of products and services, economic predictability, and stability.
To summarise, the Cooperative Act was warmly welcomed when it was adopted, and it has contributed to a clearer understanding of the cooperative model and how it should be interpreted in a Norwegian context. However, it is evident that there is a constant need to review the legislation, to make sure it is both updated compared to other business models, but also relevant to the general developments of society, such as digitalisation.
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.