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 Poland, the data is collected for the reference year 2019.

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 Poland. For more information and the full research results, you can download the highlights and the report by clicking on the links above.




Poland’s cooperative movement has origins predating the Rochdale Pioneers of 1844. Originally set up as a local cooperative union in Warsaw in 1911, Społem transformed into a national organisation following Poland’s independence in 1918 and became the largest cooperative union in the country during the interwar period (between 1918 and 1939). However, these successes were interrupted during the Second World War, with the conflict pushing cooperatives underground. Following the war, and up until 1989, cooperatives in the Communist Polish People’s Republic would exist under a planned economy, used as a vehicle for economic policy in sectors such as food supply, agriculture and housing. Following the arrival of democracy and economic liberalisation in the 1990s, the reputation and numbers of cooperatives suffered a considerable decline.

In more recent years, a renewed interest in cooperativism in Poland has emerged, responding to contemporary challenges such as social exclusion of groups including former employees of collective farms, minorities and people with disabilities, impacted by market liberalisation. Social cooperatives have since been identified as playing a major role in the modern Polish social economy.





Poland counts 5 ICA member organisations:


  • Auditing Union of Housing Co-operatives / Zwiazek Rweizyjny Spoldzielni Mieszkaniowych RP is a full ICA member, whose purpose is to provide housing assistance to affiliated cooperatives.
  • National Association of Co-operative Savings and Credit Unions / Krajowa Spółdzielcza Kasa Oszczędnościowo-Kredytowa (NACSCU) is a full ICA member whose purpose is to represent and assist member credit unions in their statutory activity, support mutual cooperation in order to assure sustainable development, and to represent credit unions against public authorities.
  • National Auditing Union of Workers' Co-operatives / Związek lustracyjny Spółdzielni Pracy (NAUWC) is a full ICA member and a voluntary and self-governing organisation, which associates labour cooperatives and other cooperative organisations in Poland. NAUWC conducts statutory and legal activities in various fields.
  • National Co-operative Council / Krajowa Rada Spółdzielcza (NCC) is a full ICA member and the apex organization of the cooperatives of all sectors in Poland. It represents Polish cooperative movement in the country and abroad, initiates and gives its opinion on legislation concerning cooperatives, conducts training and educational activities, consultancy and advising, auditing, conducts cooperative development projects.
  • National Supervision Union of Spolem Consumer Co-operatives (SPOLEM) is a full ICA member and the national federation of consumer cooperatives. The purpose of SPOLEM is to assist and facilitate the realisation of the statutory duties of their affiliated cooperatives and inspire cooperation among cooperatives for their development and integration.

In Poland the research questionnaire was completed by NCC. The data collected was for the reference year 2019.




ICA members represent nearly 9000 cooperatives in the country, with a total number of memberships of 8 048 347, and an estimated 200,000 employees.

User cooperatives, producer cooperatives and worker cooperatives are all present in Poland.

Member organisations are active in the several sectors, including real estate activities, agriculture food and industry, human health and social work and wholesale and retail trade. Sectoral information is provided by NCC. 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. A snapshot of the results for Poland are displayed below. To download the full report, click on the links above.



In Poland, the cooperative is a separate legal entity from commercial companies and associations and is regulated by the Cooperative Law Act of 16 August 1982. The Cooperative Law applies to all types of cooperatives, with special provisions for the regulation of cooperatives that operate in certain sectors, such as agricultural production.

In addition to this Cooperative Law, there are also separate laws for specialised types of cooperatives. Examples include housing cooperatives, cooperative banks, savings and credit unions, social cooperatives and energy cooperatives. Notwithstanding numerous minor changes to the legal framework, the last significant amendment to the Cooperative Law took place in July 1994. Since then, although four attempts have been made to enact a new cooperative law, no major reform of the Act has taken place.


Polish cooperative law does not refer to the ICA principles. However, the principles are applied in practice to a large extent through Polish law in a way that is consistent with their content and purposes. In this sense, the cooperative laws can therefore be said to implement the ICA principles.


Cooperative friendliness

The general law on cooperative law was adopted in a different period to the current political and economic context. In the view of the national expert, there are many areas in which cooperative law has not yet adapted to the current challenges that cooperatives are facing. To remedy this, the Polish cooperative law requires modernisation, as well as the creation of a coherent legal and tax system that is relevant to the current economic and social reality of cooperatives.


Key recommendations for improvement

Several areas for reform are highlighted by the national expert. The future structure of new cooperative legislation requires careful consideration, in order to coherently address the many special laws that regulate cooperatives. For instance, in the area of tax regulation, it is necessary to distinguish between surpluses arising from transactions with members and profits from transactions with third parties. Cooperative audit also requires reform that in order to make it more effective. In addition, the expert highlights that promotion of cooperatives is not yet a public function.



Cooperatives in Poland have a stable, comprehensively defined legal framework for their activities in accordance with ICA principles, as well best practices which are explored in the full report. However, in selected areas, such as the precise definition of the cooperative's purpose or the facilitation of cooperative capital, the modernisation and reform of the legal framework is urgently required.





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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