Cooperative Law for Sustainable Development


Advanced law students or students from other disciplines with a strong interest in cooperative law.


If sustainable development is to be pursued seriously, enterprises need to take on an active role. They do so already by abiding by the slowly juridising Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) rules. However, as if the legal form of enterprises did not matter, the debate on the CSR rarely distinguishes between enterprise forms. As a consequence, and despite gradual changes, cooperative enterprise law continues to be a marginal research and teaching subject. This mismatches the high number of an estimated one billion members in cooperatives around the world and also fails to appreciate the corresponding economic and social impact of this enterprise type. The shortcoming is further demonstrated by the repeated show of crisis resilience by cooperatives and the growing awareness that sustainable development issues must also be addressed by and through enterprises. International governmental and non-governmental legal texts are recommending ways of how law should address the issue.

The course is to create an understanding of the factors which shape cooperative law and of its relevance for sustainable development. The term 'cooperative law' also incorporates other fields of law as they impact on the structure and operations of cooperatives, such as labour law, tax law, competition law and accounting and bookkeeping standards, as well as law-making and implementation procedures.

As students come from different national backgrounds, reference to specific cooperative laws will only be made by way of an example.

The course is complemented by visits to and presentations by cooperative organisations. During the 2018 Summer School we visited the headquarters of the S Group (a major cooperative network in the retail and service sectors), the OP Financial Group and Coop Center Pellervo.


The course is led by Dr Hagen Henrÿ, University of Helsinki.

E-learning coordinator Pekka Hytinkoski will assist and give a presentation on 'Different aspects of cooperative studies, with an emphasis on the Finnish Co-op Network Studies Programme';

NN  will make presentations on Finnish cooperatives and/or mutuals.


At the end of the course the students will have an understanding of the rationale of cooperative law in relation to sustainable development and as the law which institutionalises the idea of cooperative enterprises as a form of enterprise within a necessary diversity of forms. The students will be able to distinguish the cooperative form of enterprise from other forms, especially from the stock company. This includes the objective, management and governance of cooperatives, the nature and structure of cooperative capital and the control mechanisms.


Introductory presentations by the teacher; discussions; presentations by the students; field visits.


Means and criteria of assessment
Grading scale: 5 = excellent 4 = very good 3 = good 2 = average 1 = poor 0 = fail.

Assessment is based on:
• Reading and participation during lectures 30%
• In-class assignments 20%
• Written exam 50%


City Centre Campus

Preliminary schedule

Week 1:

Day 1, 9.00–13.00:
1. Introduction to the course
2. Cooperatives as a worldwide phenomenon; history of modern cooperatives; economic, social, societal and political importance; possible role in the future.
3. Why legislate on cooperatives? Legal reasons: public international cooperative law; Human Rights and cooperative law; sustainable development and cooperative law

Hagen Henrÿ

Day 2, 9.00–13.00:
1. The nexus of cooperative values, cooperative principles and cooperative law
Hagen Henrÿ

2. Cooperatives in Finland
Coop Center Pellervo, tbc

Day 3, 9.00–13.00:
1. The diversity of cooperative laws, the unicity of cooperative (legal) principles
2. Cooperative law from an international perspective
Hagen Henrÿ

• Week 2:

Day 1, 9.00–13.00:
The history of cooperative law: Cooperative law as a part of the economic, political, social, societal and (socio)psychological circumstances of its time. Trends in/phases of cooperative law in light of the economic, political, social, societal and (socio)psychological circumstances of its time.
Hagen Henrÿ

Day 2, 9.00–13.00:
The history of cooperative law, continued
Hagen Henrÿ

Day 3, 9.00–13.00:
1. Definition of cooperatives according to public international law. Its relevance and explanation of its elements
Hagen Henrÿ
2. Visit to and presentation by a cooperative organisation; tbc

Day 4, 9.00–13:00:
1. Main legal challenges
Hagen Henrÿ

Day 5, 9.00–12.00:
1. An ABC of a law on cooperatives on the basis of the requirements of the four internationally recognised aspects of sustainability
Hagen Henrÿ

Week 3:

Day 1, 9.00–13.00:
1. Different aspects of cooperative studies, with an emphasis on the Finnish Cooperative Network Studies Programme
Pekka Hytinkoski

2. An ABC of a law on cooperatives, continued
Hagen Henrÿ

Day 2, 9.00–13.00:
1. An ABC of a law on cooperatives, continued
Research director Hagen Henrÿ

2. Visit to and presentation by a cooperative organisation; tbc

Day 3, 9.00–13.00:
Summary of the course and repetition
Hagen Henrÿ

Day 4, 9.00–13.00:
Written exam
Hagen Henrÿ



1. The 1995 International Cooperative Alliance Statement on the cooperative identity in:
International Co-operative Review, Vol. 88, no. 4/1995, 85 p., also available in an electronic format

2. The International Co-operative Alliance Guidance notes to the co-operative principles.

3. The 2001 United Nations Guidelines aimed at creating a supportive environment for the
development, UN, doc. A/RES/54/123 y doc. A/RES/56/114 (A/56/73- E/2001/68; Res./56)

4. The 2002 International Labour Organization Recommendation 193 concerning the promotion
of cooperatives (ILC 90-PR23-285-En-Doc, June 20, 2002)

5. Hagen Henrÿ (2012): Guidelines for Cooperative Legislation, 3rd revised edition. International Labour Organization, Geneva. Also available at electronic format


1. Cooperative Principles for the 21st Century: Introduction. Document made available in
electronic format
by the International Co-operative Alliance ICA, 11 September 1995,

2. Johanna Heiskanen, Hagen Henrÿ, Pekka Hytinkoski and Tapani Köppä (eds.), New
Opportunities for Co-operatives: New Opportunities for People. Proceedings of the 2011 ICA Global Research Conference, Mikkeli and Seinäjoki/Finland: University of Helsinki/Ruralia Institute Publications No.27, 2012. Also available at Helda-service