Modern industrial companies and service providers, countless small and medium-sized traders and crafts companies, as well as a strong agricultural sector, mark the German economy.
Traditionally, it is the medium-sized enterprises which guarantee competitiveness and economic stability. The progress of internationalisation and an increasing market concentration is putting these under great pressure. Cooperations into alliances or link-up groups are a response to this. In this context, the cooperative form is a model of forward-thinking cooperation.
Cooperatives are voluntary cooperations of members into a joint enterprise with the legally defined goal of promoting the economic activity and the earnings of its members: through achieving favourable joint purchasing and sales conditions, through reducing costs by providing joint services or through guaranteeing the necessary minimum size of an enterprise or access to the market. Economically, the cooperative is a system of outsourcing of functions, within which the members retain their individual independence and the joint enterprise is organised according to the principles of self-help, self-administration and self-responsibility. Cooperatives as part of the small and medium-sized businesses are a vitalising factor for the market in many lines of business.
The cooperative organisation employs around 780,000 people throughout Germany and provides extensive training programmes for approximately 40,000 people.