Cooperative societies can obtain approval from the Minister of the Economy and thus become a member of the general assembly of the National Council for Cooperation, Social Entrepreneurship and Agricultural Enterprise. Approval ensures that the cooperative societies concerned operate in accordance with cooperative values and principles.
Values and Principles of Approved Cooperative Societies
Approved cooperative societies are, by their nature, the promoters of socially responsible entrepreneurship, based on solidarity and shared values.
Setting up a cooperative society is above all a different way of doing business, by respecting the following principles in particular:
- free entry for new partners;
- no dominant partner;
- no speculative purpose.
No Dominant Partner
Not all approved cooperative societies are based on the absolute principle of "one person, one vote". However, all the articles of association of approved cooperative societies contain rules limiting the dominant role that an associate might play in the decisions of the general meeting. This provision increases the commitment of the associates to their partnership.
No Speculative Purpose
By investing in a certified cooperative society, the associate is awarded a moderate remuneration for their stake each year. They may also benefit from an economic or social advantage in the satisfaction of their professional or private needs, consisting, as the case may be, of the allocation of rebates resulting from their activity with the company.
The associate does not join out of a profit motive but wishes to help a project that goes beyond their own interests. The cooperative form allows its associates to develop a different relationship with the company than that of a mere investor: the associates of approved cooperative societies generally have another capacity which is linked to the social object of the cooperative society.
How Do You Get Your Cooperative Society Approved?
- Download the application form (DOCX, 24.59 KB) (application for approval) for cooperative societies.
Approved groupings of cooperative societies must use the form for groupings of cooperative societies (DOCX, 28.07 KB).
- Send this form duly completed and accompanied by a copy of the coordinated articles of association and internal rules of your cooperative society to the Service Accounting Law - Audit - Cooperatives. This application can be sent electronically to AUC@economie.fgov.be.
- If your company complies with the conditions for approval, you will receive a copy of the ministerial decree approving your company as soon as it is published in the Belgian Official Gazette, within two to three months of the application (indicative deadline).
- If your company does not comply with the conditions for approval, you will receive a detailed notice from the FPS Economy indicating which provisions of your articles of association and/or internal regulations are incompatible with the granting of approval.
Before going to the notary, a cooperative society in the process of incorporation has the possibility of submitting an informal request to the Service Accounting Law - Audit - Cooperatives of the FPS Economy, to ensure that the draft articles of association meet the conditions for approval.
The opinions and advice given at this stage by the FPS Economy are not binding on the Minister of the Economy, who takes the decisions regarding approval, but they allow, as the case may be, the cooperative society in the process of incorporation to adapt its draft articles of association in order to increase their chances of being granted approval.
How Long Does It Take To Get a Decision for an Approval Application?
Application files are examined as rapidly as possible. However, the very nature of the approval procedure requires the drafting and publication of a ministerial order, which generally takes between two and three months. Nevertheless, approval is granted retroactively from the first day of the month in which the application is received.
If an adaptation of the articles of association and/or the internal regulations has been necessary to obtain approval, such approval will only be granted from the date of the amendment of the articles of association and/or internal regulations brought into conformity with the conditions for approval.
Validity of the Approval
Since May 2016, groupings and cooperative societies that meet the conditions for approval have been approved for an indefinite period (Royal Decree of 8 January 1962).
Officials from the FPS Economy regularly check whether the approved groupings and approved cooperative societies continue to meet the conditions of the approval issued to them. The approval will therefore remain valid as long as the grouping/cooperative society continues to meet the conditions for approval laid down by the law of 20 July 1955 and the Royal Decree of 8 January 1962.
The advantages of approval relate to various tax and social legislation that depend on different institutions.
Lists of Approved Cooperative Societies
Approved cooperative societies and groupings of approved cooperative societies (PDF, 511.22 KB) (list updated on 8 December 2022).