Choosing the right structure for doing business in Europe

European Cooperative Societies


There are around 300,000 national co-operatives across the European Union (EU) and they are an important part of the EU economy. These cover areas such as:

  • agriculture
  • forestry
  • banking
  • retailing
  • legal advice
  • education
  • transport
  • energy conversation

A European Cooperative Society or 'Societas Cooperativa Europaea' (SCE) is a type of organisation that allows cross-border co-operatives to be created. The SCE's capital is provided by the members, who own the SCE and control any decisions that are made.

SCEs are part of the social economy. They are not designed to make profits for investors. Profits are divided equally among members, and all members can have a say in the running of the business.

The head office of an SCE can be easily moved to another country. They can also move freely to another EU member state without having to wind up and re-register.

Features of an SCE

One of the main features of an SCE is employee involvement. Employees must be involved in the strategic direction of the business. The level and method of involvement must be agreed before an SCE can be registered. If no agreement is made, the standardised EU rules will apply.

An SCE can choose between two different management structures:

  • One-tier system - the SCE has an administrative board that manages the business. The board must meet at least every three months and report to shareholders at least once a year. There must be at least two members on the board and one must be the chairman.
  • Two-tier system, a management board manages the SCE, and a separate supervisory board supervises its work. The supervisory board can appoint members of the management board. The management board must report to the supervisory board at least every three months. The number of members of each board is specified in the SCE's statutes, but both must have at least two members.

Read more about how to set up a European Cooperative Society.