Membership of co-operatives outnumbers shareholders in the UK, and co-ops have outperformed the UK economy growing 21 per cent since the start of the credit crunch.
Just under 15 per cent of the UK population owns shares, compared with 21 per cent who own or are members of a co-operative.
Around the world the difference is even bigger, where membership of co-ops is three times higher than the number of individual shareholders.
Around one billion people belong to a co-operative enterprise, compared with 328 million individual shareholders, the research for The Co-operative Group showed.
Ed Mayo, secretary general of the Co-operatives UK and author of the report, said: “In a tough economy, mass ownership is a perfect business strategy because you have your customers and workers onside.
“The idea of sharing profits with those who are involved in the business is now widely recognised but our research shows that few companies do it as well as the co-operative sector.
“What is more, in the high growth BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) economies, co-operative member ownership is now five times the level of shareholder ownership. Ownership is best shared, not divided.”
Nationally there are 5,450 independent co-operative businesses with a combined turnover of over £33bn and have outperformed the UK economy as a whole, growing by 21 per cent since the start of the credit crunch in 2008.
Peter Marks, chief executive of The Co-operative Group, said: "These figures are testament to the fundamental appeal of the co-operative principles which combine commercial ideals with social enterprise and support.
"Co-operation is working for millions of people across the globe and our membership is growing every day."
Pauline Green, president of the International Co-operative Alliance, said: "The co-operative business model is not business as usual. Co-operatives are people-based enterprises and have a proven track record at local community level and at global level.
"The largest 300 co-operatives in the world are together worth £1trillion and compete in some of the world's most competitive markets."