In 1921, there were more co-ops than ever before. At the International Co-operative Congress of World Co-op Leaders in Basel, Switzerland, co-op leaders wanted to identify and define the growing co-operative movement’s common values and ideals to help unite co-ops around the world. They decided to develop an international co-op symbol to celebrate the movement’s growing diversity.
It was hard to settle on an image that would please everybody. Artists all over the world submitted ideas and designs. Eventually, a famous French co-operator, Professor Charles Gide, suggested using the seven colours of the rainbow for the flag. He pointed out that the rainbow symbolized unity in diversity and power of light, enlightenment and progress.
Everybody in the world can recognize a rainbow and grasp its many meanings. Rainbow refers to the image in the sky after a rain storm, in every country and continent. In cultures around the world, there are stories and legends about the rainbow as a path or gate to a better world or a reward. And, from a scientific viewpoint, the rainbow is in fact a single, indivisible entity.
“…the rainbow symbolized unity in diversity and power of light, enlightenment and progress…And, from a scientific viewpoint, the rainbow is in fact a single, indivisible entity.”
All these meanings make the rainbow a perfect emblem for the co-op movement. After some experiments with different designs and kinds of cloth, the first rainbow flag was completed in 1924. Everyone loved it, and it was adopted as an official symbol of the international co-operative movement in 1925. The Rainbow Flag is the international emblem of co-operatives. It was adopted as the official co-operative symbol by leaders in the International Co-operative Alliance in 1925.
It symbolizes the fading political divisions and the union of peoples. Composed of the primary shades of the rainbow, the Rainbow Flag contains all the colours of the flags of the world. All people merged under this pennant are united into one international brotherhood.
The Rainbow Flag includes all the colours of the flags of the world. Each colour contributes to the whole and symbolizes harmony and universal unity of all people.Each of the seven colours in the flag has a special significance:
Red – represents the courage to stand together.
Orange – represents hope and offers the vision of possibilities.
Yellow – represents warmth, friendship and concern for others. It also represents the challenge that green had kindled.
Green – indicates a challenge to strive for growth in co-operatives and individual members as we learn more about ourselves and others.
Sky Blue – represents unlimited horizons and possibilities and the need to provide education and help the less fortunate. It also represents unity with all peoples of the world.
Dark Blue – represents hard work and perseverance- the challenge of working together to achieve our goals of harmony, equality and economic efficiency. It also represents the less fortunate who can learn to help themselves through co-operation.
Violet – represents warmth, beauty, friendship and respect for others.