The cooperative company was introduced into Belgian law in 1873 as the company for the cooperative sector, adapted to its needs.
Article 350 of the Company Code does not define a cooperative and simply provides that a cooperative is incorporated by shareholders whose number and contributions may vary.
Under the Company Code, a cooperative can have either limited liability (coöperatieve vennootschap met beperkte aansprakelijkheid/société coopérative à responsabilité limitée) (CVBA/SCRL) or unlimited liability (coöperatieve vennootschap met onbeperkte aansprakelijkheid/société coopérative à responsabilité illimitée) (CVOA/SCRI). Furthermore, the cooperative is the only type of corporate form, under the Company Code, which can have variable share capital. The rules on the entry and exit of shareholders and on the management of a cooperative are also relatively flexible. In addition, a cooperative can issue shares with multiple voting rights.
It is thus clear why the cooperative has been a widely used corporate form, including by the liberal professions) and not only by those active within the traditional cooperative sector.
Cooperatives that wish to be recognised as such can request a licence from the Nationale Raad voor de Coöperatie/Conseil national de la Coopération (the "Council") in accordance with the Act of 20 July 1955 introducing the Council and the Royal Decree of 8 January 1962, subject to certain conditions.