Let’s Celebrate Co-op Week!
Being a member of a cooperative means being a part of something larger. The Cortes Natural Food Co-op is celebrating National Co-op Week along with the nearly 50,000 other cooperative businesses serving more than 135 million people across North America. Co-op Week takes place from October 16th to 22nd in Canada and October is Co-op Month in the United States.
“Cooperatives Build” is the theme this year. There are so many ways that cooperatives help to build stronger communities and stronger local economies. Our cooperative had nearly $1.7M in sales last year, with all of those dollars being reinvested in the co-op. On average, for every dollar spent at a local food co-op, another $1.60 is generated in the local economy.
Consider these ways that co-ops build:
Cooperatives Build Trust
Most co-ops strive to adhere to the seven cooperative principles, which combine to help build trust between the co-op, its members and the community. For example, the first principle is Voluntary and Open Membership, which means that we are a voluntary organization open to all people to use our services and willing to accept the responsibility of membership. The second principle, Democratic Member Control, gives members a voice in the cooperative’s policies and decisions. Through the fifth principle, Education, Training and Information, co-ops enable their members to contribute to the organization’s development. At CNFC, we look for educational opportunities whenever possible. For example, we are participating in Non-GMO month this October through articles and in-store information. Along with the installation of our new waste-water system, we used grant money for a series of educational panels about clean water, septic systems, and the recent water problems in Hague and Gunflint Lakes.
Cooperatives Build Community
The seventh cooperative principle is Concern for Community. Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through employee involvement in local organizations, through charitable contributions to community efforts and through support for schools. At CNFC, we consider the whole community in our decision-making processes. For example, during the land purchase process, we had a number of member visioning session and we relied on volunteers – both as individuals and in committees – throughout the process. The fund-raising effort depended on all of our members, and we now hold the land in stewardship for the community. Any future development of the property will certainly involve similar community-based and member-driven processes.
Cooperatives Build Jobs
Cooperatives generate jobs in their communities and keep profits local. Some cooperatives take part in community improvement programs, ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to benefit from the cooperative experience. At CNFC, we’ve greatly increased employment opportunities over the past five years. We’ve gone from a schedule of 200 hours per week (5 full-time equivalents) to nearly 320 hours per week (8 full-time equivalents) – and that’s just the winter schedule! Last summer, we had 37 people on our payroll for a total of 500+ hours per week. During our last fiscal year, we paid out nearly $320,000 in wages.
Cooperatives Build a Better World
Through all of the above ways, cooperatives build a better world! For more stories about how co-ops around the world make it a better place through the seven co-operative principles, watch for an upcoming PBS Series documentary. This one-hour documentary follows the work of the National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International, celebrating 100 years of cooperatives that build a better world through seven stories featuring members in Washington, Massachusetts, and Mississippi and international projects in Mozambique and East Timor.