Happy Co-op Month! I am happy to report that the cooperative business model is alive and well in Vermont. With our newest addition of the worker co-op Rabble Rouser, we now enjoy more than 130 cooperatives and credit unions throughout the state. Our cooperative businesses are thriving, serving thousands of member-owners in multiple sectors including food, energy, education, housing, and finance. Co-ops are a significant source of employment; taken together, food cooperatives alone would be a top-25 employer in Vermont with annual sales exceeding $100,000,000.
In large part, it’s our democratic ownership that sets cooperatives apart. With other business structures, the power of stockholders or investors to affect company policy is directly tied to the size of their holdings. In cooperatives, each member contributes to their co-op’s financial well-being and in return has a voice and one vote in key governance decisions such as electing the board of directors or business expansion. The democratic governance model helps to ensure co-ops remain true to their community values and responsive to community needs.
As a result, co-ops focus on the positive impact we can create. We design our business operations to produce results that matter for our communities. Many of us organize around a triple bottom line of environmental, financial and social returns. Our own co-op’s results from Fiscal Year 2019 help to illustrate this:
- Last year we provided more than $46,000 in community donations and sponsorships, including over $11,300 for the Montpelier Food Pantry through our Bag That Bag program. Additionally our Cooperative Community Fund distributed grants totaling $7650 to local organizations and initiatives aligned with our Mission.
- Hunger Mountain Co-op shoppers purchased $7.6 million in organic products and $9.7 million in local products from the Co-op last year, helping to sustain our network of 480 Vermont vendors.
- At year-end, 98% of our 172 employees earned at least the Vermont Livable Wage to go along with an exemplary benefit package including excellent medical, dental and vision insurance, generous paid time off, paid breaks and holidays, a 401(k) retirement program, a shopping discount and gain share when the Co-op is profitable. The average tenure of our full-time employees is now 10 years.
Thank you for supporting cooperatives in all their shapes and sizes. Working cooperatively for positive community impact, we are truly stronger together.
See you in the aisles,
Kari Bradley, General Manager