In early March, we shared our 2019 business results with the Valley News. After having in-depth conversations with them about our business financials, and keeping the paper well versed on our community impact, their March 7 article stumbles in its attempt to assess how our cooperative business operates and measures results.
Here is a link to that article.
Below is the response we submitted to the editor of the Valley News on March 12. In it, we highlight a few of our concerns with the paper’s coverage. By posting that letter to the editor here for you to read, we bring to light specific details missing from their article, and take issue with the conclusions they reached.
The more you know, the more you see we are committed to the seven principles of cooperation as adhered to by co-ops around the world. (International Cooperative Alliance guidelines of cooperative identity).
Since 1844, co-ops have been the primary means by which consumers and producers can push back against predatory business practices — practices such as maximizing profits by short-changing people and the planet.
If you would like to take a deeper dive into our community impact, in the coming weeks we will post our 2019 Ends Report online. (Here is a link to our 2018 Ends Report.) Our Ends Reports are comprehensive in detail and show exactly how cooperative commerce is an investment in community good. We encourage you to at least take a quick look at that 2018 report.
We think you will agree that measuring the success of a cooperative means tabulating the full return received by employees, members, and the places we all call home.
Thank you for your interest in socially responsible businesses like ours.
Paul Guidone, CFA, Interim General Manager
To the Editor of the Valley News;
We were a little surprised by the Valley News’s summary of the Hanover Co-op’s 2019 financial results. Despite the breadth of information and conversations shared with your team in recent years, you have assessed our cooperative results through a corporate lens that looks at profit and cash payout only.
It is an old mistake to assess cooperatives only using standard metrics punctuated by dollar signs. Our cooperative has frequently sent you details of triple bottom line businesses like ours. For at least a decade, journalists such as those at Forbes have been reporting on the three pillars for properly measuring businesses in the 2000s. (See Forbes.com, “The Bottom Line of Corporate Good.”) Yet the Sunday Valley News article, “Hanover Co-op’s operating loss means no refund check for customers,” (March 8), automatically concludes that record-sales-without-a-refund is failure.
As an independent grocer holding its own against industry titans, we measure and fulfill our mission through continual investments in our employees and their communities, environmental stewardship, and yes, sound financial outcomes.
Your comment about “skimpy” patronage refunds looks at just payout. While your article mentioned our 7.6 percent increase in wages and benefits, please remember that $1.2 million includes healthcare increases and a bump in wages for people working throughout our operating units. Some might suggest it is $1.2 million that should have gone to the bottom line, but we saw it otherwise.
We monitor facilities expenses carefully. We’ve shared how the costs associated with the recent move of our offices saves more than $340,000 over five years. Other facility investments reduce environmental impact, earning our Co-op top-in-the nation EPA awards.
Bigger profits could be extracted from the pockets of local farms and suppliers, but squeezing area businesses is a corporate tactic we refuse to use. Our donations of time, money, and resources to Upper Valley organizations lower the chances for a patronage refund, yet produce stronger communities.
This is just a sampling the Hanover Co-op’s 2019 results as seen through the lens of people, the planet, and our members’ business. It’s a triple bottom line that is anything but skimpy.
On behalf of our cooperative’s leadership team:
Edward Fox Paul Guidone, CFA
General Manager Interim General Manager