Dear Co-op Members,
As the year starts winding down, I like to look back and think about what makes our Co-op such a unique business. Ours is a special, unusual organization, responsive to the curious and challenging business environment in which we find ourselves. What’s the key to our cooperative difference? Many things, of course. One of the most important is our commitment to transparency.
To get an idea of what transparency is, it helps to look at what it isn’t. This past summer, the New York Times reported that Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest brewer, purchased a minority stake in the popular beer-review website, RateBeer. What does this mean? It means that a monolithic corporation is now part owner of a website that reviews that corporation’s products. Not only is the site—which is crucial to small craft brewers—now plagued by an enormous conflict of interest, but the deal was also negotiated behind closed doors, away from scrutiny, long before it was made public.
Secret deals and paying for endorsements are common practices in many sectors of the food industry. Fortunately, this isn’t the cooperative way. At our Co-op, open discussions are part of our culture. Member and shopper reviews, comments, and questions have been posted in our stores and publications for decades. Now they are also posted on our social media channels. We regularly hold information sessions—town hall style—where members and shoppers ask questions and review important data, including the financials. Members and staff are welcome at Board meetings and Annual Meetings. And Co-op staff and Board members regularly write for our blog and social media channels to keep members and shoppers informed about the business. This is how a collective, member-owned organization works. At a co-op like ours, transparency is the norm, not the exception.
Above, the Lebanon Co-op. Over the past year, we published regular updates on the store’s lease and its future, keeping members informed every step of the way. At a co-op like ours, transparency is the norm, not the exception.
Of course, transparency can be nothing more than a buzzword unless people work together to embrace and further it. That’s why I invite everyone, members and staff alike, to take advantage of the opportunities here at our Co-op to be part of an open, collectively owned business. Read updates, ask questions, attend meetings, follow our website and social media channels, and of course, anytime, reach out me. I like to think of transparency as an open door. My door is always open to you.