Amanda Charland

Reflections on Core Co-op Values

As I sat down to write a message in celebration of Independence Day, I couldn’t ignore the fact that many are struggling after last week’s Supreme Court decision. While we are made up of a diverse community of members and employees with differing beliefs, it’s important to honor that many of our fellow cooperators are hurting right now.

While there is a lot of work to do in our global, national, and regional communities, and we have many tough conversations ahead of us, I wanted to take this moment to reflect on our cooperative and the values at the core of cooperative businesses.

Cooperatives were founded on the concept of creating more equitable systems through empowering people who lacked power. While the true origins of the cooperative business model are debatable—forms of cooperation and shared economies evolved in many areas of the globe throughout history—all of them evolved in response to similar conditions. Co-ops were created as a solution to address the rampant corruption and exploitation occurring in traditional, profit-maximizing businesses.

Regardless of where or how it started, what most of these cooperative origin stories share is people joining together in equal ownership to work toward a common need. Fast forward to today, and cooperatives now have the ideals that drove their formation codified in a set of principles, ethics, and values that cooperatives around the world adhere to.

As a business, these principles and values guide us. But as a network of people, connected to one another through our cooperative, they should also inspire how we work together.

Cooperatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity. As owners and stewards of the business, we are the champions for these values and must ensure that our business upholds them.

We should practice them every day. They are values that, as cooperators, we can bring forth into other communities we are connected to.

Though conversations of equality should always be a part of our dialogue, June has been a month with several events reminding us to consider the egalitarian roots of the cooperative business model. June is also important for the recognition of two other moments in the fight for equality: Juneteenth, the federal holiday commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans, and Pride Month, a time to honor the efforts in the fight for LGBTQI+ rights.

As I reflect on the month behind us and consider our cooperative and its small corner of the world, I think that it’s important for us to remember our relationships as a cooperative community.

Everyone reading this message—members, employees, vendors—are all uniquely connected to one another through our cooperative.

In some way, we’ve all been drawn to something that this business represents, something that was built upon our values and principles. As stewards of this cooperative, we have a responsibility to one another to ensure that our business continues to uphold the principles of open membership, and the value of equality.

As we approach Independence Day, as we reflect on the previous month, and as we engage with others in our cooperative community, let’s continue to ensure that our co-op lives out these principles and values. And as cooperators in the world, let’s bring these values to other aspects of our lives.

—Amanda

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Amanda Charland

Amanda Charland

Amanda Charland is the General Manager of the Co-op Food Stores. She was first hired as the Co-op's Sustainability Coordinator in 2012, and joined the Co-op Leadership Team as Member Services and Outreach Director in 2014. She earned a Master's Degree in Cooperative Management in 2017, and she was promoted to Director of Cooperative Engagement in 2018. She was hired by the Co-op Board of Directors as General Manager in 2022. Contact her at acharland@coopfoodstore.com.