Dear Co-op Members,
Winnie Byanyima is an engineer, politician, and diplomat who serves as the executive director for Oxfam International, a global anti-poverty organization headquartered in Oxford, England. Born in Uganda, Byanyima has spent her life fighting for socioeconomic justice. Before her work at Oxfam, she served in the Ugandan parliament, where she was known as an outspoken activist for the marginalized and oppressed.
In a recent statement posted on the Oxfam website, Byanyima used her considerable heart and intellect and took aim at the world’s monolithic supermarket chains. “We’ve heard from fruit farmers who have been sprayed with toxic pesticides while in the field and from women who have been forced to take pregnancy tests to work at seafood processing plants,” she wrote. “This injustice should not be on store shelves, especially when the food industry generates billions of dollars and handsomely rewards shareholders and others at the top.”
Byanyima was commenting on Ripe for Change, a new report from Oxfam that takes a hard look at the supermarket industry. The report is sobering, to say the least. In short, it says that a few giant global supermarket chains share responsibility for widespread suffering throughout the world. The victims, primarily, are impoverished farmers and food producers. I encourage you to read the full report here.
The Cooperative Alternative
At the heart of the cooperative movement is a strong focus on transparency, accountability, and an ethical, human-centric approach to doing business. As Ripe for Change points out so dramatically, our industry needs this. Massive food retailers have created a trillion-dollar business fraught with abuse and the misappropriation of power. Co-ops like ours can’t right every wrong, but we can tell people where their food comes from, encourage them to buy local, support fairly traded food and the people who produce it, and give members the information they need to make informed decisions.
Our Co-op has had an education team for decades. From the beginning, our approach to sharing information has been descriptive rather than prescriptive. We believe in giving our members information, then trusting them to make the choices that are right for them. Sometimes this means our articles, blog posts, brochures, and in-store education spaces take a critical approach to the very products a customer might find in our stores. That’s transparency.
How do we do this? Through a dedicated team of employees and members committed to a higher standard of doing business. And on the heels of the release of Ripe for Change, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank all of you for your contributions to our cooperative. Our food system and our world is better because of it.
Want to talk more about this? Reach out to me anytime. My door is always open.