Our Annual Meeting took place this past Saturday. It was a good time for Co-op owners to participate directly in our governance. That includes voting to elect five board members. Voting is open for the month of April. There are no bylaw changes under consideration this year.
If you weren’t able to attend our Annual Meeting in person, below is an update on some of what the board has been working on. Click here to view the Annual Meeting packet.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
We began work with a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team to help the board deepen its understanding of our community and improve its practices. A good first step is reemphasizing the importance of getting to know each other as people, especially after years on Zoom due to the pandemic. The same team has been working with the Co-op as a whole to empower employees and improve workplace culture. At the board level, we’ve added policies that prioritize employee compensation and benefits. Many improvements have been made in these areas in the past year, including additional wage increases and expanding certain supports.
Net Zero by 2030
A much-needed renovation at the Lebanon store location resulted in a 37% reduction in total Co-op greenhouse gas emissions last year. While the renovation was scheduled to happen regardless, a board policy to be Net Zero by 2030 has inspired the Co-op team to start looking strategically at the environmental impact of all planned capital investments. A draft policy in the pipeline would also require the Co-op to be Zero Waste. The Co-op team has already been working on this, and even without a board policy the Co-op has reduced a large majority of waste, over 70%.
At the last board meeting, we accepted the Co-op’s annual third-party financial audit. Everything is as expected. While we did experience a financial loss this year, that number was smaller than was projected a year ago. We knew that, due to the debt incurred from taking on the renovations at Lebanon, the next three to five years would be leaner. That means no patronage refunds.
With inflation, the Co-op has felt the need to mitigate price increases more than ever. We also rolled out a new Co-op Rewards program, which will increase the Co-op’s financial stability and allow the Co-op to incentivize specific products (such as those from local vendors). Despite these challenges and changes, the Co-op remains in a strong position. Co-op owners’ and shoppers’ continued support is why this is all possible. This relative stability is how we’ve increased employee benefits, reduced our environmental impact, and continued our giving programs, such as Pennies for Change (if you can, don’t forget to Round Up when checking out!).
I want to take a moment to thank our new General Manager, Amanda Charland, who has been in the role for almost a year. She worked at the Co-op for 10 years before being hired for the position, first as Sustainability Coordinator and then as Director of Member Services where she reported directly to the former General Manager. Amanda has taken every challenge and obstacle, especially as we move out of the pandemic, and turned it into an opportunity and solution. Her leadership is built on the team and culture she’s fostered around her, never working alone. One benchmark of her leadership success is that the number of open positions at the Co-op has been reduced to below 30 from above 70 a year ago.
Looking ahead to the next board year, we will continue working on policies that further increase benefits for employees, support our community, and protect our environment, all while remaining financially sound. It’s important to remember that the Co-op is a big organization that does not change overnight. No one person can see or know everything, and it is candid feedback from the entire community that is the soil for new solutions and a better cooperative for us all. Please feel free to reach out to the Co-op at any time at firstname.lastname@example.org (operations) or email@example.com (governance). As always, thank you for your support and ownership of the Hanover Consumer Cooperative Society. We look forward to another year serving the Upper Valley of New Hampshire and Vermont!