I spent last week at the annual fall meeting of National Co+op Grocers (NCG), a business services co-op made up of cooperatives like ours across the country. As I shared with you the week before, NCG represents 149 food co-ops in 38 states, with combined annual sales of $2.4 billion. I can honestly say I can’t imagine where our co-op would be without it.
NCG gives co-ops across the country better pricing, greater purchasing power, and perhaps most importantly, proves that we’re stronger together than we are individually.
Since NCG’s founding in 1999, we’ve been ardent supporters and the cooperative’s largest member. (Trivia question—do you know who helped start NCG? Long-time Co-op General Manager Terry Appleby!) So it was an honor for me to be there last week, and everywhere I went, my colleagues and I discussed the state of the world and how the cooperative industry is responding to the challenges we all face.
After having these discussions, the primary thing I came away with is an overwhelming sense of unity and solidarity. Given climate change, inflation, rising food costs, supply chain woes, labor shortages, the lingering effects of the pandemic, and the cloud of chaotic national and world affairs, this is a brutally challenging time for everyone—especially a business collective trying to stay optimistic and filled with people working together for the common good. All of our peers across the sector, regardless of size, are struggling with it, and dealing with the same things that we are.
What’s unique, though, is how the cooperative industry is responding. Many businesses outside of our industry are putting a brave face on tempered regret as they look at their own contributions to the problems around them. Certainly co-ops aren’t immune to having problems or even creating them, but the foundation of our industry is offering positive solutions. The co-op movement as a whole began as an alternative to an oppressive system, and found its voice in the simple, radical act of putting power back in the hands of the people.
So I write this today as a reminder that you’re not alone. With Co-op Month kicking off tomorrow, this is a great time to remember that our peers at NCG and at co-ops across the country stand with you. It’s an empowering message for co-op staff and members alike.
In that spirit of unity, I’m also starting something new next week. A general manager is just one of many leaders at a co-op, so beginning next week, we’re going to transition from GM Reports to Leadership Reports. I’ll still be sharing regular updates with you, but so will many other people from our teams.
Each report will be written by a different leader from our cooperative network, meaning that instead of one person speaking for everyone, we’ll all speak together.
I think it’s important that we start seeing leadership in one another, and look forward to hearing from so many different voices.
Happy Co-op Month, everybody. Thank you for being the inspiring team you are.