Behind the Cooperative Movement; a monthly Voice series
The first article in this series behind the national cooperative movement introduced a few key questions: What is a co-op’s place within a wider business culture that oftentimes runs on the unsustainable track of a short-term bottom line? What is fundamentally different about cooperatives? More to the point, when you walk through the doors at Honest Weight Food Co-op, what’s in the air, as opposed to, say, at Hannaford or Price Chopper?
Product line is an obvious place to start. You won’t find a bulk herbs aisle, or red pepper olive tapenade fish, and mushroom leek seitan stew on the lunch menu in many places. The product line doesn’t really answer the question, though. There is something more behind this movement than finding a prized cut of local, grass fed beef in the meat department.
The piece that lends an exclusive stamp among national cooperatives is a conscience-driven business philosophy.
Like most organizations, Honest Weight Food Co-op has a Mission Statement. But these tend to employ bland terms in need of more action verbs to ground the idealism. “If you want to understand how the Co-op operates, look to our Statements of Conscience,” says Rick Mausert, Honest Weight’s new Store Manager. He believes “This is the real lens to look through, and our customers relate to this in all kinds of ways.”
Consider any one of the single Statements here—there are seven of them, all listed on HWFC’s web page—and chances are that customers can, in fact, identify how each Statement applies on a daily basis within the store culture. Despite the palpable commitment to ideals, the reality is the relentless marketing campaign of broader capitalist culture continuously competes for our collective dollars. Consumers are overrun with catchphrases. If you’re offering a good product, what can anyone say today that will hold real clout at the cash register?
Yet, what sets this Co-op apart—or any other national co-op with a bottom line for the common good—is the product line list under the “Stay Local, Buy Honest” store logo. Yes, it’s product again! But, it’s local. And this means something in an age when lettuce can come from Spain and pomegranates from Israel. One Honest Weight vendor is manufacturing bottles and packaging material in Waterford; honey is pouring in from Watervilet; an entire network of herbal alchemists from Worthington to Richmondville, New York is supplying tinctures for what ails you.
“It’s not only about the physical brick and mortar,” Rick Mausert comments. Rick says, “We’re finding local people to source our products, reaching out to the community, and playing a role as an active neighborhood partner.”
Cooperatives: Connecting People
Call it “concrete connectedness,” or the simple re-awareness that we are all in this together, despite what the political fringes want us to believe. This is how the cooperative movement is defined today. Member-Owner, customer, vendor or producer, the basic design or structure connects people to a process that serves a larger communal purpose.
Working in the Plants Department this past summer, I overhead a customer refer to Honest Weight as an “incubator for developing community.” Months later, I realize this is precisely what’s in the air here. Self-interest among fellow workers and members here has the potential to advance toward full-scale social awareness and responsibility.
Honest Weight is a member owned and operated consumer cooperative that is committed to providing the community with affordable, high quality natural foods and products for healthy living. Our mission is to promote more equitable, participatory and ecologically sustainable ways of living. We welcome all who choose to participate in a community which embraces cooperative principles, shares resources, and creates economic fairness in an atmosphere of cooperation and respect for humanity and the earth.
Statements of Conscience
We are committed to our food policy, which reflects buying practices for food and body aids with consideration towards moral and ethical production, environmental stewardship, healthy living, and safety.
We are committed to helping our community learn more about growing, choosing, preparing, and using natural foods.
We are committed to learning and teaching about alternative ways of living that are healthy for ourselves, our community, and our planet.
We are committed to encouraging an environment where ideas and philosophies can be generated, shared, and expressed freely.
We support, embrace, and celebrate the diversity of our community.
We are committed to providing our customers with knowledgeable staff and a positive shopping environment.
We are committed to donating five percent (5%) of our net profits per year to local non-profit organizations.