DFC Ends #3:
A store that makes environmental sustainability a priority

The Davis Food Co-op exists to serve as a community store and gathering place for current and future owners, so they have:
A thriving cooperatively owned business,
Access to healthful, local and high-quality food,
A store that makes environmental sustainability a priority and,
Staff who are valued, educated and motivated.

One of the founding principles of third wave co-ops in the 60s and 70s (US!) was environmental sustainability, and we have tried hard to keep to those principles. In 2017 we had our landscaping redone with all native and drought-tolerant plants. In 2019 we opted-up with Valley Clean Energy and now run the store on 100% renewable energy. 

The Strategic Plan provides overall vision and guidance for making the Davis Food Co-op a “Model for Environmental Sustainability”. The Board and General Manager are working together to make changes in the store that follow the Five-Year Strategic Plan. 

One of the commonly overlooked sustainable aspects of the Co-op and your shopping habits lies in our Produce department. Our produce is primarily organic and we prioritize local farms. Buying local means that the food traveled less, which means less gasoline, travel, and probably packaging. Buying organic means that the farmland that grew your food did not use pesticides or herbicides that have negative effects on the ecosystem.

A renewed piece of the Co-op’s sustainability efforts is the Green Team. This team has been reunited by new and existing staff to be at the forefront of change in the Co-op for the better. They led the waste diversion and sustainability training that staff attends yearly, and they organize the monthly diversion competitions between departments.

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DFC Ends #1:
A thriving cooperatively owned business

Building on top of the Cooperative Principles that all co-ops abide by, the Davis Food Co-op decided to create an Ends Statement which is a statement about the purpose of an organization, why it exists (rather than what it does) and how it does things. Ends statements are about the benefit or results of an organization’s work, who the beneficiaries are, and what it’s worth to produce those benefits.

The DFC Ends Statement identifies its purpose and shows how they will accomplish that purpose through four key characteristics. We will be exploring all four characteristics in individual blogs with this being the first of the four. The Ends statement is as follows:

The Davis Food Co-op exists to serve as a community store and gathering place for current and future owners, so they have:
A thriving cooperatively owned business,
Access to healthful, local and high-quality food,
A store that makes environmental sustainability a priority and,
Staff who are valued, educated and motivated.

As we explored in our blogs about the Cooperative Principles, Ownership is a key part of cooperatively owned businesses as it is ultimately the Owners that dictate the direction of the business and their needs are always the number one priority. The Davis Food Co-op has made its purpose to revolve around the idea that it is both a store and gathering place for the community of Davis. It is available and exists both for current Owners and those in the community who have yet to invest in the Co-op. As the first goal states, we do this so that the aforementioned community can have a thriving cooperatively owned business.

So why is it important to have a thriving cooperatively owned business? Well, similarly to what we discussed in the third cooperative principle, a thriving co-op ultimately benefits those same Owners who invest and shop at the Co-op. Greater product selection, more resources for worthy community causes, events, store upgrades, discounts and patronage refunds are some of the most important results of a thriving business. However, it should be noted that the goal is not just to be a thriving business from a financial perspective, but a thriving cooperatively owned business that also succeeds in remaining true to the cooperative principles.

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Cooperative Principles #7:
Concern for the Community

Principle #7 covers all the education, outreach, donations, and community support that the Davis Food Co-op gives or helps with. The Davis Food Co-op is hard at work, assisting local organizations battle food insecurity in our community. We regularly donate food to the Yolo Food Bank, Freedge, and the Davis Night Market. We recently, with the help of the UC Davis Freedge Chapter, installed a Freedge outside the Co-op. We fill it up daily with food that would be donated.  

The Davis Food Co-op also runs a monthly Round Up at the Registers Program. Round up to the nearest dollar at check out and that money gets donated to a local organization. This October it is Thriving Pink, which offers financial and emotional support to people battling breast cancer and breast cancer survivors in Davis and surrounding communities. 

Along with our Round Up Program, we make annual donations to educational programs and Davis festivals to make them accessible to everyone.

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Cooperative Principle #6:
Cooperation among Cooperatives

All Co-ops have a collaborative goal to help all co-ops succeed. Co-op owners knew from early on that the most effective way to strengthen the cooperative movement is by working together through local, national, regional, and international structures. There are many reasons this principle quickly became internationally recognized: the weakness of independent operations and it creates a sounder operating practices. Co-operative Principle #6 is Cooperation among Cooperatives. Although we are autonomous and Independent, as explained in Principle #4, we still work together. 

Co-ops share ideas and information on everything! There are groups for marketing team collaboration, national team-building conferences, and cooperative consulting companies that assist in training. The National Co-op Grocers was formed in 2008 to give Co-op Grocers a hand while up against Grocery Giants. This National Marketing and Producer Co-op is to thank for our Co+Deals and Co+Basics in-store, as well as much of our packaging in the meat, cheese, and deli departments.

The Davis Food Co-op works with other co-ops all over the world! We work with Pachamama Coffee Farmer Cooperative and La Riojana Winery Co-op. Nationally, we work with Sno Isle Co-op to improve both our Green Team efforts, we have helped Medford Co-op create their curbside pick up program, and we have helped the Benicia community create their Cultivate Community Food Co-op. We regularly collaborate with our local co-ops and occasionally participate in merchandise swaps to create gift packages. The cooperation among cooperatives is at the heart of our efforts and we are always looking to find new ways to cooperate!

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Cooperative Principle #5:
Education, Training, and Information

Co-operative Principle #5 is Education, Training, and Information. This means very simply that the Davis Food Co-op is responsible for educating, training, and informing our owners, shoppers, and staff on related matters inside and outside the store. 

We educate and inform our staff and owners through pamphlets on seasonal produce, how to store your produce, biking guides, and many more coming soon! We offer cooking class in our teaching kitchen and currently we are offering free virtual classes to keep our community eating healthy! 

We keep our staff educated and trained through store-wide and departmental huddles, video training, and occasionally at the customer service desk, you’ll see raffle boxes for staff competitions! A big piece of this principle is communication, without this education, training, and information sharing cannot be successful. To keep a clear path of communication, we have a staff suggestion box in our break room and a customer suggestion box at the customer service desk and on our website. During this month, we are having a staff and board directors “town hall” type meeting, to ensure that our efforts are collaborative and stress the importance of everyone’s role in the store.

This month is Co-op Month! So grab one of our new pamphlets on our history and learn about where the Davis Food Co-op is headed!

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Cooperative Principle #4:
Autonomy & Independence

The fourth cooperative principle continues speaking to the impact of Ownership and Democratic control that are inherit in co-ops. Co-ops are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their Owners/Members. If they enter into agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their Owners and maintain their cooperative autonomy. While this principle is more prevanlent with larger business such as agriculture or housing as opposed to grocery, the takeaway should be that cooperatives are not supposed to surrender their fundamental identity in order to get money or additional business partners.

This principle is mainly intended to speak to the core ideology of cooperatives; they exist to serve the interests and needs of their Owners at all times. They do not serve any ideology or outside influence and are completely autonomous in their decision making. The cooperative principles are meant to outline a basic framework without necessarily specifying goals or purposes. It is up to the Owners of each co-op to define their organizational goals and set policies aimed at achieving them. The fourth principle makes it clear that democratic governance is such a fundamental part of cooperatives that it is not to be surrendered for any reason, even for business partnerships or capital. This also echoes the third principle, member economic participation, which indicates that in cooperatives, unlike profit-driven organizations, money will never buy more control of the business, it will always be one vote per Owner.

The Davis Food Co-op has used its autonomy & independence to create this Ends Statement:

“The Davis Food Co-op exists to serve as a community store and gathering place for current and future owners, so they have: a thriving cooperatively owned business; access to healthful, local and high-quality food; a store that makes environmental sustainability a priority; and, staff who are valued, educated and motivated.”

The Board of Directors has also built upon these Ends to create a Five Year Strategic Plan for the Co-op.

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Cooperative Principle #3:
Member Economic Participation

As we know already, Members/Owners contribute equitably to, and therefore democratically control, the capital of their cooperative. The third cooperative principle explores the ways in which that capital can benefit Owners as investors in the business. Unlike large corporations, with sometimes distant and shadowy shareholders that benefit from excess profit, the Co-op exists solely to serve and operate in the interest of its community of Owners that shop at the store.

As we discussed in the first cooperative principle, an investment in the Co-op is really an investment into the community so that Owners and fellow shoppers can enjoy the benefits that profitability brings. A profitable Co-op means greater selection, more resources for worthy community causes, events, store upgrades, discounts and when applicable, patronage refunds. Patronage refunds are distributed by the Board of Directors in a decision making process that takes place after the conclusion of each fiscal year. The store’s profit is always accounted for and allocated in a way that best serves the health and longevity of the Co-op. If after those decisions are made and there is still excess profit available, the Board can make the decision to pay money to the Owners for their investment.

The Davis Food Co-op will always be run in a democratic way, so any surplus income earned by the Co-op is invested back into the Owner community in an equal and fair way. We encourage all Owners to consider joining and/or voting for the Board of Directors so that they can be more involved with the decisions that are made in regards to profitability of the store. At the end of the day, the better that the Co-op performs financially, the better return on investment that all Owners can receive!

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Cooperative Principle #2:
Democratic Member Control

The second cooperative principle dives deeper into a very important aspect of what is presented in the first principle. A cooperatively owned business is truly owned by its members and therefore, it is governed by a democratic decision making process. Owners actively participate in setting policies and making decisions through either electing or joining the Board of Directors. Each Owner has equal voting rights upon joining the cooperative and elected representatives are accountable to the Ownership.

The Davis Food Co-op’s Board of Directors largely focuses on Policy Governance, which helps focus the board’s responsibilities into three areas: setting long term ends (or outcomes) and organizational limits; holding the General Manager accountable for organizational performance within those ends and limits; and creating an active dialogue with Member-Owners about updating the ends of the organization. Ends policies are supposed to answer the overarching questions: what changes, for which people or need, and at what cost?

Each May, Elections for the Davis Food Co-op Board of Directors is held. In order for an Owner to run for an open seat on the Board, they must:

• Be a DFC shareholder in good standing.
• Prepare for, attend, and participate in monthly Board meetings and the Annual Ownership Meeting in May.
• Serve on one or two committees or task forces.
• Attend and participate in a day-long annual retreat in the Fall and/or Spring.
• Participate in Board training, as well as workshops, conferences, and DFC events throughout the year.
• Regularly read and respond to email correspondence.
• Devote time to learning about the co-op movement and the board decision-making tool Policy Governance.

Learn more about our Board of Directors and becoming a DFC Owner.

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Cooperative Principle #1:
Voluntary & Open Membership

For many co-ops, a recurring issue that they face is public awareness of what the cooperative model actually entails. We decided to use Co-op Month (October) to dive deeper into the guiding principles that shape all co-ops as well as provide insight into how the Davis Food Co-op has expanded on these principles to best serve the Davis community. More so than with traditional business models, co-ops do everything, from their daily tasks to large scale planning, according to the principles of the cooperative model.

To better understand the importance of the cooperative principles, it is important to understand a brief history of what a co-op actually is. The concept of cooperation started with the earliest human societies sharing all of their resources with one another for survival and began to take more formal shape in the late 18th century as people moved from farms to cities. Labor workers, consumers, farmers and producers banded together to make joint purchases of supplies and services to keep their collective costs lower as they entered into this new way of life. In their efforts to support one another’s new journey into city life, they became a co-op—a business run by the people, for the people. 

In the late 1960s and 1970s, the “new wave” of consumer co-ops in the US began. Born out of 1960s counterculture, these stores were opened by idealistic community members that wanted an alternative to the standard capitalism business models. Each co-op had its own set of standards and procedures, dictated by the Members/Owners of the co-op. These co-ops were pioneers in what we know today as the natural foods industry.

The first principle of all cooperative structures that were born out of that era is that they are open for everyone to join regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, political or religious beliefs and any other discriminatory based qualifications. While Membership (also known as Ownership) is open for everyone, it is not required for shopping at the Davis Food Co-op. The Co-op truly does exist as a community institution that is accessible to everyone. However, Ownership is highly encouraged!

By becoming an Owner of the Davis Food Co-op, you are investing not only in the store, but also in local farmers and artisans that offer sustainably sourced natural foods and products. You are also investing in programs that enrich our community, such as food drives for those in need, that the Co-op actively supports. As a community-owned grocery store, we are accountable to you, the members of our community who support and invest in us. We are committed to supporting the environmental, social, and economic concerns of all of our Owners. Over the next six principles, we will dive a little deeper into what Ownership actually entails and how you can further contribute to your local Co-op!

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