A Movement Beyond Profit: The Heart of Cooperative Principles
October marks National Co-op Month, a time when we find ourselves reflecting. Reflecting on where we came from, the impact we’ve had along the way, and where we’re headed. We reflect not just about us at River Market, but the larger cooperative movement that has had a massive worldwide impact since the first co-op started back in 1844. That co-op, the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers, first seeded the principles that would eventually become foundational pillars for every co-op that followed. These Seven Cooperative Principles not only enshrine the very core of who we are, but also set the path so that you, the owner, have an integral part in our unfolding story.
The first principle, Voluntary and Open Membership, underscores River Market’s commitment to inclusivity. We welcome anyone into our fold, irrespective of gender, social status, race, politics, or religion. If you want in, you’re in! That’s because radical inclusivity is the best way to foster our next principle: Democratic Member Control, which ensures that we are truly “by the people, for the people.” For this principle to be effectively realized, it’s crucial for every owner to actively participate and vote in the director elections. This guarantees that decisions aren’t influenced by disproportionate concentrations of wealth or power, but by the collective voice of the community. This tenet is paramount given that our third principle, Members’ Economic Participation, maintains that owners contribute equitably and facilitate our collective capital democratically, ensuring financial stability and community-aligned profit distribution. In fact, 2% of our total sales goes directly back to owners by way of discounts and owner reward points redeemed!
Another defining pillar of a cooperative is its Autonomy and Independence, which ensures a strong democracy and keeps us true to our mission. Unlike some large corporations who might make questionable decisions to make a profit for their outside shareholders, our shareholders are always internal. They’re our owners, our customers, so every business decision is made with their best interest in mind. Education, Training, and Information is the next principle that ensures our owners, managers, employees, and directors can contribute effectively to the development of the co-op. And the Cooperation Among Cooperatives principle strengthens our co-op and the cooperative movement by working together.
Finally, Concern for Community underscores everything a co-op represents. We’re not just businesses; we’re community cornerstones, actively participating in and aiming to better the lives of those we serve. As we celebrate National Co-op Month, remember it’s not just about marking a date. It’s about recognizing a movement that harmonizes profitability with sustainability, equity, and democracy. We at River Market encourage you to not just celebrate, but participate. Let’s work together using these seven principles to build a brighter, cooperative future.
The River Market Community Co-op’s Board of Directors