The Cooperative Advantage

The Cooperative Advantage

  |  August 24, 2017

Sometimes the obvious isn’t so obvious. Just because we have co-op in our name does not mean that people will really understand what that means. The formal definition of a cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise. But we need to give that meaning life. Here are a few thoughts:


Get Your Elevator Speech
When someone asks me what is a cooperative? My first response is, “How much time do you have?” I then tailor my answer to their time. I have found a good short impactful answer is, “At my (fill in blank: Food store, electric company, bank-credit union) you can talk to the general manager/CEO. That is very unlikely at (Kroger or Safeway, Con Edison, Wells Fargo). If they have more time then I go into some of the aspects of how the formal definition applies to our co-op.

Local before Local was Cool
People crave authenticity. Highlighting that we are a truly a locally community owned business and the partnerships we have with other local businesses are powerful messages that needs constant re-enforcement. Dollars spent locally recirculate and make our community stronger. If you shop at a Big Box store money leaks out of our community. Many big box and franchise stores try to tout that they are local. Why? Because they know it resonates with consumers.

More on Local
Yogi Berra may not have said it but, “We all live locally.” Our roots are firmly planted here. We are never moving outside the community. Unlike other non-local businesses that operate on a strict for profit business model if sales fall they may close shop and move out of the community. Co-ops need to make money and they do that through the support of the members so that we can continue to be an active contributing part of the community.

We share our sourcing, and we welcome your participation in whatever level is comfortable for you. By being open about our operations we build trust.

Highlight educational offerings that you are presenting to the members and community at large. Include information about the cooperative business model. One of the great challenges we face is that schools rarely teach about co-ops so it falls to co-op businesses to educate their employees, members and potential members about the great benefits of the cooperative business model.


CDS Consulting Co-op and our members condemn acts of white supremacy whether they be blatantly exhibited in Charlottesville or in the centuries-long history of institutionalized racism, exclusionary economic policies, and systemic violence against people of color. The racism that saturates our society must be addressed and overcome.

“We believe that thriving, cooperatively-owned enterprises
are the bridge to a just, resilient democracy.”*

We join with our clients, our partners and our allies in the cooperative movement to work for racial equality and justice.

*From a Statement on Charlottesville from CooperationWorks!


Grab and Go Solutions is a resource from CDS Consulting Co-op to provide easy to implement solutions to common issues facing food co-ops. Watch for future releases tackling a wide variety of topics including HR, governance, member engagement, safety, store and growth.

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