What is Membership?
Since the beginning, GreenStar's mission focused on making nutritious, whole food available to its members. But membership means more than just access to good, healthy food...
When you join the Co-op you become a Member-Owner of a locally-owned and cooperatively operated values-based business. We focus on the social and environmental impact GreenStar makes on our local and global community, as well as economic performance. We put our values first, and return all profits back to the Co-op or donate them to the community.
One Member – One Vote means your voice truly counts!
Like all consumer co-ops, GreenStar is owned and democratically run by the people who use the store. Unlike traditional corporations where the amount of a stockholder's investment determines his or her voting power, every member at GreenStar has equal voting rights. As a Member-Owner, you have an equal say in the future direction of GreenStar.
By investing and participating in your co-op, you're putting your values into action.
Through your Equity Share investment and patronage, GreenStar supports the health and well-being of our member-owners, our community and the planet by:
- Purchasing from local farmers and businesses
- Paying a livable wage
- Using clean energy and recycled office supplies
- Supporting organic agriculture and fair trade producers
- Offering health insurance to employees
- Donating to local charities and events
- Providing education on nutrition, health and sustainability
- Improving access to healthy food to those on limited budgets through the FLOWER program
Tuesday, 03 January 2012 17:38
By Alexis Alexander,
Does our current equity share payment of $90 per member serve the Co-op? Council has been discussing this question for some time now. It relates specifically to our expansion goals and the realization that we are no longer able to sufficiently meet our member-owners' needs and desires in our current West-End location. (Ask anyone who has tried to park on a busy "10 on the 10th" sales day!)
At some point this year, a proposal will likely be put to membership to vote for an equity increase and, possibly, a change in the payment schedule. According to our bylaws, the member-owner equity share amount can only be changed by a membership vote. Therefore, each member-owner will have a say in this very important decision.
Every business needs capital to survive and a cooperative is no different. Member-owner equity is a monetary investment by each member-owner that helps provide the Co-op with adequate capital to support the business. Equity is not used for the day-to-day running of the operation — it does not pay for employee's salaries and benefits, or the products we sell in the store, or our office supplies. Those expenses are covered by product sales.
Equity is used for major capital expenditures. Recent examples include the new cash register system installed in 2007, the Deli hot bar unit, new coolers in Produce and, in 2012, an upgrade of the West-End entry doors. Any renovation to the existing building or the building of a new store would be a capital expenditure.
Equity serves another very important purpose. As GreenStar member-owners, we show our commitment to the Co-op and our values through the $90 member-owner equity share payment. It is that commitment, reflected in the amount of equity we have on hand, that banks examine when negotiating terms on loans for cooperatives.
To think of this in more personal terms, when we purchase a home and take on a mortgage, the principal amount of our payments builds an equity investment in the home. The bank may not give us another loan, or they may charge us a higher interest rate for that loan, until we've sufficiently built that equity. Similarly, the level of member-owner equity that GreenStar has on the financial books directly relates to the terms we can negotiate with a bank.
For many of us, our motivation in joining GreenStar was to become a member in a community business that we believe in. But joining GreenStar means much more than becoming a member of an amazing community. We actually become owners who have invested in a community-based, democratically run business. Thinking of ourselves as owners is not something many of us do, but that is exactly what we are. The advantage of the cooperative business model is that it allows a relatively small investment from a large number of member-owners to generate a significant equity base that can be used to leverage even larger amounts of capital.
This is why, as we make decisions on our expansion goals, the issue of our equity share payment arises. GreenStar's $90 equity share was established in 1985. The question before us is whether that amount is sufficient for us to raise the capital that will be needed to support any future expansion projects. In November, we held two focus group discussions with randomly selected member-owners to discuss member equity. We learned that the members-owners love GreenStar and are potentially willing to support it through an increase in member-owner equity. But many concerns were raised, in particular, how this would impact our lower-income members. Participants felt that Council needed to do a lot of education with member-owners on why an increase is necessary, including more detailed information on future expansion plans.
Over the next several months, Council plans to enter into more conversations with member-owners about our expansion plans and plans to propose a member-owner equity share increase. As member-owners, the Co-op exists for us, enabling us to express our values in both our personal lives and within our community. It's a very special business arrangement that allows each of us a voice and vote in what we do. As invested member-owners, we are responsible for GreenStar's success and also for the decisions we make as an organization. I encourage each and every member-owner to become involved in the dialogue this year. We'll be communicating in many ways, within the store, on the website, in the GreenLeaf and at meetings. I look forward to an exciting year of constructive dialogue and decision-making.
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