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.

The co-operative business model has proven to be a strong alternative to traditional profit-driven businesses. And, for every dollar you spend in a locally-owned business or cooperative, 45 cents is return to the community, compared to only 13 cents when you spend a dollar at a chain store.

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



Co-op Principle #3: Member Economic Participation-What Does It Really Mean?

By Alexis Alexander, 

Membership Manager

512px-Cornucopia of_fruit_and_vegetables_wedding_banquet_croppedIn November, GreenStar member-owners will be asked to vote on two very important measures that will influence the Co-op and its potential for fulfilling member-owners' needs and desires for years to come. Today, I'm focusing on the first measure, which proposes to replace the current two-percent discount at the register with a Patronage Dividend system. A member mailing outlining the proposal is being sent to member-owners. We'll be holding informational sessions this month, in addition to the Fall Member meeting on Thursday, Nov. 8, for member-owners to learn more about the proposed system.

 The vote on Patronage Dividend specifically relates to how we, as member-owners, participate in the fiscal well-being of our co-op. Member-owner fiscal responsibility is outlined in the third Cooperative Principle: Member Economic Participation. But what does "Member Economic Participation" really mean? Why should we, as member-owners, be concerned about the impact that member benefits, such as Patronage Dividend or discounts at the register, have on the Co-op?

In 1996, Elizabeth Archerd, the Membership and Marketing Manager of the Wedge Community Co-op in Minneapolis, wrote a series on the Cooperative Principles for Co-op Consumer News. The Member Economic Participation segment is still highly relevant today. I would like to share it with you, as I believe it highlights the meaning of this principle in a very comprehensive and succinct manner.

No. 3 spells out the responsibilities of members to their cooperatives, and how money is to be treated in the cooperative business association.

"Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the cooperative. They usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing the cooperative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the cooperative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership."

Let's examine what each part means. Members contribute to the financial capital of their cooperatives equally. Each co-op, either through direct, democratic action of the membership or through its elected representatives, determines a required share purchase (capital), based on the amount that will be needed to start and maintain the business.

Capital thus raised becomes the common property of the co-op, and there is little, if any, interest paid on this amount. This prevents speculative practices, in which investors provide capital in exchange for high rates of return which could endanger the financial health of the association.

"Surpluses" (co-op lingo for profit), which are generated by the efficient management of the cooperative business, are to be allocated in such a way as to prevent any member from profiting at the expense of any other. They may or may not be returned to members. The elected representatives of the co-op, or the members themselves, may choose to use the money for improvements, expansions or new services for the membership, or other activities supported by the membership.

If distributions of surplus are made, they are in proportion to the amount of business done by each member (patronage rebates). In essence, each member getting back part of the profit that their own purchases have generated for the cooperative. [Author's Note: Here, Archerd is referring to the Patronage Dividend system that the Wedge has used successfully since the late 1980s, returning over $13,000,000 to members since 1990. GreenStar's current two-percent discount at the register also provides a member benefit made in proportion to a member-owner's purchases. A primary difference in the two systems is that patronage dividends are determined based on the amount of profit a co-op makes in a particular year, whereas the two-percent discount is given to member-owners before the extent of profit is known for that year.]

It is important to remember that cooperatives are businesses that exist to improve the lives of the participants, by providing goods and/or services that the members need. The Third Principle makes it clear that members have a responsibility to capitalize their cooperative, and that by pooling funds they agree to participate in an association that exists for the good of the whole group, not just a few individuals.

This principle also makes it clear that cooperatives are not non-profit organizations! However, the profit, or "surplus" generated by the cooperative does not benefit a small group of owners or investors, but the entire cooperative membership. It is not the fact of profit, but the uses to which it is put, which differentiates the cooperative enterprise from private business.

Your vote in November is crucial — the more member-owners who vote, the more the member benefit that we institute will reflect the true desires of our membership.

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