Co-operatives have the opportunity to champion sustainable food issues, according to Vicki Hird, senior campaigner at Friends of the Earth.
In her presentation, Ms Hird talked about the work of her organisation, which includes thousands of members.
“Everybody should be interested in the environment. Organic food doesn’t automatically cost more – it depends on many factors, including how you buy it and where you buy it from. There is market failure and policy failure. If it does cost more there is often a good reason,” she said, adding that co-ops should be a bigger part of the organic food market.
As enterprises owned by their members, co-operatives are more likely to get members involved in different projects and build on customer loyalty, their members being their customers.
“All businesses will have to consider risk analysis, surety of supply, anticipating change, climate, policy changes to do with health, reducing waste and energy. If you don’t start thinking about this you might loose out to greener suppliers,” she told NRCC delegates.
She encouraged co-op retailers to continue the good work. “Stand out from other retailers, have the conversation asking members what they are interested in,” she said.
Her tips for co-operative retailers were to: trial new products and be flexible; help people transition to a healthier diet; produce recipe cards; and use solar energy.
She also advised them to look for local suppliers and talk to local and national groups, including Friends of the Earth.
Asked what type of events would be better to engage with members and the wider community, Ms Hird said smaller activities, such as tasting sessions or donating recipe cards were a better option because they could target specific, local communities and make more of an immediate difference.