USA’s National Co+op Grocers sets out its social and environmental impact

The Food Co-op Impact Report details the impact of its 159 members on sustainability, inclusive economy, racial equity, local food systems, and employment

National Co+op Grocers (NCG) has set out a list of environmental and social benefits from US co-operative grocers in its latest report.

The 2022 Food Co-op Impact Report details the impact of NCG’s 159 members across a number of areas including sustainability, inclusive economy, racial equity, local food systems, and employment.

It says that 100% of NCG co-ops have up-to-date sustainability tracking software and support, enabling them to set and work towards goals around carbon emissions.

Certified organic products made up 38% of its members’ total sales, down 2% from last year, the report adds, while US$160,000 was invested in advocating for strong organic standards.

When it comes to supporting a more inclusive economy, NCG, which is itself a certified B Corporation, found that B Corp products made up 8% of NCG food co-ops’ total sales in 2022. This figure was higher than that of natural grocers and conventional grocers. Fairtrade-certified products made up 5% of total sales, also outperforming other natural grocery competitors and conventional grocers.

The year also saw NCG launch its Inclusive Trade program, which in its first year promoted 14 Certified Minority Owned Businesses and generated $1.4m in promotional sales.

Investments in racial justice in the food system saw NCG raise $131,000 last year for Black-led food co-ops.

“Today, many Black communities are organising food co-ops to resist and defend their communities from food apartheid, the result of the systemic racism that permeates our national food system,” says the report. “NCG food co-ops stand in solidarity by contributing financially to organising efforts through the National Black Food and Justice Alliance, as well as working to make our network more accessible, inclusive and equitable.”

Co-ops’ impact on local food systems was also captured in the report. The average NCG member was found to buy from 281 local farms and producers and sell $5.6m worth of local products in a year.

On employment, around half of NCG food co-ops report that they payiall staff local livable wages. NCG co-ops exceeded national figures on benefits, with 58% of NCG employees eligible for healthcare benefits – 14% higher than the national coverage rate for service employees. 64% of co-ops contribute to staff retirement plans, which is 24% higher than nationally.

The number of NCG co-ops increased from 148 last year to 159 this year, representing a combined total of over 1.3 million individual members.

“NCG food co-ops serve nearly 230 communities across 39 states, and that number is growing,” said C.E. Pugh, NCG’s chief executive. “Our annual report demonstrates many of the reasons why community demand for food co-ops is increasing nationally. Co-ops are not one-size-fits-all grocery stores, they are unique businesses that are owned by, and part of the community, so they are tailored to benefit the community in many different ways.”