National Co+op Grocers (NCG) has set out a list of environmental and social benefits from U.S. cooperative 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 percent of NCG member 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 percent of its members’ total sales, down 2 percent from last year, the report adds, while $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 percent 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 percent 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 organizing food co-ops to resist and defend their communities from food apartheid, the result of the systemic racism that permeates our national food system,” the report said. “NCG food co-ops stand in solidarity by contributing financially to organizing 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 $5.6 million worth of local products in a year.
On employment, around half of NCG food co-ops report that they pay all staff local livable wages. NCG co-ops exceeded national figures on benefits, with 58 percent of NCG employees eligible for healthcare benefits—14 percent higher than the national coverage rate for service employees. 64 percent of co-ops contribute to staff retirement plans, which is 24 percent higher than nationally.
The number of NCG co-ops increased from 148 last year to 159 this year, representing a combined total of more than 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, CEO of NCG. “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.”