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Re: SG-W:/ Shopping for the Earth



Tim, my reply below.  Doug

>Tim wrote:
>
> I purchased a few hundred dollars of the certificates, and used them
> all at the Co-op.
> 
> I assume that the Co-op provides certificates at a discount because
> they hope that the certificates will increase sales.
> 
> However, I always buy my groceries at the Co-op.  
> 
> Thus, I came to see my participation in this program as merely transfering
> funds from the Co-op to the Sierra Club.  I don't think the Co-op is
> any less worthy of funds than is the Sierra Club, so I lost my enthusiasm
> for the program.
> 
> Am I misinterpreting?  Does the Co-op perhaps get a tax break from
> issuing the certificates, or something like that?
> 
> tim athan

Tim,

You raise an interesting point.  While I cannot answer for the Co-op, I
offer the following thoughts:

- I'm a devoted 17+ year Co-op member.  If I thought they were imprudent
in doing this program I wouldn't be involved. They are well aware they are
selling certificates at a 5% discount. They haven't asked us to exclude
regular Co-op shoppers from the program. I believe they think this program
is in their interests, as they define them.

- The Co-op has a long-standing commitment to "give back" to the community
they do business in.  This is both a highly ethical stance and a smart
business practice that increases customer loyalty. Until recently they
pursued this part of their mission with a program where they offered the
local Sierra Club group a percentage of their sales on a single day. Other
groups had the same arrangement.  The Co-op discontinued this program, and
began the certificate program last year in order to accomplish this aspect
of their mission.

- The Co-op receives two direct financial benefits from the certificate
program, in addition to using it to meet their admirable community
commitments.  First, we promote the Co-op every time we promote the
certificate program. This kind of grassroots marketing is worth quite a
bit. We no doubt shift some sales dollars from non-participating grocery
stores to the Co-op, both directly and indirectly.  Second, we buy the
certificates for cash from the Co-op.  Until they are actually used by
customers, the Co-op benefits from "the float" (i.e., basically, a
zero-interest loan) on these funds.  This prgram also stabilizes their
cash-flow.  The local Sierra Club group must overcome this implicit cost
to us by promptly selling enough of the certificates.

I'd say that both the Peoples' Food Co-op and the Sierra Club's Huron
Valley Group can gain substantial benefits from a vigorous cooperative
program to market these certificates.  The Boards of both groups certainly
think so, or we wouldn't have spent the time and money it takes to set up
the arrangement and run it.

Naturally, whether to participate or not is an individual judgement.  But
as a devoted long-term member of both groups, with strong interests in
seeing our community have a strong member-owned natural foods store *and*
an environmental movement with resources that can be used to preserve open
space, I think the certificate program is a wonderful win-win idea.  I
feel better than ever about my tofu-and-sprouts lunch when it helps
preserve the Co-op and local open space.  Not to mention my health.

Doug




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