A Regenerative Marketplace!
by Jon Megas-Russell
During the start of the Co-op's redevelopment plan in 2002 an organization called Net Logic posed the question: What would the
Co-op need to be in order to take an evolutionary step that eliminates the threats to its viability while realizing its hopes and dreams? Net Logic challenged the Co-op to think and act beyond the concept of being a sustainable marketplace and take on new dimensions by being a regenerative marketplace.
Being a sustainable marketplace has always been core to the Co-op's vision and its contribution within the community. As a sustainable marketplace, the Co-op has always strived to reduce its environmental impact, both locally and globally. While sustainability speaks to simply reducing environmental impact and maintaining a viable business, regenerability aspires to provide renewal, restoration, and dynamic growth to the local community.
Back in 2002, the Co-op’s ends policies reflected a vision of sustainability: “The purpose of the Brattleboro Food Co-op is to be a sustainable community for a growing number of stakeholders." The fourth ends policy further stated that the Co-op "embraces environmental responsibility." At this same time the redevelopment plan was beginning to bloom and community outreach was happening to build a project that would reflect the ideas and feedback from shareholders and community members. It was appropriate for the Co-op to begin to reflect on the ends policies. Was it time to take on the idea of going beyond sustainability and embodying being a regenerative marketplace?
Yes, it was time, and between 2002 and 2006 the ends policies were reviewed and updated as a part of the Hundred-Year Plan. Building a Hundred-Year Plan and rewriting the ends policies allowed the Co-op to take on the aspirations and actions of becoming a regenerative marketplace.
The new ends policy reflected a more community-driven theme and states that "the Brattleboro Food Co-op exists to meet its shareholders collective needs." Furthermore, the new fourth ends policy stated that the Co-op seeks to be "a regenerative business that has a net-positive environmental impact."
Flash forward to March of 2013 and the conversation of a regenerative marketplace was beginning to bubble up again. The Co-op’s Board of Directors began to reflect again on the question posed to the Co-op in 2002: Have we become more viable by realizing our dreams? Yes, I believe we are. We have a wonderful new building providing affordable housing to the community. We are reusing heat from the refrigeration to heat and cool the whole building and we are powering a portion of the Co-op with solar energy. We offer a free community room to our patrons, and more organic, local, and Non-GMO Project-Verified products. We have a composting and recycling system that is proving that such systems can be effective in a large marketplace.
Thus the Board of Directors has begun to discuss how the Co-op is actively and will continue to be a regenerative business or marketplace. Additionally, the Board of Directors is asking the question: Does the fourth ends policy—"a regenerative business that has a net-positive environmental impact"—truly reflect our long-term vision?
Some board members have doubts about whether we can truly achieve being a net-positive facility. We create waste and consume tremendous amounts of energy so being net-positive in environmental impact is difficult. Can we begin by focusing on taking small steps towards being regenerative? Yes, I believe that we can. For instance, our general manager wants to begin an interdepartmental, regenerative watchdog committee. This group would evaluate our initiatives, engage the shareholders and community, and blossom new projects that are restorative and beneficial to being a regenerative marketplace. Other board members believe the Co-op needs to be more than a store by becoming a holistic community hub for Southern Vermont, thinking that we are the glue for the community and that we need to step up and offer something that is unique and allows community members to feel that their investment in the Co-op is an investment in their community.
The question we pose is, what does a regenerative marketplace mean to you? Share your thoughts! Come to a board meeting, put a note in the board input box, talk to a board member! And please continue to engage with your Co-op to help us become an even more effective, regenerative marketplace.