What is a Cooperative?
The cooperative business model aims to provide a service without the main objective being profits. The official definition is an ‘autonomous association of people who come together voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspiration through a jointly-owned and democratically controlled enterprise’. It relies on members/volunteers participating in the running of the organisation, that is, having a say – making sure criticism is constructive and helping resolve any problems that arise. Co-ops also use capital or funds for mutually rather than individual benefit. While its activities may be commercial, a co-op exists primarily to serve the needs of its members and community, rather than investing capital or making money. In other words, a co-op is its members. Co-ops are also based values including things like honesty, openness, social responsibility, and caring for others.
Sydney University Food Co-operative is a non-profit, volunteer run organisation whose aim is to provide affordable, organic, vegan, local food in bulk, and fresh fruit and vegetables for students and staff on campus. Our co-op prefers ethically and environmentally sound products and checks with suppliers about the conditions and methods under which the goods are grown and processed. It provides an opportunity to access our groceries, snacks and treats without having to support big supermarkets.
As much as possible we promote the use of:
- Low-cost ethically-produced and packed wholefoods
- Cruelty free foods
- Vegan foods
- Organic foods
- Genetically modified free foods
Why Join the Co-op?
Cooperative enterprises are distinctive types of firms that operate within but also offer an alternative to the capitalist market based economy. In that production and consumption is not singularly driven by the profit motive or the accumulation of wealth, rather cooperatives focus on the well-being of the community via ethical consumption and production. The business and operating model emphasises collaboration and democracy and therefore, provides an alternative to the traditional hierarchical structure of a capitalist enterprise. The cooperative model has the effect of redefining work and reward, by moving the emphasis away from monetary gain, ownership and control, thereby, changing the social and economic relationships that underpin the capitalist system.
Cooperatives also encourage people to have a biological and geographical understanding of food and food choices. The distance and number of people food travels between to get to our tables, the vested interest capitalist businesses have in maintaining consumer ignorance around food production and the global nature of the food system, inevitably means that the biographies of the food we eat are rather opaque to us. However, our coop is concerned about where food comes from, who is impacted by the production of food, and what goes into the food we eat. We prioritize principles of transparency, social accountability and consumer sovereignty. Additionally, the underlying principles of organics, veganism and locally sourced food stipulate what kind of products we stock, these categories each on their own question and make visible networks of food.