In most ways, cooperatives are like other businesses. Their facilities and equipment are much like those of their competitors and, to be successful, the businesses must be run well. Co-ops are even incorporated in most cases, filing papers with the state as a specially structured corporation. There are bylaws and other necessary legal papers. There is a board of directors that sets policy and oversees the management that runs the day-to-day operations.
But co-ops are different from other businesses in that they are owned and controlled (through the election of a Board) by members who have direct participation in the business. There are many types of co-ops, but often the participation is as a customer of the co-op. This is the case with Frontier Co-op. We’re owned, as we have been from the beginning, by our wholesale customers — the stores and other organizations that buy and resell our products. These customers provide the capital for the business to operate, take responsibility as member/owners through an elected Board of Directors and share the co-op’s earnings.
Good for business
This special relationship of ownership is at the heart of our success. We have unique insight into natural products and the people who buy them by having our member/owners in direct contact with the consumers of the products. And our co-op structure has fostered honest, responsible business practices that are increasingly valued in the marketplace.
Co-ops operate in the shared interests of their members — and that extends beyond financial interests to the underlying values of the members. We were founded amid the idealism about food, the environment and social justice of the 1970s “co-op movement.” Today, those founding values still prevail in our members and in the way we do business — and people are shopping for them.
Good for you
You care about those same values — you want high quality products that are produced with respect for the environment and the people who grow and manufacture them. Our members are collectively leaders in wholesome food, environmental stewardship and social responsibility — and the business they own is a leader in those areas as well.
The environmental and social responsibility, openness, integrity and fairness that you want in your products are available from Frontier Co-op — in large part, because we’re a co-op.
In keeping with the values of Frontier Co-op members, we've prioritized the quality of our products, provide full disclosure of ingredients, have developed new organic sources and have made our operations more sustainable. And we've made it our business to be a helpful participant in the communities our co-op is a part of — whether it's digging wells for villagers in Madagascar and Sri Lanka or clearing trash from a roadside ditch here in Iowa.
It's not that we couldn't or wouldn't do such things if we were individually owned or a traditional corporation, but being cooperatively owned by tens of thousands of members advocating for doing the right thing has definitely reinforced our values and actions. We're a different business in a different world than when we started in 1976, but Frontier Co-op's commitment to our founding values — and those of our members — remains strong.