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Case Studies: Cooperative Mission Statements

For the main article, see Mission statements.

Below are Mission statements from two different cooperatives of varying sizes: Equal Exchange has slightly over 100 members and Collective Copies has roughly 9.

A cooperative’s mission statement is a short, written declaration that describes the co-op’s functions and whom it serves (workers, customers, communities, and/or more). This statement influences the actions of the organization, defines its purposes and main goals, and details the direction of the co-op’s business. When a co-op is setting long or short-term goals, making objectives for the next 1 or 20 years, they refer to the standards set by their mission statement.

Worker Cooperative Mission Statements

Equal Exchange

Equal Exchange was founded in 1986, and it is the largest and oldest Fair Trade coffee company in the United States. It also does business with other (all organic) products such as sugar, tea, cocoa, and chocolate bars. All of the goods that Equal Exchange distributes come from farmers’ cooperatives in parts of Latin America, Africa, Asia, and North America. (Visit Equal Exchange’s website: www.equalexchange.coop).

Mission Statement:

“Equal Exchange’s mission is to build long-term trade partnerships that are economically just and environmentally sound, to foster mutually beneficial relationships between farmers and consumers and to demonstrate, through our success, the contribution of worker co-operatives and Fair Trade to a more equitable, democratic and sustainable world. “

Guiding Principles:
  • Trade directly with democratically organized small farmer co-operatives;
  • Facilitate access to credit for producer organizations;
  • Pay producers a guaranteed minimum price that provides a stable source of income as well as improved social services;
  • Provide high quality food products;
  • Support sustainable farming practices;
  • Build a democratically-run co-operative workplace;
  • Develop more environmentally-sound business practices.”

Collective Copies

Collective Copies began in 1983 in Amherst, Massachusetts after workers went on strike against a regional copy shop chain and then decided to start their own business. Now in their 23rd year, they perform standard copy shop roles, while also getting involved in larger projects such as small-scale book publishing. In addition, Collective Copies gives back 10% of their annual surplus to their community and they also make sure their practices and products are as environmentally friendly as possible. (Visit Collective Copies’ website: www.collectivecopies.com).

Mission Statement:

“We are committed to achieving success in business by...

Serving our customers to the very best of our ability and resources. In the service of this goal, we apply our knowledge, creativity and experience to communicate effectively; foster an atmosphere of mutual trust, kindness and respect; and continually educate ourselves and our customers.

Fostering a fun, safe, free, creative, trusting and respectful working environment. We commit ourselves to taking the time to celebrate one another's successes, console our losses and promote personal growth.

Minimizing our environmental impact. To this end, we continue to recycle, to seek out alternative fiber papers, minimize our waste and our use of waste-producing materials and methods and explore promising alternatives to such materials as they become viable.

Contributing to our community and supporting local business. We return 10% of our profits to the community that sustains us. We resolve to implement ways beyond this by which we might be of help to the community. We will promote, frequent and assist area businesses how and whenever possible.

Striving to empower all workers and to be a model/resource for positive and profitable worker-ownership. We create secure, empowering and financially rewarding jobs for our own workers, and strive to facilitate the creation of similar opportunities for all workers.”

Discussion Questions

You can discuss the following questions in a small group or consider them on your own. If you are an educator, you can facilitate them in a group discussion based on the above sample co-op mission statements.

  1. What cooperative values and principles did you recognize in the above mission statements? How are they important to the co-op’s mission? See: Seven Cooperative Principles and Cooperative Values
  2. What did you learn about each co-op from their mission statement?
  3. What do you think is the importance of a co-op’s mission statement? What impact should it have on a co-op's business practices?

Spotlighted Discussions

Consider these questions on your own, in a notebook, in this page's Discussion Area, or with people you know. Click on the question below to be taken to its discussion in the discussion area.

  1. If you’re in a co-op, does your organization have a mission statement, and, if so, what do you use it for?
  2. If you’re starting a co-op, does your group have a written mission statement written? How has establishing a mission statement been helpful in starting your coop?
    1. Do you have questions about writing mission statements for your emerging coop?
    2. Do you have advice for people writing mission statements for their coops - and how they should utilize these mission statements?
  3. What do you think is the importance of a co-op’s mission statement? What impact should it have on a co-op's business practices?