Alberta Cooperative Grocery Product Buying Guidelines (11-16-08)
The Alberta Cooperative shall provide high quality, healthy and affordable food products. The Cooperative shall obtain such products primarily from local, regional, organic and socially responsible sources…(Article II; Bylaws of ACG)
These guidelines have been developed to guide ACG buyers in making product choices that reflect the mission and values of our cooperative community. The guidelines below are meant both to highlight the issues that effect current purchasing and to guide future decisions and new buyers.
Because each separate department have a set of issues specific to them, the criteria stated below are not meant to be read as moving from most important to least. Also, because economic, environmental, and social conditions are not static what’s most relevant from year to year and buyer to buyer can change. This is a living document that will evolve through time as we do, but always staying true to our mission of offering healthy products that contribute to a just and sustainable society.
Members and customers are welcome to make suggestions for ACG to carry products that meet these guidelines, keeping in mind the demands of limited space and need to allow our buyers autonomy in their jobs. Any concerns regarding products we carry not meeting the guidelines below can be brought to the buyer in charge of that department for review.
ACG is aware that often products will not meet all of the guidelines, and sometimes guidelines will conflict with each other. It is the job of our buyers to judge between these competing demands and make the wisest choice possible. ACG also recognizes that industry practices often make relevant information unavailable or inaccessible. Buyers also have limited time and resources at their disposal. As buyers become aware of new information they will factor that into their purchasing choices.
ACG will seek out and prioritize products developed using organic and sustainable methods of agriculture whenever possible. Non-organics will only be selected if 1) the benefits of local outweigh the advantages of organic, 2) after research we find there is no organic option for a product that meets most or all of the other guidelines, 3) for political or environmental reasons organic is not available.
ACG realizes that having a direct relationship to our food system minimizes environmental degradation, increases local food security, and reinvests in our local economy. Often the Co-op will prioritize locally produced and manufactured products where there is a choice. As the cost of transportation increases ACG will work on strategies to increase our selection of local products.
ACG recognizes that we are located in a mixed income community. The Co-op will strive to meet the needs of everyone in that community by making our store as affordable as possible. We will meet these ends through our Bargain Basics program, active research to lower our cost of goods, and offering products that are accessible in price while not compromising the rest of our mission. ACG’s buyers are aware that we have limited control over the cost of products and cannot develop a pricing strategy that compromises ACG’s financial health.
ACG will strive to maintain a GMO-free product selection and actively educate it’s members and customers about the issues of genetic manipulation in our food chain. Whenever we become aware of genetically modified ingredients in ACG products our buyers will research alternative options and alert customers through proper signage.
Recognizing the need to meet the needs of everyone in our community, ACG offers a selection of dairy and meat products. ACG will only carry animal products where the producers and manufactures have demonstrated efforts to take the dignity of the animal into account when raising and slaughtering. ACG will not carry products where animals have been treated with antibiotics or artificial growth hormones. The Co-op will not carry farmed salmon, tuna, or other fish breeds not traditionally farmed. The Co-op will also seek out products not using unnecessary animal products or engaging in animal testing in the production of supplements and body care products.
ACG will prioritize Fair Trade Certification when purchasing products from outside the United States. ACG recognizes FTC as a minimum standard for internationally traded goods. Buyers will prioritize working with companies exceeding FT standards and who trade directly with farmers and producers. For products not meeting basic fair trade standards buyer research will seek out products made with healthy standards of workplace safety. This will be the exception and not the rule and will be done in cases where the product meets a basic need of our members for which there is no fair trade alternative.
In line with cooperative principles ACG will support other cooperative businesses by giving priority to their products when possible. ACG will prioritize products from other companies that demonstrate a high level of workplaces standards, worker health and empowerment. In cases where companies have a reputation for poor workplaces conditions, union busting, or engaging in other activities harmful to workers, buyers may pull their products from our shelves or offer a comparable product in it’s place.
ACG recognizes that the organic foods industry is rapidly consolidating as it evolves into a national market. This trend poses major risks to the integrity of organic foods taking economic and political control away from small businesses and the communities in which they operate. The Co-op will strive to carry products from producers and manufacturers independent from the influence of corporate America, giving priority to cooperatives and privately owned small businesses.
As part of ACG’s mission we aim to reduce our environmental impact by promoting fresh produce and bulk products; minimizing our amount of products manufactured with non-recyclable materials; creating opportunities for recycling; promoting the reuse of materials; and offering products packaged in returnable/reusable containers.
ACG will not carry products with: 1) packaging that make false or misleading nutritional, environmental, or ingredient claims; 2) whose packaging is deemed exploitive, oppressive or perpetuates harmful stereotypes; 3) predatory advertising, especially advertising to children.
Recognizing the wide range of nutritional and dietary needs in our community, ACG will strive to offer a selection of products that reflect this diversity. ACG will offer signage to make customers aware of products that are wheat/gluten free, diabetic safe, non-dairy, raw foods, etc.
ACG will prioritize whole foods. This includes products with a minimum of processing and refining. The Co-op will not carry products which contain artificial coloring, preservatives, sweeteners and other flavorings.