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2013 Ends Policy Report

Global Ends Policy

The Williamson Street Grocery Co-op is, and will remain, an economically viable and environmentally sound business cooperatively owned by its owners; its primary mission, as expressed in article 1.1 of our bylaws, is to operate a retail grocery store that forms a cornerstone of a vibrant community.

To evaluate progress towards these ends, the Board shall monitor whether;

Policy A1:

Owners make informed choices about food, agricultural practices, environmentally sound practices and the cooperative movement.

Policy A2:

Owners have a sense of Williamson Street Grocery Co-op (WSGC) community and realize the responsibility of ownership.
A2.1 Owners participate in decision-making.
A2.2 Promote owner involvement.
A2.3 Celebrate, educate, and promote community.

Policy A3:

WSGC is a cornerstone of a vibrant economically and environmentally sound community.
A3.1 Local farmers, manufacturers and distributors work in partnership with WSGC.
A3.1.1 Foster local production of goods, including food.
A3.2 Other businesses and co-ops link with WSGC to improve services.
A3.3 Persons of all ages and economic groups view the Co-op as an important resource for their well-being.

Policy A4:

Workers participate in management, work in a humane environment and are recognized and rewarded as being fundamental to a thriving community.
A4.1 Become an employer of choice in Madison, WI

Policy A5:

The Co-op pursues growth and expansion opportunities that meet the long-term needs of its owners and workers.
A5.1 Grow and link neighborhood grocery co-ops.

Policy A6:

Board and management commit to ongoing system improvement.
A6.1 Make healthy, timely decisions.
A6.2 Best operational practices are identified and implemented.
A6.3 There exists a systems approach to sustainability.

These policies statements shall be reviewed at each board meeting, and the GM shall provide a monitoring report in February.

Adopted by action of the Williamson Street Grocery Co-op Board of Directors on October 12, 2002.
Amended by action of the Williamson Street Grocery Co-op Board of Directors on February 8, 2003.
Amended by action of the Williamson Street Grocery Co-op Board of Directors on April 4, 2005.

Introduction to the first Annual Ends Report

The aim of this report is to inform the Board on the progress made in FY13 toward the Ends policies listed above.  This is the first annual report that considers all six A policies as a collective whole.  I hope that this report can begin a conversation on setting operational definitions for FY14 Ends reporting, as well as jump start an Ends Policy review process to better identify key measurables, overarching policy goals, and general suitability of policy language.

Managers from the General Manager’s Team (GMT) each reported on ways their departments are fulfilling WSGC’s Ends policies.  This is a first attempt at collaborating on a report.  I have done my best to weave select concrete metrics with a narrative of progress.  It would be useful for the Board to indicate what measures to track moving forward.  This also marks the first time Co-op staff have indicated Operational Definitions for each of the policy areas stated above.  It would also be useful for Board members to consider each definition and share comments/suggestions for change with Anya and me.

The Willy Street Co-op is a thriving organization poised for expansion and change.  Paying attention to the guidance offered by our Ends policies as we consider how to best continue serving the needs of our Owners is imperative. We appreciate Board feedback on key measurable and operational definitions, which will in turn guide our internal work.

Specific Policy Reports:

Policy A1:

Owners are provided information to make informed choices about food, agricultural practices, environmentally sound practices and the cooperative movement.

  • The OSK has made instrumental progress this year in procuring more products from local growers and these products are identified in the retail delis using information circulated from our buyer to the deli management. This year, regular articles in the reader will also inform the owner base on the vendors used by WSGC Prepared Foods and their methods.
  • West and East staff actively contribute regular feature articles about food and agricultural practices to the Reader.  They are required to take 5 key trainings that instill baseline knowledge about the cooperative movement, natural foods and other relevant topics, which enables them to accurately and helpfully share information with Owners. Additional trainings on “hot topics” are offered throughout the year.
  • The Co-op chooses our packaging according to environmentally informed standards, and we actively participate in conferences and meetings about, offered to, and organized by other cooperatives across the Midwest.
  • FoG (Flow of Goods) maintains Local, Gluten Free, P6 and organic status information in SMS (the Co-op’s point of sale system), which can in turn be accessed for Owners and staff.  This department also maintains ingredient information allowing Owners to avoid ingredients they are opposed to. Additionally, the FoG team provides country of origin labeling for owners.
  • The Co-op provides extensive signage throughout our retail locations to enable Owners to make informed and streamlined choices during their shopping experience.
  • In FY13 the Co-op held 154 community room classes in a variety of topics, including: food preparation, food preservation, city chickens, No Secret to Savings, No Secret to Labeling, Seasonal Eating and Saturdays from Scratch.
  • The Co-op is a partner of the Non-GMO Project, and accordingly provides a list of non-GMO Project verified list of products.
  • Willy West partners with the Middleton Sustainability Committee to offer Green Thursdays on the first Thursday of every month. These events feature screening a film designed to educate attendees about an environmental issue, followed by time for discussion.
  • The Co-op’s annual Farm Tour takes Owners to a variety of WSGC producers to meet the people who grow their food and learn about their farming practices.
  • The Co-op hosted its third Eat Local Challenge in FY13, which highlighted local products throughout the stores, provided recipes and other challenge resources designed to empower Owners to eat more local foods in the month of September.
  • WSGC participates in the P6 cooperative trade movement.  Signage throughout the store identifies products that meet 2+ of the following three criteria: made by small farmers/producers, local, or a non-profit/cooperative. Small farmers/producers are defined using these guidelines: a.) Independently owned and operated, and b.) Selling direct to store or through a local distributor with a regional distribution area. “Local” is defined as a product grown or produced within a 150-mile radius of the Capitol in Wisconsin. “Co-op” is defined by cooperative ownership of the business or non-profit organization that benefits our community (e.g., Troy Farm, Porchlight, Seed Savers).
  • The Co-op continues to offer individual nutrition consultations with Katy Wallace.
  • ON THE HORIZON: Maintaining all of the programs/initiatives/practices listed above. Reinvigorating the Community Room Class offerings to provide semester or trimester curriculums so that Owners who want to participate in certain tracks of food and consumer education may do so in a way that they can achieve deeper and more advanced understanding. Updating materials on the website pertaining to food, agricultural practices, environmentally sound practices and the cooperative movement. Restructuring the Customer Commenting process so that Co-op Services can better track Owner interests and gaps in Owner knowledge and determine how to guide making better informed choices.

Policy A2:

Owners have a sense of Williamson Street Grocery Co-op (WSGC) community and realize the responsibility of ownership.

A2.1 Owners participate in decision-making.

OpDef: Decision-making encompasses major Co-op decisions (Board elections, expansion votes) as well as influencing operational practices/procedures.

  • Managers use direct and written customer comments extensively in shaping their departments’ courses.
  • Board candidate, referendum and t-shirt design voting
  • Solicited feedback about what Willy East remodel project.
  • Owners participate on the following committees that directly impact the direction and operation of WSGC: Community Reinvestment Fund, Sustainability Committee, Task Force 1, Third Site Criteria Selection Committee, Policy Committee, Finance Committee and, of course, the Board of Directors.

A2.2     Promote owner involvement.

OpDef: We understand Owner involvement to mean involvement in the Willy Street Co-op.   This involvement spans decision making, utilization of Co-op facilities, support of community organizations (led/supported by Owners) through Co-op channels, communication with the Co-op through various avenues, and Co-op activities supporting Owners.

  • West staff are engaging Middleton residents to inform them about the community activities we support and inviting them to engage these efforts like the Middleton Outreach Ministry, the local orchestra, community gardens, Green Thursday events sponsored by the city council, and classes from local schools. East uses its indoor and outdoor spaces to provide a comfortable, local and affordable space for community members to congregate.
  • The primary avenue for the OSK to promote owner decision-making and involvement is by answering owner product requests. These occasionally take the form of requests for product additions, which are sometimes possible and sometimes not, but more often take the form of owners’ constructive critical feedback, which is incorporated into OSK process.
  • We have an Owner Survey and comment cards for owner feedback.
  • The 2012 (FY13) Annual Meeting and Party served 3700 owners.
  • The Cooperative Community Volunteer program piloted in FY13.  The program is currently under review.
  • Both the battery recycling program and the bag collection services were instituted at the request of Owners.
  • The “You Own It!” program gives Owners the power to change the product selection within the stores.
  • Owners exceeded the FEED Kitchen in-store fundraising goal, contributing a total of $12,600.
  • ON THE HORIZON: Restructuring the Annual Customer Survey to get Owner feedback that will guide the Co-op’s educational and outreach decision-making.  Discussing more possibilities for increasing use of Owner committees and volunteerism.

A2.3 Celebrate, educate, and promote community.

OpDef: Celebrate- invite Owners to appreciate and enjoy their community, in the Co-op itself and in the neighborhoods/communities around our stores.

Educate- see policy A1.

Promote- Share information about community events and activities, highlight local producers, etc.

  • To promote A2.3, the OSK supplies food and service for the AMM and several other food-related community events, such as Food For Thought, Bike the Barns and the Food and Wine Show.
  • The Community Reinvestment Fund distributed $25,000 to 23 community organizations in FY13.
  • Each year Middleton High School Business Classes host “Reality Day”  where students are exposed to family budgeting skills by participating in the day to day affairs under fictitious names and profiles to see how they manage money. We are the participating Grocery Store and get the chance to discuss how much it costs to feed a family, nutrition, cooking to stretch food dollars, and supporting a local economy with our food dollars.
  • The Co-op stores are now the only retail CHIP donation locations, and almost $1.4m has been raised since the program started.
  • Over $64,000 in donations and sponsorships to local nonprofits in the last 12 months.
  • ON THE HORIZON: Reviewing the donation, sponsorship and outreach programs/offerings so that the Co-op can streamline and maximize its opportunities to celebrate, educate and promote community.  

Policy A3:

WSGC is a cornerstone of a vibrant economically and environmentally sound community.

A3.1 Local farmers, manufacturers and distributors work in partnership with WSGC.

  • The OSK prioritizes the sourcing of locally grown or prepared foods in its production, including numerous local farms such as Harmony Valley, New Century, Sunnyside Farms, Happy Hidden Acres, Organic Valley, Carr Valley Cheese, Sassy Cow Dairy, Country Lane Organics, Morning Star Farms, Ela Orchard and others. The OSK has worked with CWD to foster youth training and employment previously and hopes to again.
  • In addition to our extensive local sales and having supported the Feed drive... and simply having provided (and continuing to provide) outlet to so many small local vendors... we offer discounts on purchases to businesses with accounts with us (pre-order...)
  • The Local Vendor Loan Fund was founded in FY13, and anticipates making its first loans in FY14.
  • Please see the metrics listed in the FY13 Sustainability Report for a complete listing of environmental initiatives of WSGC.
  • Promptly enter invoices on a daily basis to ensure that vendors are paid on time.
  • Work closely with vendors to ensure that we are accurately displaying information related to their product
  • All service suppliers are located within the product departments local geographic range. In addition, most custodial supplies are purchased through local providers.  In addition, the IT Department procurement decisions for services and products prioritizes local businesses and cooperatives.  We have contracts with  local businesses for security/fire detection, telecom services, and web hosting/virtualization.  Our POS vendor, North Country Business Products (NCBP), is 100% employee owned.

A3.1.1 Foster local production of goods.

OpDef: Foster – encourage and support through shared expertise, networking, etc. on personal and community wide levels.

  • Work with small start-up vendors to help them meet industry standard requirements, such as having barcodes on their product and properly formatting of invoices.
  • The Meat and Produce Departments tour their farmer’s facilities and insists on humane practices
  • The Co-op is a financial and operational supporter of the FEED Kitchens project. The Co-op and Owners donated $32,650 to support the opening of FEED Kitchens on Madison’s Northside.
  • ON THE HORIZON: Developing track based classes to teach and promote DIY efforts and, in particular, home food preservation.

A3.2 Other businesses, neighborhood groups and co-ops link with WSGC to improve services.

OpDef: Improve Services- expand or improve offerings through shared knowledge/resources, active promotion through WSGC network, and financial support of local organizations.

  • Provide meeting & kitchen space in our Community Rooms
  • Shared information with other co-ops about our  POS system and operations, both in person on over the phone to our mutual benefit.  
  • Work with a local company to count our inventory at our east and west locations.
  • Director of Comm. participated in NCGA's "Marketing Matters" conference, where communications and member services staff meet to discuss ways we can better serve co-op Owners.
  • WSGC staff and Board members attending 2013 CCMA.
  • Co-op Connections event
  • Anya is seated on the Madison Sustainability Committee, which influences City policy through maintaining and developing sustainable initiatives to be considered by Council.
  • Anya participated in the NCGA (National Cooperative Grocer’s Association) General Assembly and biannual meetings--networking with peer GMs and discussing NCGA regional and national programs and expansion efforts.
  • WSGC hosted Store and Operations Manager meeting in May--15 regional multi-site co-ops participated--providing SM and Ops Managers networking opportunities and resources.
  • ON THE HORIZON: Increased promotion of Co-op and Nonprofit Ownerships at Willy Street Co-op during co-op and nonprofit related outreach events. Streamlined networking and outreach efforts between Co-op Services and Communications. Vendor Loan Fund promotion.

A3.3 Persons of all ages and economic groups view the Co-op as an important resource for their well being.

  • We offer our community rooms for cooking for kids, morning sing along for the pre-school/toddler crowd, Senior citizens come on a local shuttle regularly from a nearby retirement home. The Seniors are frequently accessing our Health and Wellness products.
  • Engage young owners through the Kids in the Kitchen classes and Co-op Kids Corner (in the Reader).
  • In FY13 the Co-op paid $176,476.36 in ACCESS discount to 1026 active ACCESS Owners.
  • ON THE HORIZON: Reviewing Willy Street Co-op’s involvement with food access programs to make sure we are as engaged as possible, revising the in-store listings of shelters and food services available in the community so that customer service can provide information as needed that is up-to-date.

Policy A4:

Workers participate in management, work in a humane environment and are recognized and re-warded as being fundamental to a thriving community.

A4.1 Become an employer of choice in Dane County.

OpDef: Employer of choice encompasses a living wage, health benefits, a supportive and encouraging work environment, and a strong staff culture/community.

  • Staff are continuously encouraged to seek collaborative ways to resolve problems and compassionately treat each other. Classes are taught to encourage good communication and emotional well being.
  • This year, the OSK re-budgeted labor in consideration of staff feedback that workloads needed lightening. Team meetings are ongoing forums for staff to share feedback on the challenges of the workplace and improvements they see opportunities for. An initiative was launched in this last quarter to improve training and staff-management communication after a series of interviews with the staff on morale and staff-management rapport.
  • Improve employee access to pay advances (online w/clear repayment options)
  • All departments have representation on the Co-op’s Employee Council.
  • Staff members have the option to add agenda items to monthly team meetings.
  • Personalized lighting in office space to meet specific needs of staff and have implemented document holders to make working with paperwork a little easier.
  • Monthly team meetings are held in addition to weekly to daily check-ins when desired
  • Plan trainings for staff enrichment and on-going skill development
  • Understanding of personal concerns by allowing time off  for staff and schedule flexibility when needed. This is often not the cases in many other businesses.
  • FoG and other departments provide growth opportunities for entry level staff.  
  • Work closely with HR to ensure Jobs description reflect the work that is actually being done.
  • Hiring committees made up of multiple staff for high-level positions
  • Each year the Co-op hosts a staff party and a staff picnic.
  • In September of 2012, the Co-op awarded a FY12 profit share of $140,000 to staff.
  • All Worker meetings on staff survey results 7/12 and east remodel
  • CPAC changes implemented – staff committee, staff input on results and changes made to final result based on staff input.
  • Staff surveys – store annual plan, eval redo project, staff engagement
  • Exit interviews are conducted and reviewed by HR and management.
  • 360 evals, including a self-evaluation
  • Feedback forms
  • Staff can create trainings
  • The Eggie Buzz fosters greater communication in the workplace.
  • Staff at multiple levels participate in budget planning.
  • Process for employees who disagree with their regularly scheduled hours
  • Staff position on investment committee
  • Started SM/HR meeting to review workers comp injuries and make adjustments as needed
  • Leaves of absence for those not eligible for or who have exhausted federal leaves
  • Ergonomic assessments and adjustments
  • Internal trainings on safety, respect in the workplace, motivate, manage and lead, mental wellness, hearing loss, communication, dealing with difficult personalities, expressing anger dos and don’ts, conflict management styles, emotional intelligence and ergonomics
  • Mediations for staff having interpersonal problems
  • Started bike transportation benefit in addition to pre-standing transportation, FSA and dependent care benefits
  • Time and a half on holidays
  • Take your Kids to Work Day
  • Exceed Dane county living wage
  • 401(k) match
  • Crafted light duty policy/procedure for injured workers
  • Loan and pay advance benefits
  • Recognize domestic partners for insurance
  • 10 year recognition
  • Merit raises

Policy A5:

WSGC supports and promotes the cooperative business model.

A5.1 The Co-op pursues growth and expansion opportunities that meet the long-term needs of our owners and workers.

  • Pursuing the remodel of Willy East
  • Pursuing the possibilities for a third Willy Street Co-op location
  • The IT Team has also strongly supported the efforts toward growth and expansion opportunities by implementing scalable, sustainable solutions at every opportunity.

A5.2 The Co-op works to grow and link regional cooperatives.

  • Promotion of other Wisconsin grocery co-ops in newsletter and social media
  • The IT Department strongly supports other grocery co-ops.  James, the IT Manager, spends a great deal of time fielding phone calls and emails from grocery co-ops that have technology-related questions.  We have hosted three grocery co-ops in the past year who were interested in upgrading their POS systems, and improving their operations related to their supply chains.  If anything, this support will increase over the next 1-5 years as more grocery co-ops recognize the value of technology in supporting their needs, and as they also are pushed by the payment industry to make their POS systems compliant with data security standards (PCI-DSS).
  • OSK management staff have attended NCGA conferences for the past 4 years to network with and learn from leaders in coops nationwide, including assisting in presenting on commissary HACCP plans and operations in the last two conferences. WSGC staff, including OSK, routinely visit peers to compare practices and identify common issues and solutions to problems.
  • Investment in Pine River Grocery Co-op as they transitioned from a conventional to a cooperative grocery retailer.
  • Mailing to owners in Baraboo area in support of Baraboo Co-op.
  • Help out with store opening shelves set/merchandising at the People’s Food Co-op in Rochester, MN and Blooming Foods in Bloomington, Indiana.
  • Providing advice to Seward Food Co-op regarding the opening of a second location.
  • WSGC staff conducted a two-day training opportunity to share operations/systems with staff from Neighborhood Food Co-op (Carbondale IL)
  • ON THE HORIZON: Continued involvement with Summit Credit Union’s Co-op Connection and other cooperative business/grocer/vendor networking events, finding ways to promote Owners shopping local and cooperatively while traveling to other communities.

Policy A6:

Board and management commit to ongoing system improvement.

A6.1 Make healthy, timely decisions.

OpDef: Healthy- good for the long and short term health of the organization.

  • Structure changes to create more effective decision making and working conditions throughout the Co-op began being staged in during FY13 and will continue to be implemented in FY14.
  • The OSK has made forward progress this year in timely and proactive hiring of staff (see above note on budget adjustment), striving to calibrate efficient performance with good coverage for routine activity and seasonal personnel shortages.

A6.2 Best operational practices are identified and implemented.

  • The OSK participates in a composting program which results in a near-zero green waste scenario for the kitchen. OSK management is engaged in a continuous process of re-examining the work process and physical plant setup to result in the highest quality work environment for workers and product alike.
  • Evaluation for Contractors and Service Providers documented and shared annually with these venders
  • FoG consistently ensures that recalls are handled promptly and appropriately.
  • Outsourced FSA/HRA administration
  • In FY13 the Co-op moved to an updated version of Issue Tracker, an excellent system to assign, track and document decisions/tasks.
  • The content and format of the New Hire Orientation has been standardized.
  • West has pioneered more efficient stocking practices,  a high degree of cross-training,  a meat-deli department collaboration to minimize loss, dolphin use at inventory time process improvements,  and of course, open book practices.
  • Trouble shooting documentation has been developed and posted for all business critical equipment and services.
  • Attendance at Marketing Matters, CCMA and other national cooperative events.
  • Participation in NCGA seminars/webinars
  • The IT Department invests heavily in assisting the organization identify and implement best operational practices at all levels. 
  • IT oversees the POS Work Group, a cross-departmental team that meets on a monthly basis.  Requests for additions and changes to the POS are scoped out and prioritized by this team; in this regard, the 'end users' are determining the priorities, and IT works with that framework to manage resources and deliver results.
  • IT assesses and provides critical analysis of business practices to determine if, for example, a new system is required to meet a need or perhaps a change to an operational practice would have a higher return on investment.
  • Implementation of any new operational practice requires change management to ensure a quality outcome.  Change management practices are deeply integrated into every action of the IT Department, whether it's in regards to a specific end user help desk call, or at the strategic/project level.
  • Businesses need to be flexible and responsive to rapidly changing circumstances; this is exponentially true for technology.  The IT Department staff understands the specialty grocery retail industry, as well as the wider operating environment of supermarkets.  We do our best to ensure that our work contributes to Willy Street's viability and adds value to our internal and external customers.  The IT Team is clear about our values, direction, and our goals.  We set both short- and long-term objectives in concert with staff and management.  We base decision where possible on research; we live by facts and data.  Our processes are continually standardized, structured and documented, and we strive to provide a shining example for the entire organization.  We network within the industry and identify emerging trends; an example is our project to implement Google Apps for Business, and add mobile devices.  Last, we enjoy what we do, and foster a creative work environment.  One example is the 'bus stop kiosk' computer implemented at the 1221 Williamson site, which used an innovative and inexpensive approach to deliver an owner-requested service.  Finding the right combination of consistent improvement and innovations is a key factor in sustainability.

A6.3 There exists a systems approach to sustainability.

OpDef: Sustainability is understood to mean environmental sustainability, not management continuity (as it has been in the past).