It’s Not Easy Being Green
November-December 2004
By proclaiming high and low the virtues of buying locally, I’ve become a target of choice for my colleagues who take particular pleasure in scrutinizing my buying habits. For years now, my lunch box has generally contained some Oasis juice and a Yoplait yogurt. They represent solid values. On occasion, I may succumb to temptation and try new flavours. In fact, just the other day, I found an intruder in my lunch box: a Dole mango juice. Imagine that! You should have seen my friend Nicolas literally leap to conclusions: “Ah ha! You’re supporting Senator Dole?”

As if this wasn’t enough, a few days later, my friend Guylaine joined the posse. In a gesture of kindness and generosity, I offered her a lift! Then, all of a sudden, I didn’t feel so good. There she was, with my box of tissues in her hands, searching for something that would betray me – I had often said that we should support Métro, the last Mohican of our food distribution industry. “Ah, ha! She triumphantly declared, you’ve been shopping at Loblaws?” Darn! Did I set my standards too high? All of a sudden, I feel like a cooperative administrator who’s been caught red-handed in a Canadian Tire store: the situation makes me uncomfortable, yet, just like the administrator, I am (usually) loyal to my convictions.

Seeking faultless constancy between values and actions is a daunting challenge. The business community, which is increasingly interested in corporate social liability, has just begun to realize the extent of this challenge. Having recently had the opportunity to attend a huge forum on social responsibility, I tried to imagine what a company like our own, for example, must do to become fully accountable. We certainly present a pretty good road sheet and respond rather well to the various requirements of corporate governance, human resources and community involvement, but some business models, such as Cirque du Soleil or Mountain Equipment Co-op, have raised the bar in terms of environmental responsibility. Thus, to be among the leaders, we should aim for ISO 14001 Certification, make sure that our suppliers are good citizens, seek complete energy and ecological efficiency in our buildings, measure our greenhouse gases, etc. An immense challenge – and an even bigger tab! Plus, a complete review of our processes to ensure absolute consistency. Nothing less than a paradigm shift.

Yet, respect for the environment has created fantastic opportunities for companies to distinguish themselves. It’s undoubtedly become an added value. It’s good for the consumer, good for the company and good for our planet. Obviously, this is the direction to take. And this is especially true as we plead allegiance to cooperation: sustainable development is, after all, our motto! We need to commit ourselves, one step at a time, and develop a long term plan of action while maintaining the delicate balance between economic activities and environmental accountability. Because, as we know, they’re interconnected: if a turning point becomes costly and compromises a company’s financial health, then that one step toward environmental responsibility is transformed into a reflection of mismanagement. Wouldn’t it then be said that administrators had neglected their responsibilities as trustees?

In the end, isn’t true merit found in the efforts put forward? A wise person once said “It’s not where you’re going that’s important, but how you get there”. Thus, the importance of measuring and reporting, on a regular basis and with accurate indicators, the progress, that we as an agricultural cooperative network, have made. It’s only by evaluating the path taken that we can truly give evidence of the sincere and tangible commitment of our movement.
 

Colette Lebel, agr.
Director of Cooperative Affairs
La Coop fédérée
Email: colette.lebel@lacoop.coop
Fax: (514) 858-2025
 



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