They chose to spell ‘nouricia’ in lower case letters as a sign of humility. Management explains that service to its members is the cooperative’s raison d’être, it therefore seemed appropriate to use only lower case letters to clearly establish the cooperative’s intended approach to serve its member-owners. Nice touch! Managers stated proudly: our company is one of six French agricultural cooperatives being used in a pilot project to grade the approach to sustainable development of the Coop de France, the federation of French agricultural cooperatives, and it’s the first to have produced is sustainable development report. Welcome to nouricia, located in Troyes, France.
The property of some 2,000 members, the nouricia cooperative generates sales of CAN$391 million by marketing its members’ harvests. It is also associated under the appellation “groupe nouricia” along with other specialized entities from related fields such as farm procurement, viticulture and the animal feed trade. Why choose to be a pilot-project in terms of sustainable development? Management is convinced that sustainable development represents leverage for creating value and provides a unique opportunity to further evolve the agricultural practices of member-users. And this seems to be a strong motivational factor.
They went on to explain their approach in detail. First, they established a perimeter for action. Which entity would the source of deployment for this approach: the nouricia cooperative or groupe nouricia? They opted for the cooperative. The choice seemed obvious since they believe that the cooperative status affords it even greater responsibility in terms of sustainable development. In fact, the seventh principle of cooperation clearly states that cooperatives contribute to the sustainable development of communities.
As I was saying: once the perimeter was defined, they identified the cooperative’s interested parties and invited them to an open and frank discussion, where key issues were considered. Each party candidly expressed its point of view, in complete respect of others. Therefore, everyone was able to share with nouricia their concerns and expectations of the cooperative’s activities and of its agricultural members. This helped to establish trust for all concerned. “These meetings changed how people perceived nouricia,” stated one of the managers. This conversation with interested parties was used to determine the raw material for nouricia’s sustainable development indicators, which were immediately included into management’s strategic plan. One more mission? Not at all! They believe that sustainable development “is not an additional mission, but an expanded vision for our chosen field of work.”
As a cooperative, nouricia put forward an interesting social report; furthermore, its efforts were focused mostly on environmental aspects. The cooperative instituted the “club nouriciagrosol.” This club allows interested farmers to seek an eco-diagnosis of their installations, to initiate soil conservation trials, to take part in on-site visits and share their experiences and much, much more. Interesting fact: nouriciagrosol’s projects are open to all interested parties once a year. Technicians, students and other partners are all welcome.
And finally, after identifying relevant indicators and implementing improvement strategies, nouricia had its sustainable development performance assessed by an independent expert specialized in this field, BMJ Ratings, a recognized grading agency. The result: they were granted an A, where the minimum grade is DDD in the scale and the maximum grade is AAA. Not so bad, but the grade is applicable for one year only. Nonetheless: meeting with these passionate people leaves no doubt as to their capacity to meet the challenge.