Maximizing Investment in (and from) the Community
The Mariposa Food Co-op Story
Money spent at local businesses circulates through local economies more than money spent at non-local businesses. As such, local businesses are the engine of a resilient local economy. They also have a better track record of making the positive social and environmental decisions that impact our communities.
However, it is not always as easy to reconcile the more impactful choice with the easy choice. Our busy schedules sometimes make momentary convenience outweigh long term future impacts, especially when we have entire superstores nearby that carry nearly every item possible and Amazon who will you deliver to you at an almost creepy speed.
At least this is the narrative, but just because Target is open late and has everything you need (and don’t need) does not mean that shopping at big box stores is really that much more convenient. Plus, most times, shopping at large non-local franchises requires getting in a car (and in most cases, having a car).
Luckily, for those that want shop with their values and close to home, Mariposa Food Co-op, conveniently located on Baltimore Avenue, has been serving West Philadelphia residents since the 1970s.
Not only is the store a hub of convenience for more conscious shoppers, but as a cooperative business, Mariposa is able to return surplus revenue back into the store and surrounding community. In addition to ensuring low prices, the business also stresses sustainability through sourcing 100% local and renewable energy from fellow SBN member The Energy Co-Op, composting their food waste, and recycling.
“While Mariposa’s main function is operating a retail grocery store, we value environmental sustainability and community health when making organizational decisions.”
We spoke with the folks at Mariposa Co-op to learn how they are changing the local shopping environment. We were eager to learn how their cooperative business model provides them with the ability to measure success on a triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit.
Please share a victory story: What is a recent challenge that you have overcome, and how did you do it?
In August, Mariposa Food Co-op increased its new entry level starting wage to $13 per hour, the highest starting wage among Philadelphia area grocery stores.
As a model for good jobs in the Philadelphia area, Mariposa Food Co-op is excited to become a leader in the retail industry at a time when workers’ rights are threatened by the expansion of large corporations. Lower prices too often come at the expense of worker compensation, including livable wages; affordable and accessible health benefits; and scheduling and hiring practices.
Mariposa Food Co-op operates as a democratic workplace in which employees are empowered to contribute to organizational decisions by serving on staff-elected committees and voting on internal practices. Over the last year, Mariposa’s leadership team and personnel committee examined the Co-op’s financial state and compensation practices. A unanimous decision was passed in August 2017 to significantly increase the starting wage in order to uphold the values of the Co-op.
What role does your community play in the success of your business?
Originally founded as a buying club in 1971, Mariposa exists out of the community’s need for fresh, healthy and affordable foods. As a consumer-owned food co-op, all community members are welcome to own a share of the Co-op by investing equity. While our storefront is open to the public, ownership is a voluntary means of engaging with the Co-op and our community. Owners have a voice in business decisions and elect a Board of Delegates to oversee the management team and represent the voice of our owner base. To ensure ownership is accessible to all community members, Mariposa subsidizes equity for low-income shoppers through our Owner Fund program and recently introduced the Food For All 10% daily discount to further support these community members.
Can you walk us through one of your triple bottom line practices and the impact it has had on your business?
While Mariposa’s main function is operating a retail grocery store, we value environmental sustainability and community health when making organizational decisions. The Co-op sources 100% local and renewable electricity through the Energy Co-op, composts 100 gallons of food waste and recycles 300 gallons of paper, plastic, glass and metals per week.
Mariposa chooses a hyper-local approach to hiring whenever possible to ensure maximum investment in and from our immediate community.
The starting wage for Mariposa employees is $13/hour. (Philly’s living wage $12.17.) Additionally, Mariposa invests in the health and general well-being of its employees by offering all employees who are scheduled for at least 25 hours per week free medical insurance, extremely affordable dental insurance, short term disability insurance, vision insurance, and paid time off. This year, we also made a big step towards becoming a family-friendly employer by decreasing the cost for employees who add their dependents under age 26 to our company insurance plans.
What is one thing that most people do not know about your business that you would like them to know?
Mariposa Food Co-op operates as a democratic workplace in which employees are empowered to contribute to organizational decisions by serving on staff-elected committees and voting on internal practices. The Co-op has six committees which can be composed of staff in any department and any position. Each committee is responsible for making decisions and proposing policies to management.
Click here to learn more about Mariposa Food Co-op and explore SBN’s directory of local independent businesses at the online Sustainable Business Directory.