Cooperatives have always been socially-conscious business models. Established with the members’ capital and hard work, cooperatives exist for their owners and, in most cases, their communities. Whether a retail food co-op like Oryana or an electrical service like Cherryland Electric Cooperative or even a credit union like TBA, co-ops strive to fulfill the Cooperative Principles which include, among others, open membership, democratic control, and concern for community – in short, as we say at Oryana, People, Planet, Purpose, before Profit.
The above explains why Oryana took such a public stance for racial and social justice in 2020 and 2021. This stance was not new. The bottom line is that cooperatives do not discriminate against potential members, shoppers, or staff based on their social, racial, political, religious, or gender identities. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is core to cooperatives.
Oryana has for its history worked to be an open and inclusive retailer and employer. Everyone is welcome at the co-op and we have long had a comprehensive equal opportunity policy that was one of the first in the region to include sexual orientation, gender identity, and political beliefs in the policy.
The importance of moving further down the path of a truly fair and equitable society where all are included and supported has challenged Oryana to learn more, teach more, and support more to help break down systemic causes of inequity. Oryana believes DEI work has to be thoughtful and intentional. While we realize we have lots yet to do, Oryana, the staff, Leadership and Board have been engaging in the lifelong work of being more equitable people and grocers. Here’s where we have made progress:
- Through our partnership with National Cooperative Grocers our Leadership team is taking the following courses through TMI Academy: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion 101, Unconscious Bias 101, LGBTQIA+ 101, Allyship 101.
- In 2016/2017 we worked with a number of local organizations – Crosshatch, Groundwork, Neahtawanta, Up North Pride, and others – to bring ERACCE (Eliminating Racism & Creating/Celebrating Equity) to the area and facilitate a workshop on DEI.
- In 2018 we removed gendered language from our employee handbook.
- Oryana for staff includes statements in our Staff Handbook related to our Expectations for staff related to Embracing Diversity and Individuality and our Board has placed in our ENDS statements (our high level values) Community – Because of Oryana, ecologically regenerative and socially just community development efforts are nourished and supported.
- In 2020 we rolled out pronoun pins that staff can wear.
- We support and collaborate with those in our region doing this work so well (Title Track, E3, Up North Pride) and participate in meetings, trainings, and collaborations with these organizations and others such as Traverse Connect, the Community Foundation, our DDA, City and County. Staff serve as members of Traverse Connect DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Belonging) Committee and the UpNorthPride Staffing Committee.
- We have also collaborated with our group of Great Lakes Cooperatives to provide support for a startup co-op. The Detroit People’s Food Co-op is an African American led, community-owned, grocery cooperative.
- Through our national co-op of grocery co-ops (NCG) and many other cooperative organizations Oryana helps support work to increase diversity of suppliers, education, and fair food access.
- One of the 2022 recipients of our micro-loan program is Berryman Farm, an Indigenous owned farm.
- Inclusive trade is an area that is new and growing – Oryana and NCG co-ops are committed to doing our part to create a more just society by cultivating partnerships with businesses owned by people who identify as women, Black, Indigenous, People of Color, LGBTQIA+, persons with disabilities, and veterans.
- The Oryana Community Room at West will have a teaching kitchen and meeting area that is designed to be accessible for those more accessible for individuals with physical disabilities.
Oryana’s focus on DEI is both part of our inclusive cooperative DNA and our commitment to this work as constant improvement; it is imbedded in the Oryana Business Plan for years to come. We have committed to continue learning and becoming better leaders to the team and, even better, advocates in our community to assure Oryana is welcoming and accessible to all.