All cooperatives, from credit unions to
babysitting co-ops to the one that provides your electric service, are
governed by seven principles. They are: Voluntary and open membership.
Democratic member control. Economic participation by the members. Autonomy
and independence as a member-owned business. Cooperation with other
cooperatives. These first five principles show HOW cooperatives operate.
The next two show WHY cooperatives are
truly different from other forms of business. One is: Keeping the members
informed about their business. From this one you can see that it’s not
just a smart business decision for an electric cooperative to keep its
member-owners informed; it’s a necessary business decision.
And the seventh cooperative principle is
concern for community. This one embodies the very heart of an electric
cooperative, because a cooperative is, first and foremost, a truly local
business. After all, the customers own the business. These customer-owners
(we usually call them member-owners) live and work in the same community
where the cooperative’s employees live and work. The cooperative’s board
of directors is made up of folks who also live in the same community and are
themselves members of the cooperative, elected by fellow members to this
Thus, the cooperative principle
“concern for community” is as natural to a cooperative as concern for
family because, in the end, they’re
all part and parcel of caring about the place where you live and the
neighbors who live beside you.
So, in an age when being “green” is
as much a political statement as an environmental one, it seems almost too
obvious to note that cooperatives have always been concerned about the
health and well-being of the communities where their employees, board
members and member-owners all live. And — perhaps at least in part because
electric cooperatives were started by rural people, many of them farmers —
being good stewards of the land has always been an integral part of who
In the end, electric cooperatives have
always tried to maintain a healthy balance between three critically
important missions: To provide you with electric service that is as reliable
as possible, at the lowest cost possible, and in a way that is as
environmentally responsible as possible.
Reliability comes in large measure from
the fact that cooperative employees are local, living in the community and
able and eager to keep the lights on as much as possible. Holding down costs
comes from the fact that the cooperative is not-for-profit, providing
service at cost to its member-owners. And environmental responsibility comes
from the fact that a cooperative’s employees and board members and
member-owners are all part of the fabric of the same community, and in
looking out for your neighbor you end up looking out for yourself.
Electric cooperatives have a long
history of involvement in demand-side management programs, in which water
heaters, air conditioners or heat pumps are managed during times of peak
electric demand. Home and business energy audits, along with regular
articles in Cooperative Living magazine on conservation and energy
efficiency, have also been long-time staples of
’s 13 local electric cooperatives.
But more needs to, and will, be done, as
part of fulfilling our obligation to keep you, the members, informed about
energy topics and how they impact your business and life. As part of an
expanded effort to cover these topics in more depth, we began last month and
will continue each issue to publish a feature story on a timely energy topic
in the existing Co-op Currents section. Also in the January issue, we began
a recurring column that you’ll see in every issue called The Green Scene,
which will provide short tips on ways to better manage or reduce energy
usage around your home, at work, or while traveling.
Please give us your feedback on these
features and columns, and please give us suggestions as well for future
topics to cover.
Because, after all, being part of The
Green Scene is something that can and should benefit all members of our
electric cooperative community, and communities, states and nations even
farther from home.