‘Concern for community’ is more
than a catch-phrase to electric cooperatives. It’s what happens naturally
when a business serves local folks, employs local folks and elects local
folks to its board of directors.
No matter what product or service you need, chances are
there’s a cooperative business that offers it. Cooperatives have been formed
to provide banking services, hardware and groceries, babysitting and
housing, and much more as well.
And, of course, there’s the electric service you and your
neighbors receive at your homes and businesses.
But while what they provide varies widely, who owns them
is the same from cooperative to cooperative: Co-ops are owned by those they
So, as someone receiving electric service from a
cooperative, you’re a member-owner of your utility.
In addition to ownership by the members they serve,
cooperatives also share a commitment to seven principles, articulated almost
200 years ago by a group of weavers in England. Open membership. Democratic
control. Economic participation by members. Independence. Cooperation among
cooperatives. Keeping members informed.
And the seventh one: concern for community.
This last principle embodies the very heart of the
cooperative business model, because first and foremost, a cooperative is a
local business. The members own the business. The co-op’s employees work
(and generally live) in the same community as the members they serve. And
the members of the cooperative’s board of directors are themselves co-op
members, elected by their neighbors.
So concern for community is as natural to a cooperative
as concern for home or family, because it’s all just part of caring about
the place where you live and the neighbors who live beside you.
And 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 our employees, board members and member-owners live.
Perhaps at least in part because electric cooperatives
were started by farmers and other rural people, being good stewards of the
land is not merely what cooperatives do, it’s who cooperatives are.
Electric cooperatives have always worked hard to balance
and fulfill three important missions: To provide reliable electric service,
at the lowest possible cost, in an environmentally responsible way.
Providing reliable service is an outgrowth of having
employees living in the same community as the members they serve.
Providing the lowest possible
cost is an outgrowth of the not-for-profit cooperative business structure,
which also includes returning any margins to our members when financial
Providing environmentally responsible electric service is
an outgrowth of our presence in the communities we serve. We were formed by
local people to provide electric service in the 1930s and ’40s. We’ve been
part of the communities we serve ever since. We’ll remain part of these
communities. The future of the communities we serve becomes our future.
So, in the end, looking out for your neighbor means
you’re also looking out for your own family as well.
Electric cooperatives have a long history of deep
involvement in energy efficiency and conservation programs, and in keeping
our members informed about ways to use electricity wisely. Home and business
energy audits, and regular articles in Cooperative Living magazine, have
long been staples of Virginia’s 13 local electric cooperatives.
We’re always looking for
additional ways to help our member-owners manage their electricity usage.
It’s part of our ongoing effort to keep you informed about your business.
So, if there’s an energy topic you’d like to see us cover in a future issue
of Cooperative Living, please let us know.
The benefits of growing, making, buying and using local
products have rightly been celebrated a lot in recent years. We’re proud to
be an old part of this growing new movement.