P6 Program: Highlighting our values

Bloomingfoods staffers are getting excited about our latest project, a collaboration we’re working on with Equal Exchange and five other forward-thinking co-ops nationwide to develop a program called “Principle 6: The Cooperative Trade Movement,” or “P6.” Like the Organic and Fair Trade symbols, we hope that the P6 label will be a cue to our shoppers that these are products worth choosing because they are produced in a way that reflects ethical and environmental values.

P6 products will be those that fill any two of these three criteria:

  • produced by co-ops or non-profit businesses
  • grown by small farmers or made by small-scale producers
  • are local

Why is this effort called P6?

Bloomingfoods adheres to the Seven Cooperative Principles established by the International Cooperative Alliance in 1995. The sixth of these is “Cooperation among Co-ops.” Equal Exchange is a co-op that pioneered the fair trade movement, based on a need they saw to help exploited farmworkers in developing countries by paying them a fair price for their products. Their practices have made a huge difference in the lives of many growers, and have had a big influence on how consumers think about where their food comes from.

Because Equal Exchange owes much of their success to retail co-ops like ours, they wanted to work with us to develop a movement similar to Fair Trade that will benefit growers and producers who share our values, while continuing to educate our shoppers about the economic, social and environmental impact of their food choices.

Joining Equal Exchange in the P6 initiative are Bloomingfoods, the Davis Food Co-op (Davis, California), Community Mercantile Cooperative (Lawrence, Kansas), Willy Street Co-op (Madison, Wisconsin), Seward Co-op Grocery & Deli (Minneapolis, Minnesota), and Brattleboro Food Co-op (Brattleboro, Vermont) – all partners in developing and implementing the P6 concept.

When can we see P6 in action?

Our plan is to roll out the P6 program beginning this month. The goal of P6 will be to educate and invite shoppers to continue to think about where their food comes from and how it’s produced, while providing kind of a co-op “seal of approval” for products that are in line with our core values.

As more and more mega-corporations get wise to the growing popularity of local, sustainable, and ethically produced foods, they look for ways to commodify and exploit these terms with only a minimal understanding of or commitment to their real underlying values.
P6 will be a way for co-ops to market and promote the little guys (and gals) who really are walking the talk for ethical and sustainable production – in such a way that, we hope, will allow them to compete with those large-scale agribusiness and plantation products that are fair trade in name only.