Reporting on Community: Is there a Co-op Difference? (Researching Sustainability Reporting: An approach to comparing co-operative and investor owned corporations in the retail food sector)

This research overview and three accompanying presentations give background on, discuss methodology of, and present preliminary findings of a content analysis of the non-financial aspects of publicly available financial and social reports produced by retail food co-operatives and investor-owned corporations. (Other terms for social reporting include sustainability reporting, social auditing, social responsibility reporting, triple bottom line reporting). For co-operatives that undertake non-financial reporting, the researchers investigate how they report on a key principle of co-operation, “Concern for Community,” by looking at what is measured and how, their reasons for measuring such performance and whether co-operatives report similar measures or not. Next, recognizing co-operatives’ claims to be different from investor-owned corporations (ICA 2012), the authors compare the measures reported by the two groups. The co-operative principle, “Concern for Community,” suggests that what a co-operative measures and reports with respect to its relationship with its community may be different; but is it? This research contributes to the literature on non-financial measurement and reporting (GRI, 2008; KPMG, 2013; Chen and Bouvain, 2009; and Mejri and Wolf, 2012) and implementing the “co-operative difference” (EuroCoop, 2008).