Principle Six (P6)

What is P6?
P6 is a unique national labeling program that you'll only find in certain grocery co-operatives like Seward Co-op. Just as you own our store, our store is an owner of P6. The P6 label promotes small farmers/producers, co-operative business up and down the supply chain, and local farmers/producers.

If you'd like to meet some of the farmers, co-ops, and other stakeholders in the P6 program nationally, this video by James Beard Award-winning producers of Perennial Plate Daniel Klein and Mirra Fine is an excellent introduction.

(Video: Principle 6 Cooperative Trade Movement from Principle Six on Vimeo.)

You can also learn more at p6.coop.

Why was P6 created?

In 2009, Seward Co-op began discussions with Equal Exchange and five other natural food co-ops nationwide about about promoting products that exemplify our common, highest ideals. The goal was to increase market access for small farmers and co-ops, build co-operative supply chains, and ultimately change the food system for the better.

The labeling program itself was launched in 2010, and since then, you've seen how dedicated Seward Co-op has become to P6. Our fellow participating members are equally dedicated, and they now include:

Viroqua Food Co-op, Viroqua WI
Three Rivers Market, Knoxville TN
○ Seward Community Co-op, Minneapolis MN
Ozark Natural Foods, Fayetteville AR
Maple Valley, Cashton WI
Equal Exchange, West Bridgewater MA
Eastside Food Co-op, Minneapolis MN
Bloomingfoods, Bloomington IN


What are the criteria for the P6 label?

A company needs to meet one of these three criteria to receive the P6 label:

• Local
• Cooperative
• Small farmer/producer

Local defines a product grown or produced in the five-state region around the given co-op, or having value added in that region (see Seward Co-op’s definition of local below).

Co-op is defined by cooperative ownership of the business or nonprofit status.

Small producer
is defined using these guidelines: a) Independently owned and operated, and b) Selling direct to store(s) or through a local distributor with a regional distribution area. Equal Exchange defines small producers according to the guidelines established by the Fairtrade Labelling Organization for those international producers organized in co-operatives.

Again, you will only find the P6 label in participating natural foods co-ops.

How can I tell which products are P6?
Look for P6 labels on the shelf and ask Seward Co-op staff about which criteria the products meet.

Why should I buy P6 products?
The dollars spent on P6 purchases support the farmers/producers who contribute to an economy in alignment with Seward Co-op's values.

Which should I buy: local, organic or P6?
Seward Co-op still values local and organic, but P6 will help tell the story of what co-ops do well and what differentiates us from other stores. P6 products are a culmination of our values; one can be assured they embody the highest criteria.

What does it mean if a particular item is not labeled P6?
It does not meet two or more of the criteria for the P6 program.

What happened to all of the “local” products?
We remain fully committed to local farmers and producers, many of whom are P6. Look for the blue local shelf tags, as you always have, for non-P6 local items. Local is merely one piece of the equation; geography alone doesn't create the kind of economy P6 strives for.

What is Seward Co-op’s definition of local?
At Seward Co-op, products are considered local if:
• They are grown or produced in the five-state region (MN, WI, IA, ND, SD);
• Some level of production (beyond repackaging) takes place locally. For example, a local coffee roaster is considered local. Although the raw product is not grown here, the coffee is roasted and packaged in the area, supporting local business.

How can I tell if a P6 item is local?
In many cases, P6 will replace the local label because a significant majority of P6 items are local. Equal Exchange products are obvious exceptions.

Where can I get P6 products?
At the above-mentioned retail co-ops!

What does the name "P6" mean?
The name P6 comes from the 6th principle of cooperation, which is Cooperation Among Cooperatives, and that's a key aspect of why Seward Co-op values P6 so highly. We hope that Seward's co-operation with the other co-op members of P6 inspires you to support your co-op, your area producers, and the equitable relationships embodied in a co-op supply chain.

The complete list of seven principles was originally created by the International Co-operative Alliance in 1895, and they are:

1. Voluntary and Open Membership

Co-operatives are voluntary organisations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.

2. Democratic Member Control

Co-operatives are democratic organisations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary co-operatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and co-operatives at other levels are also organised in a democratic manner.

3. Member Economic Participation

Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-operative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the co-operative. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing their co-operative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the co-operative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.

4. Autonomy and Independence

Co-operatives are autonomous, self-help organisations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organisations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their co-operative autonomy.

5. Education, Training and Information

Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They inform the general public - particularly young people and opinion leaders - about the nature and benefits of co-operation.

6. Co-operation among Co-operatives

Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.

7. Concern for Community

Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.