The member poll to determine whether the Blue Mountains Food Co-op will sell meat has resulted in a 72% “yes” vote.
Board Chairperson, Georgia Page, said that the decision whether to sell meat at the Co-op has been the single most complex decision the Board has had to navigate in the 10 years that she has been a director. “The decision-making process has taken a significant amount of time because of the Board’s desire to address the question methodically, to consult openly with members and come to a grounded decision,” Georgia said.
The poll, which asked members to respond with a “yes” or “no” answer to the following question was emailed or posted to 2503 members (6 members were unable to be contacted): “In principle do you support the Co-op selling responsibly sourced meat and other animal products eg: bone broth, tinned fish?”
Of the 776 members who responded, which was 31% of the total membership, 72% voted “yes” and 28% voted “no”. Following the membership poll, the Board met to discuss the results and come to a conclusion prior to the Annual General Meeting on 14 November where the survey result and the Board’s determination was announced. Comments that many members provided in the poll were collated and considered alongside the numerical vote.
“Although the membership poll returned a significant majority in favour of the Co-op selling meat, directors were still torn about how to finalise the decision,” Georgia said. “The biggest concern in making the decision to go ahead with selling meat for most (not all) directors was the environmental impact of meat production.”
Consequently, the Board has decided that the Co-op will only sell meat raised using regenerative farming practices. “We would like to build relationships with small scale farmers who demonstrate a commitment to increasing soil biodiversity, enhancing its water holding capacity and sequestering carbon,” Georgia explained. “While we support the move towards less meat consumption and adopting a plant-rich diet, we also recognise that people will continue to eat meat for a variety of reasons,” she said. “We want to be able to offer a more responsible product than is currently available in local supermarkets and butchers and are confident that meat grown using regenerative practices is the best way to meet our members’ needs and satisfy our responsibility for the impact of our behaviour on the environment.”
Georgia also addressed concerns from a small number of members who suggested via the poll that the Board had an agenda, or that the outcome of this process was a foregone conclusion. “The Board comprises a collection of individuals with varying positions on this question. We have clearly checked for any conflict of interest in this process and the process would not have taken nearly so long if we had a predetermined outcome in mind.”
The when and how of the Co-op’s meat sales are yet to be determined but given the drought in New South Wales it is not necessarily something that will be happening in the short term, Georgia added.
We received quite a few comments from members who participated in the poll, some of which contained multiple points. The comments were collated and categorised for the Board to consider. Here are the most common “yes and “no” vote comments.
The cost of postage to distribute the meat poll via Australia Post to members without an email address was $789.
In 2019 there is only one Board position available and one nominee.
Until 2018 Lou was an independent adviser on environmental, social and community investment, sustainable finance and philanthropy – most recently for Bendigo Bank and the Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network.
She was the Group Executive Director of the Responsible Investment Association Australasia (RIAA) for 11 years until the end of 2012 when she moved from Sydney to Leura. At RIAA she also created the Responsible Investment Academy, a web-based e-learning university for finance professionals to learn about responsible investment. The Academy was sold to the United Nations in 2014.
Prior to this Lou worked in senior management roles in the arts as General Manager of Belvoir Street Theatre, General Manager of the Australian National Playwrights Centre and Playwrights Conference and Development Director at the Art Gallery Society of NSW.
Lou has a BA with a major in journalism, an MBA (philosophy and ethics) and has devoted three years to a PhD in responsible investment. She is a Governor of World Wildlife Fund and has served on various boards including Blue Mountains Food Co-op between 2014-17. Recently retired, Lou has put her hand up again to represent the Co-op.
Members can meet Lou at the Annual General Meeting on Thursday 14th November.