The Ontario Co-operative Association

The Ontario Co-operative Association

October 08, 2009 08:00 ET

La Siembra Co-op Awarded for Co-operative Social Responsibility

GUELPH, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Oct. 8, 2009) - Setting a new standard as a democratic workplace in addition to providing Fair Trade products earns La Siembra Co-operative the Co-operative Social Responsibility Award at Ontario's Annual Co-op Conference and Gala to be held at the Burlington, Ont. Royal Botanical Garden on Oct. 14.

The award category was established by the Ontario Co-operative Association (On Co-op) last year to acknowledge those who use and lead sustainable social, economic and environmental practices.

La Siembra Co-operative ( of Ottawa gives fair prices to cocoa farmers and cane producers and has seen astounding growth and name recognition for its Cocoa Camino products: cocoa, chocolate and sugar. Young developmental workers founded it a decade ago after they saw the injustices of the cocoa trade. They further decided to use the co-operative model for their own business.

Nominator Jeannie Shore, manager of Member & Co-operative Relations, The Co-operators Group Limited, says La Siembra excels in several areas of sustainability, ranging from reducing the environmental footprint of its distribution processes to providing workers a voice in human resources policies. Rodney North, worker-owner and vice chair of Equal Exchange in the United States, commends La Siembra for its willingness to work with other co-operatives, including his own and 7 co-operatives in Peru, Paraguay, Panama, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic, benefiting many thousands of small-scale cocoa and sugar farmers. He also notes the co-operative's leadership "on the Fair Trade standards-setting stage, pushing for stricter and more transparent certification standards for importers such as ourselves." The two Fair Trade co-operatives were recently named to the 2009 WorldBlu list of 40 Most Democratic Workplaces™.

Additionally, La Siembra Co-op developed a Fair Trade educational toolkit for schools, and wrappers on Cocoa Camino chocolate bars tell stories of people involved in their production.

"Juggling social and economic bottom lines is an art requiring vision, discipline and skill," says co-operative developer and consultant Catherine Lang. "It is an art that the young owners of La Siembra have clearly demonstrated they can master."

Eight other co-operators and co-operative organizations will be recognized at the Spirit Awards Gala during Co-op Week (Oct. 11-17). The late Bernie Daly will be acknowledged for his dedication to Ontario's agricultural co-operatives. Retired Huron County dairy farmer Stuart Steckle becomes 2009 Distinguished Co-operator, and Diane Kocet, CEO of The Toronto Electrical Utilities Credit Union, receives the 2009 Co-operative Innovator award. Local food pioneer Ottawa Valley Food Co-operative wins the New Co-operative of Distinction award, and CAIC (Canadian Alternative Investment Co-operative) receives special recognition as a financial supporter of many co-op projects over its 25-year history. Tanya Gracie of the Canadian Co-operative Association receives recognition as a youth co-operator and Carlene Frimer of United Communities Credit Union in Southwestern Ontario is receiving a Co-operative Youth Mentor Award for her advocacy of young co-operators. Toronto professor Jack Quarter receives an award for 25 years of promoting education and research of co-operatives and like-minded organizations.

The Spirit Recognition Awards Gala is part of a day-long conference that draws up to 250 co-operative and credit union directors, employees, and supporters from across the province. Its theme is "Co-ops Work: Exceptional Solutions for Exceptional Times."

On Co-op, based in Guelph, Ont., develops, unites and promotes co-operatives throughout the province of Ontario. Its mission is to lead, cultivate and connect co-operatives. Visit: for more information on the Association, co-op conference and gala.

Contact Information

  • Ontario Co-operative Association
    Mark Ventry
    Membership and Communications Manager
    1-888-745-5521/519.763.8271 x30