There is a solar photovoltaic system on the roof of Earth’s General Store (EGS), but that is not the sole inspiration for today’s blog. We want to salute the store and its owner, Michael Kalmanovitch.
Michael has a long history of countering narratives that serve only the individual – those tales of invisible hands fueling markets with inexhaustible selfishness. Michael is a champion of silencing such fictions. He exemplifies how humans can reclaim disembodied hands and do honest work building healthy communities.
Selfish appetites that clear cut bounty leave the detritus of layoffs, climate change, and pollution behind. The potluck, community garden, and the collective kitchen serve us better. The term “survival of the fittest” is often used as an excuse to pursue cutthroat individual pursuits, however in nature Darwin discovered it was in fact cooperation which determined those most likely to survive. This lost definition of “the fittest” is embodied by EGS.
EGS’s Emerald Award, an Alberta based award which recognizes the outstanding environmental achievements of large and small businesses, individuals, not-for-profit associations, community groups, youth, and governments, speaks to its competitive ability to rise to the top. EGS’s fierce commitment to cooperation—floating all boats—makes the store a perennial “People’s Choice.” EGS employs traditional values to claim its right to thrive. Wellbeing is ensured by offering fair wages, healthy products, and reinvesting earned benefits back into the community.
Rearrange the letters EGS and you get “ESG,” an acronym taught widely in business. Well managed companies pay attention to the E – Environmental, S – Social, and G – Governance factors that help them to go beyond mere financial analyses and make real contributions to society. At EGS, the “ESG” examples are numerous:
- Consider how Michael has more bike stalls than parking spots, or how he offsets his electricity needs with solar power. Michael puts his earnings and learnings into the non-profit “Waste Free Edmonton” which supports cradle to cradle thinking. EGS also supports Edmonton Bike Commuters and Paths for People, and advocates for a healthier built environment.
- Consider Michael’s fair employment practices and good relations with suppliers and the general community. Michael is also an advocate of the sharing economy. Community groups borrow EGS’s audiovisual system, plates and cups, and more for community events to avoid increased consumerism. Many others regularly attend teaching sessions at the store,
- Consider how Michael runs the store with people-centered policies. At EGS, management is a shared practice with staff participation – much like the practice of a cooperative!
SPICE is excited to blog about EGS because we admire the store’s cooperative values and dedication to achieving a triple bottom line. EGS and SPICE share a commitment to clean energy development through technology such as solar PV which comes from the same belief in creating a sustainable world.
Once, I suggested to Michael that a downtown location with plenty of parking might be good for his business. The education I received to counter my sloppy thinking was delivered gently, as is Michael’s style. We all need reminders, mentorship, and healthy structures to keep us on track. That is why Michael recently approached SPICE, wanting to help promote the cooperative investment vehicle for renewables currently under development. Michael is a master of building business models which help people succeed in achieving their goals while also considering those three crucial letters, “ESG”.
Being on the radar of patient investors like Michael who want to build community more than wealth, is validating for SPICE. We will soon be bringing forward a well-designed tool to build social justice, clean energy democracy, and local meaningful jobs. SPICE is diligently working to ensure the clean energy investments offered through the cooperative are RRSP and TFSA eligible contributions and provide a provincial tax credit which maximizes how far your dollar can go towards building community and renewable energy. An ethical and green investment tool is long overdue.
Dr. Raquel Feroe
SPICE Board of Directors