The Evergreen Cooperative Companies are worker-owned, worker-controlled for-profit companies that provide niche goods and services to major institutional customers using state-of-the-art, environmentally conscious materials and processes. The companies are creating living-wage jobs, with a special emphasis on six low-income neighborhoods, with a median household income below $18,500, in a central-Cleveland area known as Greater University Circle. Worker-owners earn living wages and have access to profit sharing, a home-buying program and a benefits package that includes health, vision, disability and life insurance, and legal services.
The initiative was designed to create an economic breakthrough in Cleveland. Rather than a trickle-down strategy, it focuses on economic inclusion and building a local economy from the ground up. The Evergreen Initiative first creates the jobs, and then recruits and trains local residents to fill them. The cooperative companies include:
- Green City Growers, a 3.5-acre inner-city greenhouse that produces organic, hydroponically grown lettuces and herbs.
- Evergreen Cooperative Laundry, a state-of-the-art, industrial-scale laundry that uses green technologies to launder linens for hospitals and other clients.
- Evergreen Energy Solutions, a regional leader in state-of-the-art, next-generation LED lighting systems, solar power and other energy-efficient solutions. EES helps Cleveland-area businesses, institutions and residential properties reduce their carbon footprint and gain economic advantages.
University Hospitals invested $1.25 million up-front to help launch the Evergreen Cooperatives in 2008. We buy goods and services worth more than $3.4 million each year.
The companies’ 102 hourly workers earn more than $28,000 per year on average, and the worker-owners who qualified for profit sharing took home more than $7,000 each in 2016. Nearly 30 percent live in the targeted GUC neighborhoods, and one-third came from community re-entry programs. More than three of every four live in the city of Cleveland.
Use your institutional leverage to jump-start these companies and secure markets for them on the front end. Have patience: It may take years for the fledgling firms to get their footing and seize their niche, and anchor-institution backers must stay deeply involved.
Our plans include expanding the capacity of the laundry to support future growth, and evaluation of opportunities to form additional co-op businesses. Through Evergreen Business Solutions, a consulting business, we hope to expand the cooperative model to other cities beyond Cleveland.
Contact: Heidi Gartland
Vice President, Government and Community Relations