Case Studies

National Cooperative Grocers


In the late 1990s, Whole Foods Market was growing very fast. This growth was, in many ways, a triumph for a retail sector that had been promoting healthier food for decades, but many of the neighborhood-based, community-owned co-op stores that pioneered the sector were now struggling to compete with this well capitalized and centrally managed chain. Leaders in the co-op grocery sector realized that they would have to change to keep their social enterprises alive. The food co-ops came together to create a new financial data platform, now called CoMetrics, which allowed them to work together to improve the financial health of their individual businesses and their sector as a whole. The new tool allowed each store to track its own financial performance on a set of standard metrics and to see the detailed performance of their peers. Sharing data in this way made it possible for the co-ops to create a shared purchasing program through the National Cooperative Grocers based on shared financial risk. The program gives them access to goods and credit on terms that made them competitive with a national chain. Today, NCG brokers $1.6 billion in sales and is the second largest purchaser in the natural foods market behind Whole Foods.
F. B. Heron Foundation

Impact Investor

The F. B. Heron Foundation is using CoMetrics as the data platform underpinning its strategy to invest 100% of its assets for impact. The Foundation is accomplishing the following with CoMetrics:
  • The ability to see financial results alongside social outcomes
  • A reduction in the compliance burden for its investees
  • Returning data back to investees in actionable form so that they can learn and adjust their own strategies for better results
The Heron Foundation appreciates how interacting around the data can contribute to better performance management of its investees. It has broken from the pack by investing in CoMetrics to create a common platform through which recipients of its newest investment product, Enterprise Capital, will report their results. EC is funding targeted to the growth of enterprises (nonprofit, for-profit, or other legal forms) and not to specific projects. CoMetrics has created a common chart of accounts onto which each investee has been mapped. Each quarter, investees submit both financial and social impact data, which is standardized, reported to Heron through an interactive web interface, and then returned to investees for their own analysis.

Funders and nonprofits would benefit enormously from the development of simple, practical metrics across subsectors—including shared, self-reporting platforms available to all recipients—that connect social outcomes with indicators of financial performance and organizational capacity.

Clara Miller
F.B. Heron Foundation