Suma Wholefoods is not only the biggest vegetarian wholesaler in the UK; they are also Europe’s largest single pay employer, not bad considering the organisation was started in a front room of a student house in Leeds in the 1970’s and now supplies over 40 countries.
Awarded ‘Cooperative of the Year’ 2014, Halifax based Suma Wholefoods have ethics at the core of all they do.
Suma and the Environment
Their robust listing criteria means that Suma will not knowingly stock products that contain harmful food additives. All products are carefully sourced as Vegetarian and where eggs are an ingredient they are free-range. Preference is given to organic, fair trade and cooperative production, with independent manufacturers preferred, and locally sourced as practicable to limit food miles. All bodycare, cosmetic and household products are all cruelty-free. All food is GM free and sourced with minimal environmental impact. They also aim to avoid buying from companies or countries with proven poor human rights records.
Through an agreement with electricity suppliers, 100% of the power Suma uses is from renewable sources. Every year Suma sends out dedicated workers to plant trees alongside local charity ‘Treesponsibility’ to offset the carbon emissions from their fleet of trucks. Suma workers also spend time in the spring cleaning the river and riverbank adjacent to the premises. To encourage workers to cycle rather than drive to work Suma participates in the ‘Cycle to Work’ scheme.
Any food which Suma is unable to sell, whether it be short-dated or have slightly damaged packaging, is distributed to several organisations who divert food from landfill and use it to benefit people in need. The company supports many food banks and charitable concerns in other ways.
Suma is unique in that it is a worker cooperative. Unlike most UK companies, Suma operates a truly democratic system of management. While they do use an elected Management Committee to implement decisions and business plans, the decisions themselves are made at regular General Meetings with the consent of every cooperative member – there’s no chief executive or managing director. In practice, this means that day-to-day work is carried out by self-managing teams of employees who are all paid the same wage, and who all enjoy an equal voice and an equal stake in the success of the business.
“At Suma we have equal pay because we value all our skills equally and understand that we are all equally important to the success of our business.”
Another key feature of the structure and working practice is multi-skilling. At Suma, members who range from a very wide and diverse background are encouraged to get involved in more than one area of business, so individuals will always perform more than one role within the cooperative. This helps to broaden workers skills base and gives every member an invaluable insight into the bigger picture.
Find out more at www.suma.coop