Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Suma - you can have your ethically sourced organic cake and eat it!

Cllr Karen Allison, Julius Nicholson (Suma) and Cllr Andrew Cooper
 Imagine a business where everyone is paid the same wage whether you are the cleaner, work in the office, are management or on the shop floor. Imagine a business where jobs rotate so everyone gets to know every aspect of what makes it tick. Imagine a business where all major decisions that affect it are made by all the employees/members. Imagine it was a multi million pound business employing over 150 staff trading internationally. Imagine no more, this is Suma Wholefoods just over the Kirklees border in Elland. I went over there last week to see how it worked and get a feel for the place.

Suma has a huge warehouse full of foods with a strong emphasis on organic, fair trade, environmentally friendly and ethically sourced products. Suma's values make it a strong force for good business practice not just in environmental terms but in treatment of its employees. I've worked in the public sector, the rapacious cut throat private sector and even an employee owned company so it was refreshing to see a successful workers cooperative of many years standing doing so well. It is not the sort of company you would join if you were looking to buy a luxury yacht or a holiday cottage in the Cotswolds. What it does offer, it seems, is job satisfaction and relative job security in an increasingly insecure world. I got a buzz and feel for the place over the couple of hours I ŵas there and you definitely got the impression that it was a happy workforce as well as an obviously successful one. For me it showed that it is completely possible for a company to have strong ethical values, a democratic structure and 'cut the mustard' in the business world (wholegrain organic mustard of course!

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