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Meet fairandfunky friends! (blog #11)

Our blog series to meet fairandfunky friends continues. We’re loving finding out a little bit more about the people we work with, and how they take little steps to change the world – we hope you are too. The words people share confirm that we choose great partnerships! Today we welcome Nigel Kaye from Suma Wholefoods to answer our questions…..

Who are you, where are you from and what do you do? I am Nigel, a member of Suma Wholefoods. I have been here for 12 years now.  I have done a number of different jobs in my time at Suma, from working in a freezer, taking sales calls and I currently work in new product development and marketing, where I work with fairandfunky. If you don’t know Suma already, we’re a little bit different. We’ve been stocking kitchens with delicious and responsibly sourced vegetarian and vegan ingredients since 1977. (Click here to find your nearest Suma stockist or shop online). We sell over 1000 own brand products, all of them ethical, organic, and natural, and many are fair-trade, like coffee, cocoa powder, dates, sugar, pasta, and peanut butter. That’s pretty cool. But what’s incredible is we’re a worker-owned co-op where everyone runs the business. There are no bosses or shareholders. The 200 plus members of Suma set the direction of our business regardless of their role. Everyone – and I mean everyone – gets paid exactly the same wage.

What makes you a fairandfunky friend? fairandfunky are our friends because, firstly, they are local and we love to work with local community projects. Secondly, they care about where food comes from and believe everyone should be treated fairly in the food supply chain and, thirdly, they want help make the world a better place. All these reasons are close to our beliefs and strategy as a worker co-op. As Europe’s largest equal pay worker co-operative and vegetarian wholesalers, we understand the challenges around fairness and sustainability, both as an employee and as an integral part of the world’s food supply chain. Informing young minds about the challenges and possible solutions is key to ensure we start to live in a more sustainable world. Children are ones who can take things forward, now and in the future, and it is so rewarding to see them really thinking about and understanding what they can do to help during the workshops. We feel that fairandfunky play a vital role in all they do to ensure young minds understand the issues and that they can make a difference.

What little steps do you take to change the world? As a company, sustainability is a key part of what will drive our strategy moving forwards. In my role of new product development for Suma, the little steps we are taking are;

  • We will look locally first for any products we sell. If they are not available in the local area, we will look within the UK before we start to look abroad.
  • We will ensure the packaging is as up-to-date from a recycling viewpoint, while ensuring it helps avoid creating food waste.
  • We will look for bulk versions of products which reduces packaging.
  • We will investigate our brand suppliers to make sure they are ethical and fair to their employees and their local environment.
  • We hardly create any food waste by sending things that are dented or close to their sell by date to lots of local foodbanks and surplus food organisations, also helping our community provide a service for people in need.

Who influences or inspires you? And why? As a company, the co-operative movement is what influences us. The idea that everyone working in an organisation can have an equal say and equal pay inspires us. As a collective, we manage the business and everyone is encouraged to play their part. Big decisions are decided by a vote by members. No matter what job you do, everyone get paid the same wage, and we are encouraged to try different jobs. In fact, many members have 2 or 3 jobs they do every week. Many outsiders say this approach won’t work, but Suma are proof it can – it’s been working for over 46 years now! Proving people wrong about co-operatives is a key driver in our success. Within the co-operative principals, the sense of education, helping the community and making people lives better is key and Suma is currently doing all we can to promote the understanding that the way you do business and treat the people who work for you are important to help change the world for the better.

How do YOU inspire others to take little steps to change the world? Our loyal customers say they are inspired by us because of our ethics and the fact we are a workers co-operative. Many do business with us based on these principals alone. They feel that by, buying our products, they are supporting a way of working many think is not possible. They believe if other places of work adopted our model the world could be a better place. They also love our food and appreciate all the hard work that goes into sourcing and delivering quality vegetarian and vegan options, which as we know will help preserve the planet far better than continuing to eat meat. By simply giving them choices of ethically sourced products, customers feel we make it easier for them to be vegetarian/vegan, and use products that are less harmful to the world around us. This makes them feel they, along with us, are playing their part in making the world a better place.

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