Our Model

Our model provides a new style of business that is based on the values of co-operation, community and environmental sustainability rather than the values of conflict, self-interest and growth which underpins much of the existing approaches to business.  

Why?

We want our model to survive within the competitive capitalist environment and also to encourage and support the emergence of other similar cooperatives.  Idealistically, we are experimenting with an approach we hope that could transform the current system.  

We are looking for a style of business that:

* is democratic and under the control of participants

* is egalitarian in sharing wealth not just within the business but with the whole community, locally and internationally

* goes beyond environmental sustainability to being environmentally enhancing; 

* encourages innovation and creativity;  

*allows people to get involved in small ways at their own pace and at a level they feel comfortable; 

* allows poorer people to gain ownership; 

* and one that could theoretically replace capitalism at all levels and still provide for us all, if everyone decided to get on board.

The difference in the values between our coop and capitalist business are summarized below –

CAPITALIST

A NEW MODEL

Competition

Collaboration

Self interest

Collective interest

Conflict

Co-operation

Secrecy

Openness

Inequality

Equality

Power

Democracy

Exploitation of environment

Environmentally enhancing

Wealth creation

Sustainable growth

Success

Happiness

Profit

Ethical

Efficiency

Energy saving

Innovation

Creative

 

The current market exchange economy rewards and encourages the values of self-interest competition, growth, and materialism.  Such values can lead people to treat each other in instrumental and exploitative ways in their work relationships but increasingly also in family and personal relationships.   

The profit at all costs approach and the need for constant growth to keep the capitalist system working has also led to increasing pressures on our natural resources and to environmental damage and now to the potential of environmental catastrophe through climate change.  

The current capitalist system is becoming the dominant system across the globe.  It is reaching into and transforming traditional 3rd world communities and what were previously socialist states.  Governments are beholden to it and while governments may try to curtail the worst aspects of this economic model, ultimately they are dependent on it and so must act to support it and to reinforce its values and practices. 

It thus will be up to ordinary people in communities to try to resist the imposition of its individualistic, short term values to try to hang on to values of community, co-operation, concern for others, and care for our environment.   Our model is one attempt to do this, it involves 4 key features.

The model

 (1) Worker Co-op

Rather than having owners and employees the business takes the legal form of a worker co-operative where everyone is an equal owner and director of the business.    Rather than having a hierarchical structure of decision making we all have the same say and an equal vote.   To be even more democratic we have also adopted a consensus style of decision making rather than a simple majority rules.  To this end it is best to not have too big a group so that everyone has space to participate in discussions.

(2) Profit sharing 

Any profit will be shared 4 ways:

  • 25% to the workers in proportion to the hours worked; 
  • 25% to the customers in the form of discounted produce;
  • 25% to help new co-ops get going locally and in areas with few financial resources; and 
  • 25% reinvested to improve this business.   

Workers are paid the minimum hourly rate (according to the award) plus their profit share.   Profit shares for workers are in the form of credits for future purchases.   This distribution of profit provides some incentive for workers and customers to improve the business and resources to do so as well as setting aside funds to help new co-ops start.

(3) Open accounting

By sharing our financial accounts with customers, they will know exactly how the business is doing, what workers are being paid and how much profit share they might gain.  They will hopefully feel part of what we are trying to achieve.  It means customers in the act of buying food can, at the same time, be looking after the environment, creating work in their local area and supporting a new community enhancing business model.

(4) self-replicating

Our ambition is not to keep getting bigger and bigger like other businesses, but rather to keep a local focus.  So at some point in our growth, the aim would be to divide into two, splitting up the geographic areas covered.  The reason for this is to keep each co-op under the control of the workers and close to the customers.  This is why some of the profits would go to helping another group start, then each in turn helping others to get going.  Our dream is to set up a network of supportive and likeminded co-ops that would be able to support each other in promotion, purchasing, and in lots of other ways.

 Attempting to implement the above model has provided many challenges.  It involves learning new skills and ways of relating while at the same time trying to survive financially in a competitive environment.  We hope to keep learning and refining our model and approach.