Suma wins Halifax Courier Employer of the Year Award 2013
BBC Look North presenter Clare Frisby presented Suma with the prestigious award at this years Halifax Courier Business Awards. An event where the business community comes together to celebrate the area’s biggest success stories. Representing Suma at the event Melanie Bates and Jeff Walker told the glitzy black tie audience, “Suma is Europe’s largest equal pay employer, in 2013 we have achieved record sales without the need for a chief executive or a board of directors.” When asked why Suma is so successful Jeff added, “Our strength lies in being a workers’ cooperative. Suma makes a huge contribution to the local community providing well paid jobs while demonstrating that worker owned and managed businesses can be the best.”
Suma’s success has grown from solid roots. Roots stemmed from a seed planted in 1975. In a year when the Conservative Party chose Margaret Thatcher as it’s first woman leader, Bill Gates created the company Microsoft and the Vietnam war finally ended – Suma set up shop in the back kitchen of a house in Victoria Road, Hyde Park, Leeds. The plan was to become a northern wholesaler, filling a gap in the supply chain, selling cereal flakes, dried fruits and brown rice previously only available from London. At the back of Victoria Road the word SUMA was painted on a disused lockup shop. No one knew what it meant, but as it was abandoned along with the shop, the name was adopted for the new wholesaler. Within a year – with various flats and lock up garages around Leeds bursting with wholefoods – more suitable premises were acquired and Suma’s seven employees formed Triangle Wholefoods Collective – liberating Suma as a workers’ cooperative. Their shared ideology and the collective they formed has grown into the UK’s leading supplier of natural and organic food and drink without compromising those workers’ cooperative foundations. Jim is still here to testify to that.
In 2013 we are as committed as ever to the value and strength of cooperative working. Suma is still 100% owned by our growing workforce of members – currently 131 – who all have an equal interest and voice in our business regardless of length of service to Suma. Members meet regularly to debate issues and strategies, decision are agreed by majority voting. Suma moves forward to continued and greater success with the commitment and backing of its workforce. At Suma we don’t suffer the hindrance of directors, we are the decision-makers and we measure success as much in being a rewarding place to work as in profit at yearend. The power is in our hands, running a successful business that is somewhere we love to work is the challenge and the reward.
A core foundation of our cooperative has always been equal pay. All workers earn the same hourly rate regardless of their position. Whether an accountant, a truck driver, or fork lift operator, we are all necessary cogs in achieving our objectives and place equal value on our skills and ourselves. Short-term workers helping in our warehouse are also paid exactly the same as members who have been here for 30 years. We are proud to demonstrate that cooperative working and equal pay do not equal low wages. 37 years of hard work has built a workers’ cooperative with enviable pay and conditions. When we recruited in June of this year over 500 people applied to join us. People hear of Suma and are inspired to be a part of us and to share what we are fortunate to be a part of. In the last 10 years we have double the size of our membership.
Additionally our belief in equality and responsibility as an employer has never ended at our gate, far from it. As vegetarian food wholesalers we have championed fairly traded goods, specialising in Fairtrade accredited produce. Working with manufactures and importers to ensure our products are ethically sourced and that workers and communities benefit from our relationship.
This year has been the best in our 37-year history with record sales and record rewards for everyone. Our cooperative motto is ‘All together better.’ Suma is proof that equality works and we’re immensely proud to be awarded Employer of the Year 2013.