Suma Wholefoods is committed to compliance with the Ethical Trading Initiative Base Code which consists of the following criteria:
- Employment is freely chosen
- Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining are respected
- Working conditions are safe and hygienic
- Child labour shall not be used
- Living wages are paid
- Working hours are not excessive
- No discrimination is practised
- Regular employment is provided
- No harsh or inhumane treatment is allowed
Suma is a fully democratic workers cooperative. All cooperative members and employees receive the same net hourly rate of pay, no matter what their job or responsibilities. We have had a Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union branch for over 30 years, and around half of Suma members have joined the union.
Our members are encouraged and supported in seeking training, from procurement and supply to employment law courses, and we regularly pay for our short-term workers to get skills that will help their employment prospects either at Suma or elsewhere.
In 2013 we were awarded ‘Employer of the Year’ by the Halifax Courier, and in 2014 we were named ‘Cooperative of the Year’.
At Suma we have always acknowledged our responsibility to the people who grow the food, which is why we are a licensee of the Fairtrade Foundation. The Fairtrade Foundation is the only certification scheme whose purpose is to tackle poverty and empower producers in developing countries. Suma’s commitment to Fairtrade is not a marketing device, it is one based on a deeply held belief in a universal right to economic justice, self-empowerment and freedom from exploitation.
30 of our Suma brand lines have been awarded Ethical Consumer Magazine ‘Best Buy’ products, and we are always working to improve the ethical credentials of the brand.
We aim to source goods at the best possible quality and price within acceptable ethical parameters. Goods must fufill Suma’s criteria, including:
- Preference is given to organic, Fairtrade and cooperative production
- Independent manufacturers are preferred.
- Sourced as locally as practicable to limit food miles
- Sourced with minimal environmental impact in terms of production, transportation and packaging
- GM free
- We aim to promote a market for new and innovative green products
- We aim to avoid buying from countries or companies with proven poor human rights records
Even in industries where forced labour is not used, wages that are below the living wage can make workers’ families vulnerable to traffickers. We believe that certification is not a guarantee, but at least provides transparency – the supply chain can be traced back to the cooperative and even the farm where the product is grown. All Fairtrade and organic certification bodies include slavery and child trafficking in their auditing processes.
This year we have begun an ethical audit of our products to ensure there is no slavery or trafficking in our supply chain. All Suma brand and commodity suppliers have been contacted and asked to demonstrate their commitment to the Ethical Trading Initiative Base Code, and all suppliers will have to complete our ethical questionnaire.
If we find any areas that do not come up to our standards, we will seek alternative suppliers. We believe that a product cannot truly be ‘cruelty-free’ until the conditions of the workers at all points of the supply chain have been assessed and verified.
This year we have risk-assessed our products to find those with the highest risk of modern slavery in the supply chain. We have concentrated our efforts on making sure we have completed ethical questionnaires and ethical buying policies from the suppliers of goods with the highest risk. These include cocoa, coffee, sugar, cotton and other agricultural commodities.
We have also begun compiling supplier files to be updated regularly as the risks grow and change.
The Food Empowerment Project recommends that you do not buy cocoa products from West Africa, unless from a worker coop. This is due to the increased risk of slavery and trafficking in this area. Where we found that a cocoa supplier could not satisfactorily demonstrate that they were buying from a cooperative, we stopped trading with them. We are in the process of looking for a new supplier who meets this criteria.
This year we have also joined Sedex, who are a not for profit membership organisation dedicated to driving ethical improvements in global supply chains.