Suma, Europe’s largest equal-pay co-op, recently celebrated its 40th birthday.
Suma Wholefoods is the UK’s largest workers co-operative, with 166 members and a turnover of £48 million. In 2017, Suma celebrated its 40th anniversary.
Suma was founded in 1975 by Reg Taylor, who sold it to his seven employees two years later. They decided to run it as a workers co-op. The company delivers more than 7,000 vegetarian, responsibly sourced products to the UK and internationally. The company pioneered organic foods in the UK, as well as recycled toilet roll and kitchen paper, and vegan sunflower spread.
There is no top boss or shareholders at the organisation, which is run via a management committee and department coordinators who work for consensus with the workers. All of Suma’s workers are paid the same amount: £15.60 an hour.
In 2014, Suma was named Co-operative of the Year by Co-operatives UK. In 2017 they were shortlisted again, and won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade.
Geoff Price, one of the longest serving workers at Suma, told Co-op News: “This still isn’t a conventional workspace, and there is no restraint on personalities, but we are bound together by political and social aims.”
Tags Worker co-operatives
New rules needed
Policies that can help unleash the potential of this or similar initiatives across the UK.
Launch a Co-operative Development Agency
A network of support and capacity building to develop and extend the capabilities of the co-operative movement.
Promote community wealth building
Support co-ops to thrive in their localities by anchoring them within place-based industrial and community wealth building strategies.
Start inclusive ownership funds
An economic heartbeat that transfers the ownership and control of businesses to workers and other key stakeholders.
Introduce a maximum pay ratio
Executive pay has become divorced from reality. A pay ratio will spread wealth and reduce inequality.
Implement an employee right to own
Co-operatise existing businesses to accelerate new models of ownership and increase the volume of the co-operative sector in the UK.
Introduce a Co-operative Economy Act
A legal framework tailored to the needs of co-operatives and supportive of their future development.
Create new sources of finance for co-ops
Create financial instruments and institutions tailored to the needs of the co-operative economy.