Suma was founded in Leeds, West Yorkshire, in the early '70s, by three friends as a service organization supplying wholefoods and vegetarian foods to small wholefood shops throughout the North of England. Initially it was not meant as a formal business entity. The original members were more concerned with making healthy, vegetarian alternatives available to the highly processed supermarket foods of the time. Suma is now the biggest worker cooperative in the UK in terms of sales and employs 150 people. Suma regularly holds tours for groups of both national and international visitors. People are fascinated by the rare opportunity of seeing the cooperative working in practice and meeting cooperators in action! “We show people what a democratic worker-owned and controlled business looks like in action. They often can’t believe it, but evidence is in front of them. It’s often a revelatory experience for them; we will carry on doing this”, says Bon Cannell, member of the cooperative. Suma members are multi-skilled and perform a range of different duties, running the business without executive management. “We have no Chief Executive or Managing Director and our board is elected by workers; visitors cannot believe there is no outside management.They say: ‘it’s in another building, isn't it?’ We explain we run this business collectively”, adds Cannell. Suma keeps spreading the concept of employee ownership and opening peoples’ eyes to the potential and possibilities of cooperation.
People can see cooperative working in practice and meet cooperators in action. We show people what a democratic worker owned and controlled business looks like in action. They often can't believe it, but evidence is in front of them. It’s often a revelatory experience for them.
How we promote cooperatives’ values and culture
We are the foremost worker cooperative in the UK. Suma endorses the values and principles of the worker cooperative movement.
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