The future is co-operative

We hear from Greencity Wholefoods, a wholesaler of fine food and drink based in Glasgow’s east end. Greencity operate as a worker co-operative, democratically run by their members, and champion co-operative working as a successful alternative business model.

Picture of staff from Greencity Wholefoods standing by a Greencity branded lorry.

Ross Martin, Regional Economic Advisor, Scottish Government

Community Focused

2020 has been a year that anyone over the age of six will never forget. It has had huge implications on many people financially but it has changed how many see the world. As large supermarkets have struggled to cope with Covid, small retailers and producers have worked in co-operation and communities have taken local shops to heart.

At Greencity we are all about looking at reducing supply chains, working with people locally, providing for people locally. As Leigh Sparks of Stirling University said: “Local must be a major focus. This is about local neighbourhoods and places as well as the local supply chains and assets that are required to break our over-dependence on international and distant supply”.

Worker Owned

Greencity was established in 1978 to breakdown wholefoods and supply local retailers and catering businesses with healthy food. It’s an ethos we still hold close to our heart.

Greencity has members not employees. We all own our business and make decisions together. We don’t always agree with every decision, but we decide democratically. It’s a great way to discuss issues and highlight the impact decisions have on the environment, health and our business.

One of the benefits of working in a non-hierarchical structure is member empowerment; people get opportunities to become involved in parts of a business that just wouldn’t be viable in a hierarchical model. Members can learn new skills that interest them and benefit the business, share similar interests and although we have to be economically viable, profit isn’t always the most important motive.

Research about co-ops by the New Economic Foundation stated:

“They act to serve their members and whatever profit is generated is retained in the locality or among members; they generate and keep wealth in communities”

The 7 Principles of Wisdom
Worker owned co-ops work within a framework of 7 principles.

The normal perception of people purchasing goods is that they are a customer. We tend to see them as partners. Success for Greencity is built on the success of the people we work with. Our model thrives on working with producers in our local communities, by encouraging people to develop products and create shorter supply chains.

Our aim is to promote ethical standards and ensure people are paid a good living wage. It is important to support bodies that improve health and we are certified by The Soil Association and are a member of Nourish Scotland and want to ensure everyone has a right to good quality food.

The Future
The co-op model has a bright future in Scotland and we are looking to create a better network of co-operation.

Working within the Cross Party Group at The Scottish Parliament, Co-operatives UK have generated a report on how co-ops should be pivotal in Scotland’s economic future.

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