This is about the types of establishment you frequent locally. There will definitely be independent businesses in your area – more in some than others. We’re favouring businesses with some sort of co-operative structure, as there’s a potential problem with non-co-op independent businesses in that if they’re successful, they’re at risk of being bought by the corporate sector – which is exactly what happened with Ben & Jerry’s (Unilever), Innocent Drinks (Coca-Cola), Green & Blacks (Cadbury / Mondelez International) etc. Or, they could become corporations themselves – Tesco was a corner shop once.
However, most of them won’t ever become corporate, and they divert money from the corporate sector right now.
Another problem is that small shops (plus the Co-op and Waitrose) sell a lot of corporate products, which isn’t ideal, as this will siphon profits out of your community. But a) at least the profits made by the shop itself don’t contribute to corporate profits; and b) a lot of local businesses are producing food and drink themselves – like small bakeries, breweries etc.
What to do
Consumers: find non-corporate food outlets
1. Local food co-ops
There are many of these all over the country – for example Infinity Foods in Brighton, Daily Bread in Northampton or Unicorn Grocery in Manchester. Try searching for the name of your town, plus food co-op shop. Alternatively, there’s….
2. The Co-op
The Co-op is a huge non-corporate retail group. They have over 4000 stores in the UK, in 15 different societies, the largest one being the Co-operative Group. They are the only retailer to have an outlet in every postal district in the UK, and they’re adding another 100 stores in 2017. Another benefit of supporting the Co-op is that 98% of its energy is from renewables, and it supports other co-operatives, community energy and Fair Trade (it was the first major UK retailer to stock Fair Trade products). It also sells only sustainably-caught fish and is endorsed by the Marine Conservation Society. Has its own Co-op food ranges too.
With the Co-op Group and a lot of the larger co-ops, dividends paid to members are in direct proportion to the amount of money spent. This tends to benefit those with the most money, and is therefore not ideal. Also, co-operative principles are often forgotten in large co-ops. A good guide is to ask the staff. Are they members? Do they know much about the co-op, or about co-operative principles and values?
Find your local Co-op store here.
Waitrose is part of the John Lewis Partnership, an employee-owned business with no external shareholders.
4. Independent outlets
This is about avoiding corporate shopping malls and supermarkets, and finding independent outlets / products locally. If you’re determined you can research by searching online with the name of your town and the products you’re looking for, or just exploring your town and enjoying the independent shops, stalls, pop-ups, kiosks, bars, restaurants and cafes that you find.
It’s a bit of a minefield, because the corporate sector has cottoned on to the fact that more and more people prefer local, independent suppliers, and so they’re disguising the fact that their outlets are corporate. If they take over an independent business, they’ll keep the branding so that people think they’re still independent. For example, you might not know that ‘Meantime’ brewery has been bought out by Miller, the world’s largest brewing corporation, so we’d urge you to avoid that one. There are far too many to list, so it requires a bit of research.
So, support your local, independent food businesses, including corner shops, but avoid corporate brands where possible.
Start a co-op or an independent shop or business
See employment section.