• Choose a company owned by its staff

    Riverford is now owned by its employees rather than venture capitalists

“To sell Riverford as a tradable chattel, whose purpose would be to maximise short-term returns for external investors, feels to me a bit like selling one of my children into prostitution.”

Guy Singh-Watson, Riverford founder

Imagine that you had spent your life building a successful values-driven business. From one field, your own two hands and a borrowed tractor, to 650 staff and around 50,000 customers across the country every week. When the time came to look towards retirement, would you sell what you had built – and the people who had helped you – to the highest bidder?

In June 2018, Riverford was sold not to venture capitalists, but to its staff. We’re free to make sure everyone is treated fairly: from the family farmers we support, to your local veg box delivery team, to the bees, butterflies and birds that call our fields home.

 

Carthorses & unicorns

For the more grounded among you, a ‘unicorn’ is a privately-owned start-up company valued at more than $1 billion; think Facebook, Uber, Airbnb, Dropbox and Pinterest. They call them unicorns because they are so vanishingly rare – but that doesn’t stop a generation of techy wannabes dreaming of being the next Mark Zuckerberg.

Home delivery of food ordered over the internet, and recipe boxes in particular, are seen as high-growth areas ripe for unicorn status. This, combined with the sale of Abel & Cole to venture capitalists in 2012, brought a stream of bankers to Riverford founder Guy Singh-Watson’s door.

Declining every offer, Guy chose instead to sell the business to its staff (for well under half of its market value). If being a unicorn means leaving Riverford at the whim of shareholders, who might just look to maximise returns at the expense of the values it was founded on, then we would rather be a carthorse – plodding along our own path.

Why employee ownership?

1

Protecting our values – forever.

Riverford’s new ownership locks in the values the business was founded on and that have been at the heart of all we do for 30 years. Most importantly:

  • Giving a fair deal to staff, suppliers, customers and the planet
  • A commitment to organic and to our farming roots
  • Long-term relationships of trust with our growers

These values are embodied in a Founder’s Wishes statement that Guy developed with staff – and which is legally binding.

 

Growing hope amongst the cabbages

“To me it just felt fairer. Everyone contributes to success, everyone benefits.”

Guy Singh-Watson, Riverford founder

The UK rates poorly for job satisfaction, with 60-80% of people feeling unfulfilled and wanting to change jobs. Given that work demands so much of us and dominates our lives, that is both a tragedy and an appalling waste of potential on a vast scale.

Most of us, most of the time, are more creative, more generous, and keener to learn, grow and contribute to a shared purpose than our working organisations allow us to demonstrate. On a personal level, we believe employee ownership will allow us to grow and get more pride, fulfilment, purpose and pleasure from our work. On a bigger scale, by being successful and happy we will give others hope that there is a better way, and encourage them to follow.  

 

 

Choose Riverford

When you choose a Riverford organic veg box, you choose an employee-owned business. Spuds like your grandad used to grow, the crunchiest cauliflower and the carrotiest carrots, all delivered to your doorstep with minimal fuss and unbeatable quality. And better yet, everyone gets a fair deal.