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Ethical business   |   Employee ownership

Staff council is a sea change for our business

One month on from our first ever council elections, we’ve had our first ever meeting of the Riverford co-owners council. I should flag up a vested interest, as I was part of the original working group that helped formulate a vision of how the council might function. As we met for the first time, I (and probably the other half dozen who were in the same position) had an extra level of nervousness: I was confident the new representatives would be open-minded, but what would they think of our work to date? After all, it was only our best guess as to what we thought would work.

Of course, I shouldn’t have worried: time and again over the last couple of years of this journey, Guy’s faith in his former workforce (we’re now co-owners) has been justified, and so it proved again. More than a few were a little unclear as to what the role of councillor entailed, but everyone came with a willingness to try and make it work. We are drawn from all parts of the business - drivers to IT, pickers to customer services and all points in between - and over a couple of days of pretty brain-draining workshops and getting to know each other, we started to get a feel for the role and how we could help effect tangible, beneficial change for our constituents and the business as a whole.

Of particular help were the explicit statements of support from the board of directors. This is a sea change in the way we run our business, and one that could make people in traditional positions of power feel threatened or undermined. I’m sure this is the case for some co-owners, and those that drag their feet will need as much support as those who run off pell-mell into the distance, but the overwhelming impression is one of support.

And so to our first meeting. We’d put some items on the agenda, and as we worked through them we found that some we could probably deal with through other channels such as health and safety or HR. Others could do with a bit more investigation and individuals volunteered to form subgroups who would research and report back, and there were some items that we thought needed bringing to the attention of the board. Rob (managing director) and Lee (finance director) came down to run through the financials and, at this first meeting, explain what they meant, and we went through the items we felt they needed to know about.

It’s early days and we will have to wait and see how things pan out, but the overwhelming feeling coming out of the meeting was positive. We still have to fully find our feet but, as more than one representative told me, it feels like we’ve found a mini family within the larger family that is Riverford. Long may it continue!


Ed Scott

Ed is the longstanding harvest and polytunnel manager at Riverford. He says: "I'm interested in the sustainability and biodiversity benefits of organic farming; it's something tangible I can see when visiting the fields or polytunnels. I love exploring Dartmoor when I can: the open spaces really reflect the dynamism of nature, changing from picture-postcard pretty to windswept desolation and back in a matter of minutes."

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