The global E-magazine on cooperatives in industry and services
Suma was founded in Leeds, West Yorkshire, in the early 1970’s, by three friends as a service to supply wholefoods and vegetarian foods to small wholefood shops throughout the North of England. In the beginning it was not intended to be a formal business. The original members were more concerned to make 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 hosts tours for parties of visitors both national and international. People are fascinated to see cooperative working in practice and meet cooperators in action! A rare opportunity. “We show people what a democratic worker owned and controlled business looks like in action. They often can’t believe it, but the 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 are doing 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, right ?’ We say we run this business collectively”, adds Cannell. Suma keeps passing on the word about employee ownership and opening peoples’ eyes to the potential and possibilities of cooperation.
International Organisation of Industrial, Artisanal and
Service Producers' Cooperatives
Secretariat: C/O European Cooperative House - avenue Milcamps 105
1030 Brussels, Belgium
Tel: +32 2 543 1033, fax: +32 2 543 1037