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Ethical retailer of the week: Suma



Suma is the UK’s largest independent wholefood distributor but its greatest value stands in the ethics behind its products.

Suma is a co-operative providing fairtrade, vegetarian and environmentally friendly food and non-food products. Goods range from body care products to nuts, seeds and pulses.

Suma was funded in 1975 by Reg Tayler, who began to sell cereal flakes, dried fruits and brown rice from his own kitchen. In few years, the businesses grew and nowadays Suma has 150 people employed in the wholefood sector.

All products, food and non-food are ethically sourced – the firm is a licensee of the Fairtrade Foundation –vegetarian, using free-range ingredients and GMO-free. Suma advocates vegetarianism, as an ethical, social and environmental choice and its non-food products are both cruelty-free (not tested on animals) and eco-friendly.

Suma has also a focus on clean energy, having used renewable electricity for a long time.

Our reps share a hybrid car. We take back plastic and cardboard packaging from our customers and what we can’t re-use, we recycle. Food waste is composted. We plant enough trees with Treesponsibility to get carbon neutral status and have an appointed carbon champion keeping a constant eye on our footprint. And we have vehicle tracking which means we make every delivery mile count”, states the firm on its website.

Suma won the Best Food and Drink Product award in 2011 and 2010 for some of its products. It was also awarded with the People and Culture Award by the Employee Ownership Association.

Animals, health and environment are not the only issues Suma cares about.  Workers are also crucial for the business itself.

Suma operates a thoroughly democratic system of management that isn’t bound by the conventional notions of hierarchy. As a workers’ co-operative the business is jointly owned and managed by all of us.”