2018 Sustainable food, organic farming and nature development
What challenge was the inspiration for your project?
I founded the veg box business Riverford Organic Farmers on my family farm in Devon in 1987. In the last 30 years, it has grown from one man and his wheelbarrow to be the country’s largest organic veg box business, delivering to 50,000 homes each week. But despite our impressive growth, we’re not here for profit. I started the business to produce something useful in the world. The move to employee ownership was driven by mounting frustration with the prevalent, cynical but unsupported assumption that the only way to motivate people and organise our working lives is to appeal to greed. We can give so much more, deliver more and grow as people and as organisations if we can find the courage to trust and believe in each other. I want to build Riverford by building our human capacity, by allowing people to grow and be fulfilled and to be the best possible versions of themselves.
What was your innovation that addresses this problem?
The most innovative part of our project is combining hard work and technical proficiency with hope…hope for a better, kinder world; the kind of world so many of us want to live in but which has been deemed “impractical or starry eyed, or hopelessly idealistic”. We will prove them wrong and others will follow.
What impact has Triodos Bank had on your business?
We have had a long relationship with the bank. For twenty years, Triodos has shown imagination, trust and commitment; qualities not normally associated with banking, especially post 2008. Rates have been competitive, and it has been possible to have honest and straight forward conversations. Where we have asked, they have been more flexible and responsive than other banks we have works with.
What impact has your business had on the sector you work in?
We founded a suppliers’ co-operative, supported by Triodos, and pioneered a way of doing business that values and fosters long-term trading relationships to a degree which is unprecedented in our industry. Triodos has helped us to buy and convert neighbouring land to organic farming.
What impact has your business had on the community?
We employ 600 people and have contributed to the survival of many small and medium sized family farms. We are demonstrating that you can succeed in business without compromising on your values.
How does Triodos Bank share your vision?
We have a long term, human relationship with Triodos that goes beyond money; we share the same vision of shaping a better world through better business.