Ethical business – what does it mean to you?

Guy & Lucy

Not only did we win Best Ethical Business at the Observer Ethical Awards, we also got to meet Colin Firth… But what is an ethical business? We’d love to know your thoughts.

Here’s a short film about Riverford shown at the award ceremony.

(photos by Alicia Canter)

20 responses to “Ethical business – what does it mean to you?

  1. Congratulations Riverford! A well-deserved award. It’s very important to me that companies think about their impact on the environment, and that’s why I buy from you.

  2. An ethical business is one which truly recognises and values all those involved with it – from it’s customers to it’s suppliers, to it’s staff and their famillies, whilst at the same time considering it’s impact on the environment and local communities. It gives me a great sense of pride to work for such a company.

  3. An ethical business is tricky to define especially if it has shareholders…

    I agree with both comments so far, but ….

    What about developing-world countries desperate to sell to us? Should we buy (or not) or source locally if we can, even if it is more expensive? The recent documentary on tuna production springs to mind.

    They grow bananas and coffee at the Eden Project – thoughts? Cover Cornwall in giant poly-tunnels?

    My thoughts are these – grow what grows best wherever in the world. Source as locally as possible. Eat seasonally. Give reward for good service, products and flavour – equally boycott those that don’t. Cut out as many middle men as possible.

    Rant over

  4. Jacqueline Beattie

    Totally,totally deserved
    I count myself and family lucky to have discovered your fantastic veg 5 years ago and its been the mainstay of our weekly food ever since
    It makes a huge difference to our lives and its always been even better knowing that “how” it gets to us is ethical all the way. THANK YOU

  5. Jacqueline Beasttie’s comments above say it all for me. All your efforts have been so worthwhile and I’m sure Riverford will ‘grow and grow’!

  6. We’d still be using your excellent veg box scheme if our household had not shrunk to just two, from 7 at one time. A friend passed on your thoughts about ethical >< deal driven business. Ethical business continuously seeks sustainable benefit for all concerned; customers, colleagues, contractor / suppliers, & the comunity. It is about working from a recognition that we have been given stewardship of our gifts, skills, experiences and opportunities to better serve the needs of others, and by paying a fair market price they enable us to continue to serve, and to improve what we do.

  7. Thanks for those comments. Its particularly gratifying that so many people share more or less the same views; I’ not a freak after all.
    Kieth; I am not obsessive about local; best if we eat within our own seasons (as you say) but failing that it is often better to grow things where they grow well than to pour a lot of resources into growing them here; hot house tomatoes being an example. This is especailly the case where there is sunstantial socioeconomic benefit to developing countries.

  8. In my view, an ethical business is one in which every aspect of the business is carefully considered, with a view to its environmental and human impact. Nobody can get it right all the time and it’s not always easy to know what to do for the best, but it is vital that we keep debating, investigating and considering the impact we have on the world around us. Riverford seems to me to be a perfect example of this. I’m so impressed by the depth with which you consider how your produce is grown, packaged, transported &etc… Your approach is so refreshing when compared with the many so-called ‘ethical’ businesses that simply tick a few boxes in an attempt to court good publicity.

  9. Many congratulations on this latest hugely deserved award, and on Guy’s most recent “beyond the field pontification”. From our very first farm visit long before the advent of the Field Kitchen, led by Guy with his (then) small son on his shoulders, we realised that there was more to this business than profit and straight commercial criteria. Surely now, in the second recession of recent years – with MPs discredited and leaders of industry not only not taken to task for mismanagement but in many cases escaping with huge personal profits from the ruins of once successful companies – the public will come to realise that the value of a product is so much more than its price-tag.

  10. I believe ethics is what governments haven’t got around to doing yet. And ‘fair’ as in markets is just as good business as ‘free’ except that in the end, it’s better because everyone gains instead of just the few who know how to manipulate the market best.

  11. I have to agree with everything said above, and with everything that Guy writes in the weekly letter that comes with my veg box. Ethics means not only taking care of environmental issues, bur how we treat each other also. The current political scandals have shown that somehow politics and ethics have become separated when they should be inseperable. I also agree that short, quick fixes are not ethical. Ethics takes the long term view in which every one gains and so does our planet. As a horse-lover and follower of natural methods of horse-keeping, I see a lot of unethical behaviour toward animals – including keeping them alive when they should be allowed to leave in peace.
    (Sorry – a little diversion on my part!) We are all connected and that should mean ethical behaviour towards each other, the planet and the animals that inhabit it.

  12. pam in Guildford

    Agree with much that has been written about Riverford so keep up the good work.
    Recently I heard a news item about charities having a hard time. Good advice from an expert was to remember your core values, why you started the charity/ business and ask have we moved away from there? Thinking of a Christian holiday centre suffering a likely close down, possibly for many reasons, I’m sure one of them was a Thatcherite seduction of “bigger is better”, growth is great, thus leading ultimately to a feeling that money mattered more than people – or the planet.

  13. Excellent award choice! You’ll get nothing but support and applause from us. Brilliant and inspiring. Thank you.
    We also love Guy’s rants and reflections, we’re with you all the way, slow and steady wins the race!

  14. Helene Dutranois-Ozdemir

    Well done Riverford. Well deserved.

  15. I buy from Riverford for three reasons :

    1) The food tastes good and it probably encourages us to eat more fresh produce.

    2) It is grown with as much care for the environment as possible.

    3) I believe it is an ethical business and I can thus believe that you aren’t trying to make more money by cutting corners and treating others badly.

    With a young family to look after, I don’t have time to consider the environmental impact of everything I buy. I would like to be able to trust the businesses I buy from. Riverford is one of the few that I can.

    It is also good to see someone in business who thinks about more than just profit. I enjoy reading your thoughts on the web and in the veg boxes.

  16. Congratulations on your award! In my opinion, an ethical business should provide a benign service without making obscene profits, whilst looking after the welfare of its workers.
    Long may you keep up the good work.

  17. Dear Guy – Thank you for your piece in the recent newsletter. Stimulating, thought provoking and made me feel proud to be supplied by Riverford. On ethics – I think everyone has captured the essence of what ethics represents – my only reservation is having worked in the ethical field a good long time now I am saddened by the number of organisations that start out with good intentions but gradually lose themselves as they grow. I don’t get the impression that has happened at Riverford at all but please hold on to your truths. Forgive me if I sound cynical but I deeply care and believe that it is possible to trade in a non-exploitative and fair way and it saddens me when it turns out that organisations are playing with the truth and resorting to greenwash. Keep up the good work and many congratulations.

  18. Guy from the farm
    Not sure who it was above who mentioned long-term; time frame is a vital part of ethical decision making; it has to work for everyone over a long time; making that work often requires trust ,which again, only works when viewed in the long-term. Better to be patient. I have a strong underlying faith we will energe stronger from the current mess if we hang on to our beliefs.

  19. I agree with what has been said about Riverford seeming to be a thoroughly ethical company in everything it does, and I really like getting my box from you. However, I was very surprised that in the same box that included Guy’s “beyond the field pontification” I received an uncritical leaflet and endorsement for the Eden Project’s Big Lunch.

    While it is obviously an excellent idea in these fractured times to encourage local community involvement, I was pretty horrified to see that its 2 main sponsors are the Post Office and EDF. What is the Post Office doing to promote community cohesion in allowing itself to be privatised and shutting down many vital urban and rural post offices? While EDF is a multinational power company which has vast investment in nuclear power – according to its website “EDF, the world’s leading nuclear power utility, operates a French nuclear fleet consisting of 58 reactors spread over 19 different sites”. Their website is one of the biggest exercises in greenwash I have ever seen. On top of that, EDF is one of the major sponsors of the 2012 Olympics – an event which is not green, not sustainable, not ethical, and is responsible for more destruction of my local community that any other single event in its history, with the possible exception of the Blitz.

    So keep up the good work, Riverford, and keep a closer eye on what your friends are up to.

  20. Congratulations on your award back in June .My idea of an ethical business consists of making a reasonable profit for goods or services given.Above all in the case of food ,animals must be given the highest welfare whilst they are alive and the slaughter must be as quick and as humanely as possible. As regards vegetables ,these should be grown with regard to the environment and to the health of the people .These are the ideals! what of the people who have these same ideals but through no fault of their own cannot afford the cost. With regards to profit, it reminds me of a dvd that I watched called Black Gold where Ethiopian coffee farmers ,because of such a poor price given for their coffee beans were changing their crops to narcotics. Anyone interested go to http://www.BLACKGOLDMOVIE.COM best wishes Margaret Smith

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