Our Key Principles
How can we build an alternative food system that is sustainable and resilient?
For 20 years, Growing Communities has demonstrated that it is possible to reduce the amount of energy, fossil fuels and resources it takes to feed a city, while at the same time creating jobs and community in both urban and rural areas and producing delicious food that is good for people and the planet. Hard work – but worth it!
Now, working with the other Better Food Traders, this model is rolling out to other areas of London and elsewhere in the UK.
The model is shaped by a set of Key Principles, which are constantly monitored and reviewed and help to guide our work and operations.
As Better Food Traders, we believe that a sustainable and resilient food system should be built on these nine principles.
- Principle #1: Mission driven, trading for social purpose, not to maximise profit
- Principle #2: Building supply chain transparency, trust and cooperation
- Principle #3: Sourcing food sustainably, using the Food Zones as a framework
- Principle #4: Trading fairly
- Principle #5: Championing ecological farming and food production
- Principle #6: Promoting a diet that is good for both people and planet
- Principle #7: Distributing food in a low-carbon, low-impact way
- Principle #8: Building a strong community in support of our work
- Principle #9: Striving to change the big picture
Better Food Traders aim to provide affordable, sustainable products and services and decent livelihoods, rather than generate excessive profits for others.
Better Food Traders aim to be profitable, but surpluses are used for wider benefit rather than just enriching individuals.
Better Food Traders also aim to be resilient in themselves, seeking to be financially sustainable and as independent of external funding as possible.
It is important that they have a legal form, organisational structure and mission statement that ensures the principles we believe in are built into our work regardless of changes to membership, staff, committee or trustees.
There is little transparency in the current food system, which applies subsidies unfairly and allows a whole range of costs to the environment and communities to go unaccounted for.
In contrast, Better Food Traders want to be honest and open in our financial dealings with those who supply our food (and expect the same from them); honest about how we spend any surpluses and honest with ourselves and the public about the choices we are making.
Continuing, ‘hidden’ subsidies can hide the true cost of the food we are providing and therefore don’t help either to build a real picture of what is wrong with the current food system nor provide a real example of the alternatives we need to create. Measuring, publishing and amalgamating our results, rules, criteria and data is also important – to both prove our impact and ‘make the case’ as well as support each other as we explore innovative ways to produce, distribute and supply healthy and sustainable food.
Better Food Traders want to see more ecological farms directly connected to the urban communities they feed, enabling supply chains to be shortened and communities to source increasing amounts from closer to where they live.
In practice this means we source our food as locally, seasonally and directly as possible.
The ongoing practice of driving down the prices paid to farmers and producers in this country and across the world has led to untold hardship and negative consequences for the local and global environment.
Better Food Traders pay farmers and suppliers what they need to be able to produce food sustainably, while also giving our customers a fair deal, paying ourselves living wages for our work and investing in our wider mission and community.
Better Food Traders support, and want to be seen to support, only those practices that do not increase the amounts of artificial chemicals, fertilisers and pesticides in our food and the environment, but which rely on sound soil and wildlife management and involve the highest standards of animal welfare.
Ecological farms operate at an appropriate and human scale (predominantly small to medium-sized); they are mixed and diverse; and they are built around human skills and labour backed up by appropriate technology and machines and grounded in sound science.
The current western diet has a massive environmental impact and contributes to escalating health problems such as obesity and diabetes.
Better Food Traders champion a diet that reflects seasonality – and what can best be grown where – is mainly plant-based, involves fresh or minimally processed food, minimises the amount of food consumers waste and provides everyone with enough.
Better Food Traders make efficient and appropriate use of natural resources, respecting finite limits and integrating waste streams.
The use of fossil fuels is minimised in favour of using renewable energy sources.
We use resources wisely, by minimising the amount we use; reusing, recycling and specifying environmentally friendly materials whenever possible, and reducing waste.
Food can play an essential role in building community.
Better Food Traders create jobs and increase skills in our communities, reconnecting people with farming and involving them in the production, trading and celebration of food.
We make it easier and more affordable for people to choose and use fresh, seasonal and local food and work to raise awareness and understanding of how food choices made by individuals, households and organisations can create a sustainable food system.
We work collaboratively with local partners and encourage them to connect with each other.
To make the difference the world needs now, change needs to happen across the whole of the food system.
Our vision and our trading systems prioritise the local but work out to the global – enabling growers in urban and peri-urban areas, rural farmers, larger farms, wholesalers and imports to exist in harmony and building a food system that is collaborative, rather than competitive.
We measure our impact and aim to inspire, advocate and influence: we articulate our vision and share learning with those in the wider food and political community.