Organic vegetable box firm Riverford certified as an ethical B Corp

The organic vegetable box company Riverford has been certified as an ethical B Corporation business, reflecting its focus on its workers’ wellbeing through its John Lewis-style employee ownership model.

The Devon-based company scored 124.6 out of 200 in its first B Corp assessment, becoming the second highest-scoring food business overall in the UK behind the chocolate brand Divine Chocolate.

B Corp certification uses a broad assessment, substantiated by evidence, to score companies’ social and environmental performance. To certify as a B Corp, a company has to formally give people and environmental considerations the same weight as shareholders or profits. They must score at least 80 out of 200 to be certified and the assessment is repeated every three years.

A global model, there are now an estimated 307 certified B Corp businesses in the UK including Guardian Media Group, the owner of the Guardian. Big brands include Unilever’s Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream and the plant-based cleaning range Seventh Generation, while newer startups include the brewer Toast Ale.

Riverford notched up its highest score in the workers’ section of the assessment where factors scrutinised included employee ownership, a governance system including a co-owner council, and a high level of health, safety and wellness for its 800 staff. They each received the equivalent of a £1,300 annual dividend in June.

Guy Singh-Watson, the founder of Riverford, said: “Riverford has always sought to balance the needs of planet, staff, suppliers and customers, with commercial success being a means to an end, not an end in itself. We have done right by our own definitions, and developed our own measures. I, for one, am intrinsically resistant to assessments of virtue.

“But these are niceties we can no longer afford; we need an objective, global approach to avoid the ultimate market failure of thoughtless overconsumption leading to self-destruction.”

In the immediate outbreak of the pandemic the company had to cope with demand on the scale of its Christmas peak – but without having six months to prepare – driven by its 75,000 existing customers ordering more frequently or adding more items.

Before lockdown it was making 50,000 to 55,000 deliveries every week, soaring to 85,000 at the peak – 70% up on the previous year. It has settled down to about 70,000 a week, up 40% on last year.

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