how we work

We operate according to a set of key principles and monitor and measure everything we do against these to track our impact on the food system and to ensure our activities and practices are fair and transparent. Click on the links in the list or scroll down for more detail on each one. And check our annual reports to see how well we are meeting those principles.

We are mission driven - trading for social purpose, not to maximise profit

Growing Communities aims to provide affordable, sustainable products and services and decent livelihoods, rather than generate excessive profits for others. We aim to be profitable, but surpluses are used for wider benefit rather than just enriching individuals. We also aim to be resilient in ourselves, seeking to be financially sustainable and as independent of external funding as possible. We 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.

We are committed to transparency, trust and cooperation throughout the food supply chain

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, we 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 amalagamating our results, rules, criteria and data is also important - to both prove our impact and 'make the case'.

We source food sustainably, using the food zones as a framework

We 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.

We trade fairly

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. Growing Communities pays 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.

We champion ecological food and farming

We 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.

We promote ways of eating and cooking that are good for people and planet

The current western diet has a massive environmental impact and contributes to escalating health problems such as obesity and diabetes. We 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.

We distribute food in a low-impact and low-carbon way

We 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.

We build a strong community in support of our work

Food can play an essential role in building community. Growing Communities creates jobs and increases 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.

We strive to change the big picture

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.