This Co-op Fortnight we’re joining with Co-operatives UK and the co-op sector to celebrate how co‑operatives offer an altogether different way to do business. We thought this was a great opportunity to catch up with an established co-op. In our newest blog article, Sally Green of Edinburgh based New Leaf chats to us about why a co-op model works for their members and their customers and how its helping them navigate the challenges of the cost of living crisis.
Who is New Leaf and what is your mission?
The New Leaf Co-op specialises in good quality, responsibly sourced foods and home products that we aim to make as accessible as possible. Our shop offers an extensive range of organic, vegan and low-packaged products. We aim to support local producers and to cultivate good relationships with our customer base and the local community.
The New Leaf Co-op has been running since 2012. We celebrated our 10 year anniversary last autumn with a community ceilidh and charity fundraiser. We are very proud of our jam-packed shop, and are excited for what the future holds for us.
What sets you apart from other shops?
We are known for being a hub in the community; a fun, kind and welcoming place for people. We know our customers’ names; we take time to chat with them and explain how things work; we are transparent in our systems. We’re also known for having fantastic competitive prices, particularly for our refill products (of which there are over 250!). We are very dedicated to our aim of making ethical products as accessible as possible, and we think this dedication and honesty sets us apart.
Why did you opt for a worker co-op model?
Our four founders originally chose the structure of a workers’ co-op as they saw advantages to running a business with a structure that allows for a wider pool of staff skills, greater autonomy for a better working environment, mutual support, and aims beyond the simple pursuit of profit.
We see the co-operative model as an excellent way of offering an alternative to supermarket-led systems of food production and supply. Our approach offers affordability and allows us to deliver on our social aims whilst maintaining control over the terms of our own employment.
Our current members collectively value the kindness and consideration that this structure offers, and how it breaks down the divides between work, happiness and health.
Who are your members?
We currently have six members: Jo, Rosa, Sally, Beth, Katherine and Chiara. We have a lovely blend of experiences in health foods, community support and care, art and art therapy, and environmental and cultural study.
The membership has shifted a lot over the last few years, and we are settling into a new rhythm as we come out of the initial clutches of the Covid pandemic and look to the future for our wee shop.
The New Leaf team is completed by our seven much valued staff members and three amazing volunteers, all of whom are integral parts of running our shop and supporting our community.
Does being a co-op make a difference to your local community?
Yes, we believe so! We surveyed our customers last year and just shy of 70% said co-operative values were an important reason for why they chose to shop with us. We also learned that environmental impact was the top priority for our customers, and we believe that our model allows us to maximise this on their behalf.
Being a workers’ co-op allows us as members to approach the decisions we make with purpose and balance. We see how this affects our business and community positively every day.
The cost-of-living crisis is creating challenging conditions for businesses right now. Does being a co-op help you adapt to this environment?
Absolutely. It’s been a huge team effort to continue navigating these conditions. Being a co-op has meant that our team has supported each other through it – in terms of day-to-day tasks and overseeing how it is shaping and affecting the co-op longer term. All those reasons that our founders chose the co-op model have been put to the test! And we’re definitely emerging stronger.
Mutual connection with other co-ops and co-op focused organisations has also massively helped us. Take our relationship with CDS as an example! It’s so wonderful to be able to look to and reach out to the wider co-op network for support in challenging times. What’s great about co-ops is that a culture of mutual support already exists, so in times of crisis this can flourish quickly and effectively.
Finally, we’d say that being a co-op and having that foundation in people over profit has allowed for a beautiful transparency with our customers during this time. We’ve been able to explain to our customers why price hikes are happening in our supply chains, how we are looking for alternatives, and offer substitutions for them. We think people appreciate the space for discussion and understanding, and the reassurance that the co-op is doing all that we can for our community. Find out about New Leaf by visiting their website.
If you would like to access support for your co-op, please get in touch with our team.