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Fred Searle

BY FRED SEARLE

Riverford excels in ethical assessment

Riverford becomes second highest-scoring B Corp food business after its first assessment by the social and environmental certification body

Riverford excels in ethical assessment

Riverford's transition to employee ownership has seen the company switch to new employee-led governance structures, with a strong focus on workers' wellbeing

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Organic veg box company Riverford has become the second highest-scoring food company in the UK to be certified as B Corp for its social and environmental performance.

The company said its high score was thanks to its focus on worker wellbeing through employee ownership.

Riverford scored 124.6 out of 200 in its first B Corp assessment, recording the second-highest score of all certified UK food companies at the time of writing, behind ethical chocolate brand Divine Chocolate.

The score also puts the business ahead of fellow ethical veg box suppliers Abel and Cole (88.4) and Oddbox (93.1). In total, there are 307 certified B Corp businesses in the UK across a wide variety of sectors, with reassessment taking place every three years.

Riverford’s highest score was in the ‘Workers’ section of the assessment where it was rewarded for its employee ownership, its democratic governance system including a co-owner council, and its high level of health, safety and wellness for all staff.

To certify as a B Corp, a company also has to formally give people and planet the same weight as shareholders or profits, something Riverford didn’t need to change due to its employee ownership status. 

Riverford also scored highly on the Community and Environment sections since it sources a high volume of organic fresh produce from UK family farms (around 70 per cent of the vegetables it sells). 

Environmentally, the score was bolstered by the principles of organic farming that safeguard biodiversity, soil and water, as well as efforts to minimise negative impacts on air and climate, for example, by never using air freight.

Riverford sustainability and ethics manager Zac Goodall, who oversaw the application, said: “Aside from being proud to be a co-owner in a progressive and environmentally conscious business, I'm particularly proud of the score we were afforded in the 'Community' section of our B Corp impact assessment.

“Our commitment to sourcing as much produce in the UK from independent suppliers as possible, bolstered by purchasing significant volumes from close to our packhouses (with a significant proportion of this coming from right here in Devon) were both key contributors to this section of the assessment, and our overall score.”

Founder of Riverford, Guy Singh-Watson, added: “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. 

“That’s why Riverford has recently become a certified B Corp. This not-for-profit certification uses a broad assessment, substantiated by an evidence base, to score companies’ social and environmental performance. It is not perfect – but it is gaining credibility, and has the potential to nudge business towards broader measures of success.

“We see the most vital benefit as not marking our own homework; regular assessment will highlight areas for improvement, and help us balance the competing demands of one ‘right thing’ against another.”

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