Sustainability

GO Local Food is all about sustainability … and partnership.

Our Aim

Our aim is to develop our co-operative to be both environmentally and financially sustainable. We are careful to grow with nature, we do not use chemicals, plant and wildlife around our fields is thriving (sometimes on the fields too), our fields are truly diverse - we are good stewards of the land.

Our Members

All our members contribute financially which means we are not reliant on donations, grants, or loans, though additional investment is needed from time to time to tackle larger projects, or help us acquire machinery. Members also bring a vast range of experience, knowledge and skill which we use to create, develop and maintain ‘background’ tasks necessary for making an efficient and effective operation. And where we lack specific knowledge or skill we contract with the people best able to support us.

Our Partnerships

Over the past few years we have developed great working relationships with local (and not so local) businesses. Our partnerships have brought us very practical advice, knowledge and skills providing new opportunities for development – the kinds of things we would never have been able to afford or would even have thought about!

These partnerships have and are adding huge value to our enterprise - we wanted to know what it was like or meant to them… we asked them, why?!

Team Marvel
Dave Wilks, Head Geek

Re design, development and management of website, training co-op members, marketing plans and brand development, print design… and general all round advice on everything to do with getting our message across.

We don’t have a formal sponsorship policy, our commitment to the community is deeply ingrained in our values. Each year, we select one local business that we’ve encountered or been introduced to and provide comprehensive digital support at no cost. This isn’t about seeking out opportunities; it’s about recognising potential in our community and leveraging our expertise to elevate these businesses digitally. We’re all about making meaningful impacts where they count, helping these enterprises boost their online presence, reach wider audiences, and ultimately, thrive.

Our initiative didn’t come from a boardroom discussion or a written policy drafted from corporate aspiration. It was born organically from our team’s collective values and our experiences within our communities. 

Over time, we encountered various local enterprises, each with a unique story and contribution to our community, yet with similar challenges in navigating the digital landscape. These encounters sparked conversations within our team, leading us to ask, ‘What if we could use our expertise to remove that hurdle for them? What kind of impact could that have?’

The decision to formalise this into an annual initiative came naturally. We wanted to ensure a sustained commitment to not just offering one-off assistance, but truly investing in the ongoing digital success of these businesses. By choosing one business each year, we could dedicate the right amount of time, effort, and resources to make a significant difference without overextending our capabilities.

This approach allows us to stay true to our roots, prioritising quality, impact, and genuine community support over quantity. It’s not a policy; it’s a reflection of who we are and what we believe in as a team.

Our sponsorship initiative profoundly impacts our team and operations, but perhaps not in the way you might initially think. Financially, we allocate resources and time that we could have spent on profitable projects. However, the returns we gain in employee satisfaction, skill diversification, and community standing are immeasurable and, we believe, far more valuable.

Our sponsorship journey has indeed been a blend of both headache and joy. The ‘headache’ often stems from the logistical and practical challenges. Allocating resources, balancing these projects with our paid work, and navigating the unique needs of each local business can be taxing. Each sponsorship project is a venture into uncharted territory, with its learning curve and unforeseen obstacles, demanding flexibility, patience, and a significant investment of time and energy from our team.

However, the ‘joy’ part significantly overshadows these challenges. Seeing the tangible impact of our work on these businesses and, by extension, our community, is incredibly rewarding. It’s a joy to witness a business grow and develop and know we played a part in that transformation. These moments make all the headaches worthwhile: the successful launch of a new website, improved online visibility for a struggling enterprise, or heartfelt thanks over a simple QR code.

The most challenging aspects of our sponsorship initiative centre around two central issues: the perception of value and the extensive scope of digital assistance needed by businesses that are not tech-savvy.

Perception of Value: One of the unexpected challenges we’ve encountered is the perception of ‘free’ work. We’ve found that some businesses don’t assign the same value to pro bono services as they would to paid services. This can lead to a lack of commitment or seriousness towards the projects, resulting in missed deadlines, delayed communications, or shifting goals.

Broad Scope of Digital Needs: The second challenge lies in the vastness of what ‘digital help’ can entail, especially for businesses not well-versed in technology. While our expertise lies in specific areas, the digital needs of local businesses can stretch beyond our core services. 

These challenges have taught us valuable lessons. They’ve pushed us to communicate more clearly both internally and as a team, set firmer boundaries, and continually reassess our capabilities and goals. They’ve also reminded us that helping others requires a deep understanding of their needs and limitations, as well as our own. Despite these difficulties, the learning and growth we’ve experienced, and the positive impact we’ve had, make the journey worthwhile.

In essence, the sponsorship initiative is an investment. Not directly in our bottom line, but in the growth, unity, and satisfaction of our team, the prosperity of our community, and the intangible value of our brand. It’s these ‘soft’ returns that we consider our most valuable assets, shaping the business we are and the one we want to continue to be.

Northumbrian Pantry
David Murray, Director

Veg in return for marketing advice, social media training, promotional activity and fab! photos

At Northumbrian Pantry, we have had the privilege of collaborating with GO Local Food over the past few years, combining our skills and resources to mutually benefit our local communities in the Tyne Valley region.

GO Local Food specialises in producing the highest quality organic vegetable ingredients, and we have been fortunate to leverage their expertise in growing. This collaboration has allowed us access to top-quality chillies, tomatoes, and, most notably, an abundant supply of exceptional beetroot. This beetroot has allowed us to create a wide variety of chutneys and pickles.

Our partnership extends beyond the product exchange. We’ve jointly organised community events, including gatherings at GO Local Food’s Ovington fields. Recent examples include the cooperative’s open and harvest apple day, as well as a highly successful chutney-making event in 2022. During the latter, cooperative members had the opportunity to craft beetroot chutney under the guidance of Northumbrian Pantry’s founder, Alice Murray.

Our collaboration also extends to charitable efforts, for example one Christmas when GO Local Food’s beetroot was used to create beetroot chutney for the Elderberry Foundation at Alnwick Garden. This chutney was then donated to isolated individuals during the festive season.

Northumbrian Pantry and GO Local Food have joined forces on various marketing and awareness initiatives.  As a community-focused artisan producer, we highly value this partnership. It extends to positive collaboration, not only within our region but also as a centre for sustainable practices and environmental awareness, which is vital for protecting our planet.

Elizabeth Waterman
PDL based in Hexham, part of Vulcain engineering group

Financial investment in a shed (now know as Veg Quarters) to replace the dilapidated ‘lean to’ with airy space and shelving to store weekly harvested crops.

We wanted to give employees a say by setting up a dedicated Sponsorship Committee. It is made up of Group employees (French, English, Belgian, Swiss, Finnish, Canadian, etc.) and manages an annual budget of €50k to fund solidarity projects by employees linked to social inclusion (equal opportunities, gender mix and equality, inclusion of people with disabilities, diversity, etc.) and environmental protection (combating global warming, preserving biodiversity, saving resources, etc.). The Committee was set up at the beginning of 2022, so it will soon be celebrating its 2nd anniversary.

This committee was set up following two observations:

– We had noted strong support among employees for the solidarity initiatives proposed by the company (collections for charities, etc.).

– A number of employees were approaching the company for funding, but their requests were met with an “uneven” response.

On the one hand, this approach helps to make our Group more attractive to young people who want to join us, particularly if they are involved in an association.

On the other hand, it helps to retain our teams by reinforcing their pride in belonging to a Group that values and supports their commitment.

For information, since its creation, the Committee has supported 13 employee projects.

It’s obviously a great joy to support employees in presenting their project to the Sponsorship Committee and to share their joy when the Committee agrees to fund their project!

The hardest part is telling employees involved in a cause that is far removed from social inclusion or environmental conservation that they can’t apply for funding from the Committee.

Our experiences have brought us highly valued skills, experience and knowledge and in return we have added value to the businesses who are supporting us – sometimes through sales, other times through shared values and a desire to create a more environmentally sustainable world or through participation in a different organisational culture.

The opportunities are endless.  If you and/or your company, are looking for ways to achieve a particular environmental (green) goal, provide staff with new experiences, and are interested in supporting a local enterprise – we’d love to chat!  Email us admin@golocalfood.org.uk

It’s a two way process and we’re ready for more