What we can learn from cooperation in the food system
Award ceremonies, from the Oscars to the Olympics, are usually about competition: may the best person win. What that mindset distracts us from is that in most cases, and definitely when it comes to big issues like sustainability, it is only through working together at different levels that we can truly succeed. Brighton’s P.E.A. Awards (People. Environment. Achievement.), given out for the sixth time this year, are an example of a diversion from the traditional competitive format, placing an emphasis on cooperation towards the achievement of a bigger goal which benefits everyone.
The biggest green awards in the UK, the P.E.A. awards, in association with Mongoose Energy, “celebrate the green heroes who are taking matters into their own hands and providing inspiring alternatives to business as usual.” The categories for 2016’s P.E.A. Awards were: Arts, Fashion, Film, Music; Best of the South West; Britain’s Greenest Family; Business; Energy; Food; Health; Homes; Money; Pioneers; Regional; Resources; Technology; Transport; Travel.
Jarvis Smith, founder of the P.E.A. Awards commented, “Our award categories represent the pillars required by a functional society. When they’re done well, we won’t just survive – we’ll thrive. We used four criteria: Innovation, Inspiration, Success and Scalability.”
One winner was chosen in all the categories but one - Food. There, the jury decided to celebrate two different organisations - Snact, a small social enterprise making snacks from surplus produce to reduce food waste, and Suma - a worker cooperative and wholesaler of ethical food. On one level, the two could not be more different, acting for the improvement of entirely different areas of the food system. But in another way, Snact and Suma are perfectly aligned - they both care about workers’ rights, ethical consumption, promoting a healthy vegetarian/vegan lifestyle, and acting on food waste: Snact by buying surplus produce at a fair price from farmers, Suma by giving out their surplus to food banks and pay-as-you-feel kitchens.
By giving both organisations an award in the Food category, P.E.A. highlighted something extremely important: that change needs to happen at every step of the food system. No single improvement can be truly effective without support from all levels of activity, and so in sustainability, there should be no competition, but instead cooperation. It was great to see living proof of that on the green carpet!
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