Riverford – Good governance and engagement is firmly rooted
For us, employee ownership is not just a lable; every co-owner can really play a part in shaping our business. ‘Success’ means much more than just profits – we want Riverford to be a place people enjoy coming to work, and a business our co-owners feel proud of. During the pandemic the governance and engagement increased to make sure people were still our main focus during a demanding time.
Riverford Organic Farmers
Riverford is an organic farm and UK-wide organic vegetable box delivery company based in Buckfastleigh, Devon. We now have over 950 co-owners, working across multiple sites and a wide range of sectors.
In 2018, Riverford became employee owned. We’re also proud to be a B Corp: the certification for ethical businesses who work to benefit people and the planet.
Delivering good governance & engagement
As an employee-owned business, our co-owners are at the centre of everything we do, and are incorporated into our governance structure through a democratically elected Co-owner Council.
When COVID hit, the Council meetings were increased from monthly to weekly, to keep up with the rate of change and to ensure co-owner voice and judgement was used in key business decisions. This was also a great channel to hear co-owner voices; the People Director and the Managing Director attended nearly every meeting, so questions and concerns from co-owners were heard right away. Questions were answered immediately or taken away and responded to at the next meeting.
Quarterly, two members of the Co-owner Council also attend the Board of Directors meetings, raising the key issues coming out of the Council.
The pandemic called for our leadership team to take decisive action, whilst maintaining timely and transparent communications with co-owners. We put in place several initiatives to ensure really strong leadership visibility and voice, as well as providing channels for co-owners to share views and concerns.
Firstly, we reviewed our internal comms, aligning all channels with one key message each week. We launched a weekly newsletter, with each front page a message from a director, using informal and honest language – never sugar-coating the situation. We also introduced a weekly call where our MD briefed senior managers with key info, highlighting what to cascade to their teams. This ensured that all co-owners received the same info and managers could answer any questions.
Our MD also records weekly videos to co-owners on each key message. This has received great feedback as a much more engaging way for some people to connect with important info. The videos are very informal, filmed on the MD’s mobile; we didn’t want them to feel staged or too polished.
A monthly board meeting and financial update are also shared – letting all co-owners see how the business is doing, and encouraging them to contact the MD with questions or feedback.
We also invited co-owners to ask questions and share thoughts with our MD and People Director through a filmed Q&A. We were overwhelmed with the response! Any questions we didn’t have time to answer on film, we made sure to respond to later.
To understand how all these events and measures were affecting co-owners, and where we could do better, we have completed four co-owner surveys since 1st March 2020. Two of these were homeworking surveys to discover how our co-owners have adapted to this new way of working, the third was a pulse survey of all co-owners and the most recent a full in-depth co-owner survey.
We used this to make sure we were looking after our co-owners well-being setting up a range of support through our Wellbeing Hub.