£5million of lending helps transition go ahead to take the leading organic veg box company into staff ownership model
Triodos Bank has provided financial support to Riverford to help them transfer 74% of the company ownership to employees. Founder-owner Guy Singh-Watson completed the move after more than 10 years of research and reflection over the future of the company with a strong desire to protect its independence and values. A £3million loan along with £2million of working capital facilities has been confirmed to help fund the change.
Simon Crichton, Food, Farming and Trade Team manager at Triodos Bank said: "For many years Guy has been listening and talking about a succession vision for Riverford and now he has spectacularly delivered. As a bank we focus on only financing positive environmental and social change and given our support for both the organic sector and forward-thinking, sustainable businesses - including many using a community ownership model - it was great to be involved in this transition. We wish them all the best in the next phase of Riverford's journey."
Guy Singh-Watson founded the veg box business Riverford Organic Farmers in 1987. Triodos Bank and Riverford have had a long relationship well before any lending facilities were agreed directly, through the South Devon Organic Producer group (also established by Guy) and then more recently a loan that enabled Guy and his wife to purchase their farm in Devon. There they converted 140 acres to Soil Association certified farmland.
The company has grown to more than 650 people, delivering veg boxes to 50,000 homes a week. With employee ownership 74% of the company has moved into an Employee Trust, benefiting all employees equally. Guy will retain 26% and a very active role and will be taking the payment for his share - reckoned to be about a third or less of Riverford's market value - over a number of years.
Guy Singh-Watson said: "Triodos has always helped to create the linkages between the people who are interested in supporting organic farming and those who want a fair return on their money, rather than maximising profit at the cost of everything else. Despite our impressive growth at Riverford over the last 30 years, we're not here for profit. I started the business to produce something useful to the world. Being employee owned will protect our model of sustainable large-scale food production and our ethical values."
Triodos Bank has been an active supporter of the organic sector for more than 35 years, working with organic businesses from field to fork, from farmers and growers to processors and retailers. Triodos lends to more than 330 organic food and farming businesses and around 1,500 across Europe. Other well-known UK customers include Neal's Yard Remedies, River Cottage, CaféDirect and independent retailers Better Food Company (Bristol) and Hisbe (Brighton).
More information on employee ownership can be found on the Riverford website.
For further information please contact:
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About Triodos Bank
Triodos Bank is a global pioneer in sustainable banking using the power of finance to invest in projects that are good for people and the planet. Triodos uses its €14.5 billion (2017) in assets to create social, environmental and cultural value in a transparent and sustainable way.
With UK operations based in Bristol, Triodos Bank has branches in the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Germany and an agency in France. Globally, Triodos Bank has microfinance projects in Central Asia and Eastern Europe, and is a founding member of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV), a worldwide network of 43 banks seeking to transform finance into a vehicle of positive influence.
About Riverford Organics Farmers
Guy Singh-Watson founded the veg box business Riverford Organic Farmers on his family farm in Devon in 1987. In the last 30 years, it has grown from one man and his wheelbarrow (by his own description a 'freak on the fringe') to the country's largest organic veg box business. His veg boxes arrive in 50,000 homes a week, straight from the farm. A restless innovator, Guy still gets more ideas and inspiration from time he spends in the fields than time at a desk or in a boardroom. As well as his passion for good farming practice and good food, he has been outspoken in his views on ethical business practice; he has twice been awarded BBC Radio 4's Farmer of the Year, and in 2015 Riverford veg boxes were named The Observer's Ethical Product of the Decade. This month he is putting 74% of his business into the ownership of its staff.
Triodos Bank NV (incorporated under the laws of the Netherlands with limited liability, registered in England and Wales BR3012). Authorised by the Dutch Central Bank and subject to limited regulation by the Financial Conduct Authority and Prudential Regulation Authority. Details about the extent of our regulation by the Financial Conduct Authority and Prudential Regulation Authority are available from us on request.