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Ecological GlossarySustainable nutrition

Solidarity Purchasing Group

Solidarity Purchasing Group

A Solidarity Purchasing Group (abbreviated SPG) represents a purchasing group, born from a spontaneous organization with the aim of a critical and sustainable approach to consumption.
SPG tend to apply the principles of fairness, solidarity and sustainability to their purchases (the most common are aimed at food or consumer products).
In this sense, the SPG act as structures of direct connection between producers of goods and services and consumers.
In this way the supply chain becomes direct, skipping the Large Organized Distribution (GDO) or other forms of intermediation.
A Solidarity Purchase Group therefore purchases directly from producers, who are selected by SPG itself on the basis of well-defined and regulated criteria.
Generally among these criteria there are usually environmental sustainability, solidarity with the producer and the quality of the products.
Structures that come close to the SPG philosophy are the farmers’ markets which aim to enhance local products and defend their producers, i.e. those markets that farmers organize directly in the city to sell the fruits of their land to the final consumer.

Constitution –
To form a supportive purchasing group it is necessary to create a group of people, who have the same aims and objectives, also through a legally recognized form (associations, etc.).
Each SPGs has its own management: some use a storage location where they meet to collect the goods, some organize themselves in order to take turns collecting the goods from the supplier and then delivering them to the others. There is usually a contact person who acts as an intermediary with the supplier/s and who collects and sends the orders, who takes care of the “bureaucratic/accounting” management, who offers to make deliveries.
However, in the modern form, the SPG can also equip themselves with IT platforms for the management of deliveries and purchases and for the logistics of distribution.
The latest generation SPG have increasingly enhanced the potential of the Internet, in order to facilitate the exchange of ideas and opinions, by activating blogs where everyone (even those outside the SPGs) can leave their contributions and advice.
The SPGs were born in 1980 and the first ever in Italy was born in Fidenza, in the year of the Chernobyl disaster (1986), from the need of a group of consumers to check and know what they found on their plates every day. Today the SPGs network is expanding more and more.

Goals –
Solidarity Purchasing Groups (SPGs) are therefore born from the need for critical, fair, supportive consumption and, increasingly in recent times, for sustainable supply chain models.
The SPGs are made up of groups of people who decide to join together to organize their purchases, favoring local products from the short supply chain and producers who guarantee not only the quality, but also the dignity of the work within their companies.
In this way, becoming structures of intermediation and direct bargaining, the products purchased in this way often have lower prices than those in the stores.
Furthermore, a SPG activates within it not only an organization aimed at consumption, but also at solidarity: with respect to social relations and the environment. The network that is created can also find its connotation within different social contexts, creating the basis for greater inclusion of different types of families or groups present in the area.
In a nutshell, the SPGs act as promoters of citizens’ communities, being able to influence, therefore, also the territorial social and organizational aspects.
The SPG operate on a non-profit basis, with awareness of the political dimension of consumption: individuals or families intend to exercise a form of critical consumption, based on the knowledge and quality of the product and the type of production, on the producer’s fair wages.
The term “solidarity” takes on several meanings:
– solidarity with the producer (“I know you, I understand the value of what you do, I participate with you in the supply chain”), valuing the small compared to the large (small farmer against large-scale retail); local (and therefore seasonal) products against the importation of early produce from distant countries; the rediscovery and protection of products and flavors of the area where we live.
– solidarity with other members of the SPG: being part of a Purchasing Group means, first of all, doing volunteer work. SPG is not a shop; but a group of people and consumers who buy consumer goods together, sharing the principles on the basis of which producers are chosen. Everyone brings their own personal contribution to the SPG.
They can be purchased through the food supply network but also for daily consumption, chosen according to the general principles that underlie the Association’s Statute. The project supports and strengthens the current links between SPG and agricultural producers in a collaborative relationship, creating a favorable ground for the development of the subjects involved through:
– a formalized and continuous collaboration;
– the improvement of supply and distribution networks;
– the disclosure to the public of the objectives of the short supply chain and of the SPG.

Mercati dei contadini

Fundamental principles –
The objectives and goals for creating a Solidarity Purchasing Group must be carefully established beforehand to allow them to be achieved quickly and efficiently.
Below are the guidelines through which to create a SPG.
A SPG, in detail, can respond to the principles with which to achieve the set objectives:
– Objective 1; this objective aims to economically support the Short Supply Chain and Responsible Agricultural Production. This objective has the aim of supporting small producers, establishing direct relationships with them that guarantee fair remuneration, thus giving them the possibility of creating employment, and maintaining knowledge/skills on and of the territory. Encourage organic production, and in recent times agro-ecological systems, by selecting local producers who produce with respect for the environment and the natural cycle of production. Enhance typical and local products according to their seasonality, respecting the ecological principles of local farms. Create outlets and income stability for responsible producers.
– Objective 2; this second objective is useful for creating a Solidarity Network and a DES (Solidarity Economy District) where many SPGs of the area participate together in choices and activities. In this sense there is a tendency to formalize and stabilize the direct links existing between SPG and local producers, consolidating collaborations with other SPGs, with GAF (Family Purchase Groups), etc., making them continuous.
– Objective 3; another purpose of the SPG is that of the dissemination of the concepts of Short Chain and Solidarity Consumption, promoting contact between the Public, SPG and Producers. In this way, events and moments are organized to disseminate the objectives of the short supply chain, fair and aware consumption, responsible production, etc. spreading the culture of nutrition education.
– Objective 4; the last important objective is to facilitate the Participation of citizens and p producers in the Short Chain and Solidarity Consumption, through Supply Networks (relationships between producers through the SPG), Delivery Points in different districts (proximity with the public), Collaboration with local authorities, other SPG and other associations.

Activity –
Obviously, the proper functioning of a Solidarity Purchasing Group depends on a whole series of activities, which some or part of the members take greater responsibility for, which allow it to function properly and achieve the Objectives.
Three activities that are considered indispensable are summarized below:
– Activity 1; this activity has the aim of identifying and implementing a Supply Network. This is because the same purpose of the members of the SPG is to change, for the better, the criteria of consumption and, above all, of nutrition. From this will derive the fundamental and supportive criteria for selecting suppliers, determining a better Quality/Price Ratio, with quality products at fair prices, accessible to all; rational, healthy, good and fair spending, no waste; better Product Quality, through authenticity, wholesomeness and food safety, absence of chemical residues, respect for the environment: productions with limited use of treatments, organic productions, etc.; typicality of crops and productions, increase in biodiversity of agricultural productions. In this way the concept of the Circular Economy is promoted, with greater clarity of the origin of the raw materials necessary for production locally, except for products not available locally; reduction of environmental costs due to distribution. In this way there is direct contact with the producer, who knows the area well and has regard for its conservation; relationship of collaboration and trust, and not of exclusive exchange of goods/money. Another important aspect is that of the seasonality of the consumption of agricultural products; in fact, a well thought-out platform allows a useful exchange between the needs of the request and the availability of the productions. Thus a SPG/Producer and Social Responsibility relationship is established. In this way, the willingness of the supplier to make the company and production techniques known, also through direct visits, is promoted. Therefore, a transparent relationship is established, with complete information on the entire production process (raw materials used, production techniques, treatments carried out, etc.) and on a transparent price. The traceability of the entire supply chain is implemented in a simple way (very difficult and often impossible in large-scale distribution), with the possibility of knowing the origin of all the raw materials used in production (especially for processors). This activity also allows for greater fiscal correctness as all payments must correspond to adequate fiscal documentation (invoice, receipt, declaration, etc. according to the chosen tax regime).
– Activity 2; this activity has the purpose of identifying and implementing an efficient Distribution Network. The first SPGs founded the deliveries of products by distributing the products from time to time at the homes of individual members who had become available or at premises made available free of charge by volunteer structures, parishes, etc.. The need to find fixed reference structures is justified by the need to create a network more accessible to SPG members, which relies on at least one delivery point for each reference district, as well as to allow better management of deliveries and distributions. The implementation of internet platforms for the organization of supplies, deliveries and logistics is the new frontier that can better establish a SPG. Furthermore, by taking root in the area, the SPG has the opportunity to make itself better known by other citizens of the area and to disseminate the principles and motivations that underlie the existence of the Association, through organized initiatives as well as through casual encounters.
– Activity 3; the latter activity, but no less important, is aimed at the Dissemination and Involvement system in the Short Chain. In this sense, the Organization of dissemination events are important, also open to outside the SPG, in the form of open debates with the participation of experts and producers, on issues relating to the protection of health through conscious consumption, environmental impact and knowledge of typical and quality products obtained locally. Also important are educational visits to producers, organizing events and educational days with visits to SPG supplier companies, in order to acquire direct knowledge and awareness of “what goes on our tables” directly from the company (the Farm) to fork (the Fork) which, recently the Farm to Fork Strategy of the European Union, has placed at the center of the objectives for the Common Agricultural Policy for 2030. It is also essential to know the production techniques used and to disseminate agricultural knowledge and traditions to a city audience, such as the members of the SPG.

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