From local, seasonal and organic to transparent, ethical and zero-waste: social enterprise HISBE is transforming the way supermarkets do business. By only selling products that are fair to farmers, suppliers, animals, the planet and consumers, this supermarket rebel is showing us ‘How It Should Be’. At their store in Brighton, we asked co-founder Ruth Anslow all about her revolutionary business.
After working in the corporate world for over a decade, one evening Ruth found herself on a balcony in Barcelona doing some serious soul-searching. There and then, she decided to leave the world in which money always comes first behind and start a change-making business of her own.
Putting happiness before profits
Eight years since then, Ruth and her sister Amy are running a successful social enterprise in Brighton that’s the living proof of the fact that a supermarket can be values-led and purpose-driven. Ruth: “All our food is as sustainable, ethical and zero-waste as possible. In addition, we pay fair wages and charge what’s fair for good food.”
“HISBE stands for How It Should Be. We’re here to create a more sustainable, healthy, fair and equitable food system.”
Business for good
But it’s not just their products that set HISBE apart. “Another big difference is what we do with the money”, Ruth explains. “HISBE is a social enterprise; we’re in business to do good and benefit our community. Most of our food is local, which means that 50 pence in every pound you spend at HISBE stays in the county. Plus, we make sure that 67 pence in every pound goes directly to suppliers, which is highly unusual.”
Vote with your money
By offering people an alternative, HISBE enables its customers to vote with their money. Ruth: “In the current food industry, highly processed food, industrial farming methods, exploitation of suppliers, misleading of customers and factory farming have become ‘normal’. We want to help people buck that.”
“By shopping at HISBE, you’re voting for local food production, regenerative farming, less waste and less plastic. Let’s buck what’s normal and start a supermarket revolution!”
By showing it can be done, Ruth hopes others will soon follow her lead. “It’s our dream to change the way the UK food industry operates within the next 30 years. By making HISBE so big and so copied, we want to make the old way of running a supermarket irrelevant and obsolete.”
How should it be?
Instigating change by creating an alternative outside of the status quo is something that Ruth truly believes in and encourages everyone to do. “We can all look at a problem and ask ourselves: ‘What should it be like?’ Create and articulate a vision of how something should be, and you might end up transforming your community and beyond. Because for everyone who shoots you down, there are more people that will be inspired by your vision and will follow in your footsteps.”
Ever since Ruth decided to leave her old life behind, she has become more connected to herself and the world around her. “I used to get up, go to work, and come home too tired to do anything else. Through setting up a shop, building a supply chain and meeting thousands of customers, you get connected to your community. And I love that. The fact that there are people around me who care about the same things I passionately care about is what gets me up every single day.”
Looking for more inspiration? Dive into the story of circular hero Elvis & Kresse.