Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Cooperative
( 1989 , Japan )

...for creating the most successful, sustainable model of production and consumption in the industrialised world.

...people entrust knowledge and techniques which are necessary to live to others and people are losing contact with each other, thereby losing knowledge and respect for their fellow humans.


The Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Cooperative (SCCC) of Japan is a unique organisation of its kind, combining formidable business and professional skills with strict social and ecological principles and a vision of a community- and people-centred economy that provides a radical alternative to both socialist and capitalist industrialisation.

Contact

Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Co-operative Union
Weiship Higashi Shinjuku
6-24-20 Shinjuku
Shinju Ku
Tokyo
JAPAN 160-0022

http://www.seikatsuclub.coop/

Biography

SCCC traces its foundation back to 1965, when a single Tokyo housewife organised 200 women to buy 300 bottles of milk to reduce the price. In 1968 Seikatsu Club was incorporated as Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Co-operatives. Since then, Seikatsu Club has expanded its activities under a motto of “autonomous control of our lives”, including production, distribution, consumption and disposal, the environment, social services and politics. Presently, 29 Seikatsu Club Consumers’ co-ops (affiliates to SCCCU) in over 19 prefectures conduct independent and unique activities.

As SCCCU wants “safe food at reasonable prices”, it decides the specification (materials, production process, packing materials, environmental consciousness, etc.) of food and other consumer goods in cooperation with the producers, and purchases them by pre-ordering. This pre-order collective purchase system enables producers to plan in advance and guarantee product freshness. When the Club cannot find products of adequate quality to meet its ecological or social standards, it will consider producing them itself, as it now does with milk and soap. Much emphasis is placed on direct contact between producers and consumers to humanise the market, especially in the area of food production, where consumers regularly visit farmers to observe production methods and/or to lend a hand.

The purchase model is organized in ‘Hans’, meaning “a small group” …

SCCC traces its foundation back to 1965, when a single Tokyo housewife organised 200 women to buy 300 bottles of milk to reduce the price. In 1968 Seikatsu Club was incorporated as Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Co-operatives. Since then, Seikatsu Club has expanded its activities under a motto of “autonomous control of our lives”, including production, distribution, consumption and disposal, the environment, social services and politics. Presently, 29 Seikatsu Club Consumers’ co-ops (affiliates to SCCCU) in over 19 prefectures conduct independent and unique activities.

As SCCCU wants “safe food at reasonable prices”, it decides the specification (materials, production process, packing materials, environmental consciousness, etc.) of food and other consumer goods in cooperation with the producers, and purchases them by pre-ordering. This pre-order collective purchase system enables producers to plan in advance and guarantee product freshness. When the Club cannot find products of adequate quality to meet its ecological or social standards, it will consider producing them itself, as it now does with milk and soap. Much emphasis is placed on direct contact between producers and consumers to humanise the market, especially in the area of food production, where consumers regularly visit farmers to observe production methods and/or to lend a hand.

The purchase model is organized in ‘Hans’, meaning “a small group” with between five and 12 members each. They order and purchase by group and the members help each other. There are various group activities, such as childcare, developing within this system.

The Seikatsu Club, which in 2009 had about 320,000 members, is a significant business enterprise. By 2008, the total annual retail sales had reached 87 billion yen (about US$ 870 million), while the accumulated funds (the investment of members) stand at about 30 billion yen. Since the 1980s, the Club has started over 600 workers’ collectives, running restaurants, bakeries, used goods stores, soap factories and caring for elderly people. In 2007 they employed 17,000 staff.

In their campaigns against synthetic detergents, Club members realised the importance of the political process and formed independent networks in different prefectures to contest local elections. In 1979 the first network member was elected to Tokyo city government and in 2008 there were more than 141 Seikatsu Club members serving as local councilors.

SCCC has greatly contributed to the reduction of CO2 emissions by using returnable bottles and containers. 44 food items such as soft drinks, soy sauce, and jams are delivered to members in returnable bottles. In 2007, about 5,690 t of containers and bottles were retrieved, which meant a reduction of about 2,121 t of CO2.

While Japanese consumers face flooding food imports, especially genetically modified food, SCCC declared itself “GMO Free” in 1997. In cooperation with producers, SCCC has inspected every consumer material while proceeding with its own labelling system and the exclusion of GM food, feed, and additives.

The Club has determined itself to promoting self-sufficiency in food and the sustainability of local agriculture, even though this runs counter to international pressure, provoked by the World Trade Organisation, which threatens to destroy family farming. The Seikatsu Club also aims to diversify working opportunities for women and has committed itself to exploring the scope for a people-oriented welfare system.

 
 

FAQ about the Seikatsu Club

Questions asked in 2005

1. What are the obstacles you have had to overcome in your work?

1. Genetically modified food: In 1997, after the first authorisation of GM food in Japan in 1996, the Seikatsu Club began to inspect every consumer material and excluded GM food, feed and additives.

2. Containers and Packaging Recycling Law: Under this law, business operators themselves bear the cost of retrieval of returnable bottles, but the recovery of recyclable containers is subsidized by taxes, resulting in an incentive for business operators to choose the lower cost container recycling option. This law is under discussion as a result of our effort to change it, as mentioned in our answer to the next question.

2. How big is your political and economical influence today?

The Seikatsu Club has been successful in pressuring the national and local governments to change their policies by delivering a petition, which was signed by millions of people. For example, the prefectual government of Hokkaido formulated an ordinance to regulate commercial planting of genetically modified crops. Another example is that the government has decided to change the Containers and Packaging Recycling Law, which hinders from the use of returnable bottles, although their environmental cost is lower than a recycling option.

3. Does the mainstream media give you serious coverage?

The most recent example of the media coverage was about our large- scale investigation on genetically modified canola. At the ports where imported canola are unloaded, a lot of volunteer canola can be seen. Japanese civil groups found GM varieties in those canola, and the Seikatsu Club, in a coalition of a wider range of groups, started a nationwide investigation. We have to admit that media coverage is not enough, but some journalists are always watching our activities.

4. Is the Club a club for every consumer or just for wealthier people who can afford higher prizes? Is the membership still growing?

Of course, the Seikatsu Club is for every consumer. It is open to anybody, and the membership is growing. Prices for goods sold by the Seikatsu Club are not higher than the similar products in the commercial market, because private companies tend to put higher prices by an added value. The pre-order collective purchase system of the Seikatsu Club enables the members to have a well-planned consumer life, reduces prices by assuring reasonable production and distribution, and eliminates the risks which can occur with overhead and huge stock of goods.

5. How do you organise people? How does your member become a leader of your activities?

The members are encouraged to participate in many activities at different levels. In the course of their activities, the members learn from each other. A ?Han? has been playing the role of an educational centre, where the members can learn about our goods, our system of work, and our activities. Then, they come to be motivated to organise more people. Nowadays, many of our activities are based more on individuals than on Hans, but we are doing every effort to ensure the members? participation, which is the best way for the members to acquire leadership.

6. What effect has the Right Livelihood Award had on your work?

Being inspired by the Award, the Seikatsu Club Kanagawa launched the “Kirara Award” to encourage activities of the youth in fields such as peace, environment, welfare, and culture. The recipients include a group supporting immigrant children. Another recipient provides many programs for victims of domestic violence. The Seikatsu Club Tokyo also established “Grassroots Civil Fund” to help local activities and to fund groups which are working with Asian NGOs.

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