For creating the most successful, sustainable model of production and consumption in the industrialised world.
The Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Cooperative (SCCC) of Japan is a unique organisation combining business and production with strict social and ecological principles and a vision of a community- and people-centred economy. Thus, it provides a radical alternative to both socialist and capitalist industrialisation.
As a business enterprise, SCCC wants “safe food at reasonable prices.” To achieve this, it decides the specifications for 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. 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 to lend a hand.
The Club promotes self-sufficiency in food and the sustainability of local agriculture. It also aims to diversify working opportunities for women and has committed itself to explore options for a people-oriented welfare system.
Striving for "autonomous control"
Seikatsu Club 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' Cooperative (SCCC). Under the motto of "autonomous control of our lives," Seikatsu Club has since expanded its activities to include production, distribution, consumption and disposal, the environment, social services and politics. Presently, 33 Seikatsu Clubs (affiliates to SCCC) in 21 prefectures conduct independent and unique activities.
The Seikatsu Club, which in 2018 had about 400,000 members, is a significant business enterprise. By 2017, the total annual retail sales had reached 87.2 billion yen (about 770 million US dollars), while the accumulated funds (the investment of members) stood at about 42 billion yen.
As SCCC 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. 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.
Promoting local, GMO-free food and agriculture
The Club promotes self-sufficiency in food and the sustainability of local agriculture, even though this runs counter to international pressure to accept trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and rules under the World Trade Organisation, which threaten to destroy family farming. The Seikatsu Club also aims to diversify working opportunities for women and has committed itself to explore options for a people-oriented welfare system.
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 food item while proceeding with its own labelling system and excluded GM food, feed and additives.
Protecting the environment
SCCC has greatly contributed to the reduction of CO2 emissions by using returnable bottles and containers. Sixty-seven food items such as soft drinks, soy sauce and jams are delivered to members in returnable bottles. In 2017, about 4,300 tons of containers and bottles were retrieved, which meant a reduction of about 2,400 tons of CO2.
Working toward a nuclear-free society and generating renewable energy, Seikatsu Club is pushing forward with the construction of wind power facilities and solar generating stations, and the installation of solar power generating facilities at distribution centres and depots (stores). The collective purchase of electricity focusing on renewable energy is coordinated by Seikatsu Club Energy Co., Ltd., which supplies and sells electrical power.
Social welfare programmes
The Seikatsu Clubs in each region operate their own long-term nursing care and childcare programs, establishing social welfare corporations and non-profits to practice welfare programs that are locally rooted. The total worth of the Seikatsu Club Group’s welfare programs has reached 17.3 billion yen, which is one of the largest for a corporate group in Japan.
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 2018, such collectives had about 17,000 member workers.
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 municipal government. By 2018, there were 100 network members serving as local councillors.