Early September 2018, CECOP - CICOPA Europe secretariat’s staff was in Slovenia for three days to take stock of the situation of worker and social cooperatives. We visited several cooperatives active in Ljubljana and Maribor, the second-largest city of the country where we were also invited to participate to the International Conference on Cooperatives "Združimo se" addressing the involvement of young people in cooperatives, organized by INFOPEKA and CAAP Maribor.
In Ljubljana, we met with Živa Lopatič from the Buna worker cooperative. The cooperative has its own coffee shop, the Cafe Čokl, described by its owner Tine Čokl as "a small place where the coffee is big”. We sat down for a couple of hours with Živa at the terrace and, indeed, the place is small but friendly and serves an excellent coffee exclusively made of Fair-Trade beans, roasted by the cooperative. Tine and Živa, who works in the field of communications, together with their friend and university teacher Rene Suša, are the three founders and members of the cooperative, which employs several waiters trained to become genuine "baristas" specialized in the art of preparing and serving coffee.
As serving good coffee require some skills and a certain knowledge "we prefer to train our employees ourselves and to have them to stay with us for more than a summer for instance. We also want them to be aware and be able to explain to our customers the basic principles of Fair-Trade and cooperatives", explains Živa. As a result, Buna is currently helping three students by paying their university fees in exchange of some working hours at the coffee shop. In total, Buna employs 4 persons today.
The cooperative was created around 2013 to encourage people to question where the products and services they are buying come from, how they are made and how their price is structured. Buna cooperative is not only profit driven, "the principal activity is the implementation of humanitarian activities and education", Živa told us. Income from the sale of products are used to cover the cost of purchasing raw materials and preparing coffee for the end user. "When we manage to accumulate some benefits we use them to implement projects for raising awareness and develop new products".
In addition, the founders regularly organize meetings for different audiences where they explain how Fair-Trade system works. "Coffee is a perfect example, since it is still the most important raw material within the Fair-Trade system. People all over the world drink coffee every day,” said Živa
Nevertheless, coffee in its various forms is the first in line of Buna products: "Fresh coffee is brought to Slovenia through the Fair-Trade system. Once here, we examine each batch and carefully roast it according to its individual potential. After the necessary cooling and resting period, we prepare it in different ways. Our favorite preparation method is called the drip. In the summer we are preparing cold brew coffee which can be used to prepare different coffee drinks to your taste." By selling products made in accordance with the Buna concept, which includes the principles of Fair Trade, "we want to provide our users with the possibility of making an informed purchase".
Ensuring freshness, price transparency, revealing the origin of products and environmental responsibility are the four key elements of the Buna concept: "Each Buna product is accompanied with information about its origin. Raw materials and products used in preparation come from the Fair-Trade system or are made in accordance with its principles. We aim for the shortest possible trade chain between the grower, the producer and the consumer in order to guarantee freshness of our products. By revealing the details of our price structure, we ensure transparency to our customers. And finally, our customers are able to adjust their price by reusing the packaging, joining us and the people we work with in environmental responsibility."
"Those principles are in line with the cooperative principles" concludes Živa, and we could not agree more as cooperatives put their values into practice, among them: autonomy and independence; education, training and information; and concern for community.
This mission to Slovenia has received financial support from the European Union Programme for Employment and Social Innovation "EaSI" (2014-2020). For further information please consult: http://ec.europa.eu/social/easi