Interview with a Producer: SESI

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Cultivate might be best known for our fresh local fruit and veg, but many of our members also enjoy the ethically sourced dry goods they can receive in their weekly boxes. SESI source delicious products like pasta, granola, nuts and seeds and fruits, and also refillable ethical cleaning supplies like shampoos, detergents and cleaners. We asked Rina, from SESI, to tell us a little more about what they do.

So, how did SESI get started?

Over the years we became dissatisfied with unaffordable brands which made it difficult for most people to refill their plastic bottles. SESI was born in May 2006 in the shed of our local primary school with the support of the headteacher and the PTA. Our refillable scheme of ethical wholefoods and sustainable household detergents at affordable prices soon spread to farmers markets and the general public. We now work to keep up with important issues such as farming, human rights, animal rights, food justice, forestry protection, personal health and our way of life on the environment.  

Why do you think SESI and zero waste is so important?

“About 11% of all the greenhouse gas emissions that come from the food system could be reduced if we stop wasting food.”

Our work aims to reduce food waste in our community. Goods wrapped in plastic makes profitable sense to unsustainable business models, but it causes huge economic losses and damage to our environment. By reducing plastic pollution and working towards zero waste we can help reduce carbon emissions and our formulas of sustainable detergents are low impact to Earth and don’t cost people’s pockets.

What types of products does SESI sell?

We supply organic, fairtrade (and where possible local) wholefoods such as cereals, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, grains, beans and pulses, and our own brand of vegan, cruelty free and biodegradable detergents, in bulk.

How do you source your produce and cleaning supplies?

We purchase many of our products from Infinity Foods and SUMA in bulk wholesale, which reduces the amount of packaging used when we supply to individual customers.

SESI detergents are made 50 miles near to Oxford by a long going, family run business with sound work ethics. Our formulas are mild, harmless, vegan and cruelty free. We go to great lengths to ensure our products whilst eco-friendly, are also affordable and easy to refill.

What’s your favourite part of working for SESI?

Being part of a collective transition for food justice is important to me. It’s great to play our small part as a hub, helping the refill network across the UK through supplies products that don’t harm people or our planet. We have been lucky enough to be a valued alternative to those seeking to reduce food waste and cut their plastic footprint. It’s also great that as a social enterprise, SESI re-inject funds into broadening our product list and branching out to create new partnerships and refill stations. It’s really important to us that our focus is not profit, it’s to do good.

What plans do you have for the future?

SESI is now helping refill well over 50,000 bottles a month via our detergent refill network (over 150 traders)! We are continuing the food project where we’ve helped reduce packaging for over 13 years. Our long term vision is to support the birth of regional refill hubs which reflect the character of independent communities across the UK.

How can the local community help support you?

Ways of supporting social enterprises like SESI and Cultivate is volunteering with us, joining our teams, becoming a customer, highlighting the importance of our work when recommending us to others, linking up with us for updated research and joining our journey through the solidarity economy.

How else can we reduce our carbon footprint?

Supporting social enterprises that source locally or ethically produced food, sharing resources and skills such cooking at home and within the community using surplus food are transformative ways of reducing your carbon footprint. Where possible, growing some of your food in gardens and allotments is a direct way of taking control of what you eat. By shopping at local shops, businesses that support local producers like Cultivate, and farmers markets that you can walk or cycle to you can not only reduce your carbon footprint but also stay connected to your community.

How and where can the local community access SESI products and services?

Find SESI products at:

Cultivate Oxford online shop.

SESI PopUp at East Oxford Farmers Market, Sat 10am-1pm

Others traders  🏽  SESI MAP