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July 13, 2024

Santos Organics takes on not-for-profit role

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Manager of Santos Organics and Greens councillor Michael Lyon. Photo Jeff Dawson
Manager of Santos Organics and Greens councillor Michael Lyon. Photo Jeff Dawson

Aslan Shand

From its beginnings operating out of a panel van in the early 70s through to its transformation into a community-owned enterprise in 1983, Santos has strived to meet the needs of the local community through the supply of organic, bio-dynamic and locally sourced produce.

It hit a rocky patch about five years ago after the organisation became insolvent, but it’s managed to work its way through this difficult period, implementing a range of changes that have brought the business back into profitability.

Following this successful turnaround, they have now decided to take things one step further and make Santos Organics a not-for-profit business.

‘We haven’t paid out dividends for around seven or eight years,’ said general manager and newly elected Greens councillor Michael Lyon. ‘Three years ago, we became a defacto not-for-profit business when we decided to reinvest in the business and community projects rather than pay out dividends.’

He says becoming a not-for-profit company has been an ongoing process that has engaged shareholders, staff, the board and management, and became the confirmed direction of the company in June at the AGM.

As part of this process, the company had to develop a charitable purpose to which they are required to commit a significant percentage of their profits.

‘Enhancing our natural environment is our charitable purpose,’ said Cr Lyon. ‘We want to ensure that we give more than we take from our environment. We have done a lot of work to tidy up our governance structures.’

Pulling themselves out of bankruptcy involved putting in place a strong board, who are able to provide regular and clear direction to the management team of Santos Organics.

$150,000 for projects

Cr Lyon sees this as a positive aspect of the business as he now fulfils the dual role of Santos Organics general manager and Byron Shire councillor.

‘There are very clear policies regarding any possible conflicts of interest that may emerge.’

Over the next financial year Cr Lyon anticipates that they will have around $100,000 to $150,000 to distribute and are aiming to have the structure for distribution finalised for the launch of their not-for-profit status in February 2017.

Acknowledging the claim that some people feel Santos is an expensive place to shop, Cr Lyon pointed out that by removing the profit motive people know the business isn’t just about profit for profit’s sake; rather, ‘by shopping here, people can know they are really giving back to community and the environment.’

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