The Seikatsu Club Consumers' Co-operative Union was officially established on March 12, 1990. However, the roots of the club date back to 1965 where a single Tokyo housewife organized 200 women to buy 300 bottles of milk to reduce the price. Since then, the Seikatsu Club has grown and now buys in bulk, creates conservation projects, and urges suppliers to provide healthy products. The SCCU develops, purchases, distributes, and inspects consumer materials such as food and clothing. The union also operates a mutual assistance fund and has established committees in order to combat the spread of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and use of environmental hormones. Seikatsu Club is funded by the members who make monthly contributions of 1,000 yen per person (9 USD as of writeup). SC co-operatives are located in Hokkaido, Aomori, Iwate, Ibaraki, Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa, Fukushi, Shizuoka, Aichi, Nagano, Yamanshi, Saitama, Gunma, Tochigi, Yamagata, and Yonezawa. In 1989, The Seikatsu Club received the Honorary Right Livelihood Award, which is considered the 'alternative Nobel Prize'.


Membership and Organization

The SCCU consists of approximately 600 co-operatives with 21,040,000 members in Japan. The Club is organized into neighbourhood 'Hans' or local groups of members between 5 and 12 members each. Every 100 'Hans' form an autonomous branch organization.
    Total membership of independent co-operatives:
  • Number of members: 250,426
  • Membership according to organizational structure: Small groups ('Han') approximately 140,000; House to house delivery 80,000; Depot (shop), Welfare Club (home delivery) 30,000. Note: includes double counting
  • Turnover: 73,100,000,000 yen (US$610,000,000)
  • Accumulated Funds: 20,900,000,000 yen (US$170,000,00)

Food and Consumer Goods

Out of a possible 300,000 kinds of merchandise from supermarkets, SC only deals with 2,000 general consumer goods items of which 60% are basic foodstuffs (rice, milk, eggs, etc). Pricing is determined according to the 'producer cost guarantee system' in which all producer costs from production to distribution are made public.

The SC also follows a pre-order collective purchase system in which consumer goods are supplied at a cheaper price (buying in bulk). Since the goods are pre-ordered, the members of the SC have a well-planned consumer life (budget, information about their food) and the producer's role is facilitated also since they know how much to produce and how to provide shipping for the product. The pre-order system also establishes a trusting relationship between the SC and the producer which facilitates the resolution of problems and increases the efficiency of purchasing consumer goods. The goods are delivered directly to the 'Han' or the individual through the SC centre.

Typical Consumer Materials:

Milk:
The SC produces milk at an SC factory using pasteurization sterilization (72 Celsius for 15 seconds). The nutritional value and flavour is changed by thermal denaturation of calcium and protein by means of high temperature sterilization (120-150 Celsius). SC milk is also milked according to strict health administration standards and is subject to high quality inspection standards. Ice cream and yogurt products are also produced from the same milk.

Chicken Eggs:
The SC's egg production derives from domestic species of chicken from a Gifu Prefecture hatchery which does not rely on any medicine for breeding. Egg producing chickens are given salmonella vaccine and the feed uses post-harvest free (PHF) and non-GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) raw materials. SC eggs arrive within 48 hours after laying and are delivered unwashed since the cuticular layer which covers each eggs helps to keep them fresh.

Pork:
SC pork is from crossbreeds of Duroc, Landrace, and Berkshires. The pork is grown in open pigsties without any antibacterial substances. The feed consists of rice grown on Japanese fields and is PHF and non-GMO. More than 30 processed food items derive from SC pork.


Seikatsu Club Principles on Safety, Health, and the Environment

The SC has established principles on safety, health, and the environment and producers must ratify the principles in order to do business with the Seikatsu Club. An 'Independent Control Committee' consists of SC members and producers that deal with procedures and standards in agriculture, fishery, stock raising, and processed food.

The SC is also concerned about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) and is opposed to the commercialization of Genetically Modified (GM) food. Since January 1997, the Club has inspected every consumer material it plans to use and excluded any food, feed, and additives that are genetically modified. A petition was submitted to the Japanese government that requested a labeling system for GM foods. The petition had 680,000 signatures and was adopted by the national assembly. The SCCU along with other co-operative groups has formed the 'Stop GM Rice Co-operative Network'. The Seikatsu Club will be participating in a demand to the national assembly to halt all GM rice for food and feed.

Environmental issues such as recycling is also part of the Club's agenda. The Seikatsu Club has created the 'GREEN' system, an acronym for 'Garbage Reduction for Ecology and Earth's Necessity'. The GREEN system consists of a program for returnable bottles and the non-use of PVC (source of dioxins). In 2001, the Club had collected over 8,000 tons of packaging materials and prevented 2,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions (bottle program).


Role of Women

"We stand by the belief that housewives can begin to create a society that is harmonious with nature by 'taking action from the home'" - Seikatsu Club, 1988.

Highly industrialized societies have pushed women into subordinate positions and the Seikatsu Club has confronted issues facing Japanese women. The SC has formed 150 worker co-operatives which employ women in service industries and the club has also placed many women in local councils and assemblies. Women form approximately 99% of the memberships of the club.


Sources:
http://www.seikatsuclub.coop/english/
http://www.rightlivelihood.se/recip/seikatsu.htm
http://www.iisd.org/50comm/commdb/desc/d08.htm
http://web.uvic.ca/bcics/anthill/v2/i1/seikatsuclub.htm

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