Noel Josephson of Ceres Organics

April 20, 2023 at 4:17 PM

Ceres Organics was Aotearoa/New Zealand’s first organic co-op, starting out from a garage in Mt Wellington/Panmure in Auckland in 1982. From these humble beginnings it quickly transformed into the leading distribution company that we know and love today, operating across Australia and New Zealand with shareholdings in organic companies in Thailand and Argentina.  Noel Josephson was there from the start and is still involved today and, ahead of Organic Week (1-7 May), we caught up with him to find out more about this market leader of the organic world.

Noel Josephson, Chair, Ceres Enterprises

How do the values of your business drive the decisions you make?

Our company was born out of concern for the future of the earth and humanity, actually out of a small study group interested in social and economic questions and the perspectives Rudolf Steiner gave as outlines for pathways forward. It has always been purpose driven, that is we place high value on including social and environmental factors in our decisions and more especially in our actions as practical steps.  Our purpose comes from our early years ‘ to bring healing to the earth and humankind’ by rejecting commercial economics and focusing on relational economics and in our work to transform our relationship to nature and improve the wellbeing of people through organics.  This is supplemented by 7 beliefs including placing the care of the earth and the dignity of each human being first, supported by ethical behaviour, working together, looking forward, making it happen and finding the passion in what we do.

Why is what you’re doing important/different from the mainstream?

Humanity needs to reconnect with the earth and with each other.  We can’t do that through the commercialisation of everything, that is by leading with money and making decisions alone on money.  We have to lead with the supply of goods and services based on forming relationships of working together where money follows as an indication of the social health of what we are doing, not the purpose.

As a founder Noel has been at Ceres since the beginning and across 5 decades!

How does your business fit within or contribute to your local community?

We support the local organic sector and GE free movements, however we also recognise we source organic products from across the world from where they grow best or from where there is an artisan approach to providing a quality product.  Most importantly in the criteria is where we can form a relationship with the grower or producer and it can move from a transaction to a partnership where through shared beliefs we can do something more to further our shared purpose.  Because we operate in an international environment we are tuned to being world citizens without borders, uniting with others to put the earth first along with human relationships.  Of course as part of this we have in our consciousness that this also is to serve consumers across New Zealand and Australia.   

What have the challenges been and how have you overcome them?

Many on every front, but perhaps the greatest is communicating to people the deeper value of organics as a pathway to the future for the sake of being in harmony with the earth and for the social wellbeing of humankind.  It’s finding the right words but also working from limited budgets to communicate where we trigger a true realisation for people that humanity’s current path is towards more upheaval.  Organics has to move from this being a thought, something people like, to embodying it within their will and for it to become central in their actions, such that it becomes a pathway of re-connecting with the earth and with others. Internally it applies also where Ceres as a company moves more as a social organisation consciously aware of each other to serve those who form our wider community of suppliers through to consumers.

What else would you like our customers to know about your business?

Our commitment is to an ethical product sourced from working in harmony with nature and the social needs of farmers while matching this with the needs of consumers – or organics in its fullest embodiment as a renewal of our social life and our relationship with the earth.