Quality and savings: more G.A.S., less cash
G.A.S. is an acronym for “gruppi di acquisto solidale” or solidarity purchasing groups. These groups aim to give a new meaning
to the chain of production processes by reorganising them with direct, stable relations between sellers and buyers. They hope to
bring about major changes in our lifestyle, taking us in the direction of more critical and ethical consumption based on a new economy well away from the supermarket, the usual distribution channels, and from the excessive power wielded by multinational
companies by placing people, relations and the environment at the centre of the equation. Within this new logic, they try to transform the elements judged by others to be diseconomies into resources: organic goods with their costs, saving disadvantaged organisations, the waste of the standardised offer, safeguarding biodiversities and, last but not least, transparent pricing that guarantees savings for buyers and dignity for sellers.
Who are G.A.S. groups?
Solidarity purchasing groups are set up by people who have decided to come together to buy a range of different products in bulk; since these groups started the most commonly bought goods are the ones we use every day, such as organic foods, fruit, vegetables, and also bread, cleaning products and even electricity, telephony, travel and wellness products. But it’s not just about saving money.
G.A.S. groups are not solely guided by the price: it’s about solidarity which “also” takes the form of goods at lower prices. Thinking that it is only a matter of saving money belittles the concept, G.A.S. groups undermine the foundations of our very economy; they are critical, effective and in some ways even “revolutionary”. All they need to do is collect the orders and satisfy demand by starting with the small local producers, and it is essential that these are as close as possible so you get the chance to actually
meet and get to know them.
A direct relationship between the consumer and the producer that should also be “profitable” for both parties; not just for the consumer, but also for the seller as this relationship is based shared interests.
Thanks to G.A.S. groups the goods are more than a product; they become a tool for establishing relations between people so long as the “groups” remain small, local and solidary. Each G.A.S. group has its own voice or speaks for a mini network, which is formed by multiple G.A.S. groups in an area and coordinates their activities. There are no rules or charters, nor a minimum number of people needed to set up a G.A.S. group. The groups have no geographical boundaries, no president, secretary or representative; each one is organised independently and “lives” its own life. The groups (about 750 groups are actually registered but it is estimated that there are at least twice that figure) are connected by a “network” so that they can share and exchange
information. Each G.A.S. group has its own criteria of how it selects suppliers, chooses how the goods are delivered, and establishes a fair price with the producer. These groups have no universal code but over the years they have put together some guidelines that can be summed up as small, local and solidary and by the 3 “Ps” of Product, Process, and Project. Whether or not goods are organic is one criterion used when choosing what to buy, but it is not the only one: others include supporting social cooperatives, the quality of the packaging, proximity, whether the produce is in season, and the size of the producer.