How did Central England Co-op raise its Corporate Responsibility Index?

The society’s Hannah Gallimore tells how a focus on community, environment, marketplace and workplace improved the rating

Business in the Community’s Corporate Responsibility Index (CR Index) is the UK’s leading voluntary benchmark of corporate responsibility. It provides businesses with a framework to measure, manage and integrate responsible business practice into mainstream business strategy and operations – and allows businesses to benchmark against competitors and to transparently communicate progress to stakeholders.

At the start of Business in the Community’s Responsible Business Week (24-28 April 2017), Central England Co-operative revealed that it is celebrating being awarded 4.5 stars out of five in the CR Index. This marks a ratings leap from 2.5 stars in just 12 months, and is a “credit to the colleagues across the society”, according to chief executive Martyn Cheatle.

“Our new CR Index score is based on recognition for a wide range of initiatives and projects,” he adds, “including measurement of the impact our community investment has had in the areas in which we serve, sustainable procurement, training, environmental management, and supplier support.”

“It also highlights our continued efforts to develop our community partnerships, help raise funds for charity, engage with young people and reduce waste.”

In the 2017 Index, which businesses could apply for on an individual basis, Central England Co-operative achieved a score of 98%, rising from 87% in 2016.

“Every business should do something significant for society by being a force for good in the community, but that’s only possible if companies are able to measure the progress they are making as responsible businesses,” says Amanda Mackenzie, Business in the Community chief executive.

“I congratulate Central England Co-operative for achieving its score and look forward to working together to create a fairer society and a more sustainable future.”

So how did they achieve the improved rating? Hannah Gallimore, corporate responsibility manager at Central England Co-operative, offers an insight into the challenges, the changes and what the organisation has learned along the way…

The society has focused on four key areas

Challenging ourselves to make progress

Being a responsible business is about building strong and sustainable values and ensuring we are doing what is right for our customers, colleagues and suppliers, while making a positive contribution to society and ensuring we play a role in protecting the environment.

For Central England Co-operative, our Corporate Responsibility strategy works towards this by focusing on four areas – community, environment, marketplace and workplace. All have equal importance, and work involving all four themes has played a major part in our CR Index score rising from 2.5 stars to 4.5.

This work has involved engaging with senior management to ensure that the correct amount of time, resources and budget were available to achieve the goals within each area. This effort has been driven and supported by deputy chief executive Tony Carroll.

Hannah Gallimore, corporate responsibility manager

We chose to take a closer look at the four CR Index areas, to make sure our goals and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) were fit for purpose and aligned with our overall plans and goals as a Co-operative business. There are three key reasons why we have been able to make such a leap in our CR Index score this year.

The first involved being brave enough to recognise and challenge ourselves when something has not worked and then being able to shift focus to areas of real importance for our colleagues and our communities.

Secondly, we have undertaken a greater level of reporting when it comes to what we do as a society in terms of corporate responsibility.

This has meant that, in the past 12 months, we have compiled and published a CR report and an innovative and ground-breaking Social Return on Investment Report (SROI).

This approach has allowed us to make significant progress with the third reason we have improved our CR index score, which is related to having better data and using it effectively.

We are now able to see the real impact of our work via our SROI report, which shows that every £1 we spend in our communities equates to an investment impact of £20.50.

We use this information to ensure we make data driven decisions in the future that we can fully evidence and support.

As part of our work in the run-up to the announcement of the CR Index, we worked with BITC and experienced partner Simply Sustainable to make sure we were reporting and focusing on areas that really matter.

The society has installed more than 150 defibrillators at its sites

As a result of this, BITC highlighted several areas that played a key part in us achieving such an impressive score.

They praised our efforts to develop and implement an environmental management system, our clear and flexible procurement strategy with suppliers, our efforts with colleagues around gender and pay, and our Social Return on Investment strategy for our communities.

Overall our new CR Index score of 4.5 has been down to great support in making and challenging our decisions, undertaking greater reporting and using that information to better inform our plans for the future.

Corporate responsibility is about using what you do well as a business to make a difference for your colleagues, customers and the communities in which you serve.

The reason we have seen a major leap in our CR Index score has been down to the hard work of our colleagues and by ensuring that we have and remain properly focused on our aims and objectives.”

Six projects that played a key part in Central England’s Corporate Responsibility strategy:

  • The installation of over 150 defibrillators at food stores and funeral homes across its trading area
The society hands over a payment from its Community Dividend Fund
  • The Community Dividend Fund, which recently gave out over £52,000 to 26 groups
  • Its Funeral  business offers The Rainbow Package – a complimentary service for children 17 and under
  • The reduction of its carbon footprint by 26.3% since 2010
  • The society has signed the Time to Change Employer Pledge to raise awareness about mental health
  • Its colleague survey received a response rate of 87%
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