The 2017 edition of the Co-op Way report reveals how the Co-op has been working to put social responsibility into practice throughout its Rebuild phase.
Chief executive Steve Murrells described the past few years as some of the most challenging in the Co-op’s history, but argued the business had not lost sight of its longstanding commitment to social responsibility.
In 2015, the Group established the Co-op Way Policy Committee, on which executives, senior management and representatives from the Members’ Council oversee the business-wide approach to ethics and sustainability, via its Co-op Way Policy Framework.
The report also provides an overview of the business’ performance and year-on-year comparable data. Throughout 2016, the Group has invested £10.8m in UK communities, including £4.5m for the campaign to tackle loneliness with the British Red Cross.
As part of the membership scheme, the Group launched the Local Community Fund to raise and distribute funds to thousands of local causes; in 2016 it backed around 4,000 local causes through its Co-op Membership Scheme.
The mutual has set a target for 2018 to give £100m a year back to members and their communities, including at least £20m to local good causes through the Local Community Fund.
The Group also plans to launch a Community Wellbeing Index this year to explore what matters most to members and inform what they do locally and nationally as well as a campaign to recruit Member Pioneers by the end of 2017.
The report looks at the Group’s contribution in terms of business ethics and behaviour, community, ethical trade and human rights, healthier choices, food and farming, the environment, diversity, health and safety and the sustainable development goals.
“We’re proud of our radical roots and campaigning heritage,” writes Mr Murrells in the report’s forword. “Unlike other businesses, our co-operative approach means we’re not always beholden to deliver short-term returns but can take the necessary long-term perspective to drive change for the benefit of our business, members and communities.”
This year also marks the 25th anniversary of the launch of the Co-op’s first fairly traded product. In 2016, the Co-op saw Fairtrade sales grow three times faster than the overall market, with an increase of 18.4% compared to 7.6% in 2015.
The Co-op is now offering customers 100% Fairtrade cocoa in all its own-brand products, and Co-op branded tea and coffee is Fairtrade. All bananas and bags of sugar sold in Co-op shops are Fairtrade.
The Group has also worked on promoting healthier food choices. Around 38% of price-based food promotions in 2016 were for healthier products. In addition, the retailer has launched an initiative called Now Cook It, an online course to encourage millennials to cook.
Another important focus has been developing farming groups. In 2016 the Group invested over £21m in British agriculture through farming groups and £1.6bn in sourcing Co-op-brand British meat, produce and dairy products.
Environmental impact was also assessed in the report, with the Group achieving a 46% reduction in GHG emissions since 2006 and a 9% reduction since 2015. Around 99% of its electricity in 2016 came from renewables while 96% of total waste was reused, recycled or recovered. Water consumption has been reduced by 19% since 2006.
The Group plans to have 80% of packaging by product line easily recyclable by 2020, and roll out a process of redistributing food from food stores to charities and community groups.
In terms of colleague engagement, the Co-op measures it via a survey, which reached 78% in 2016. Around 54,000 colleagues were also involved in its Back to Being Co-op workshops.
“We’ve gone back to our roots, putting members’ needs and concerns at the heart of our Co-op Membership. And this is only the beginning. We’re now planning for our long-term Co-op future, looking for new ways in which to bring value and values to our existing members and to a whole new generation of Co-op Members,” said Mr Murrells.