In the first two years of the 5p carrier bag levy in England, the Southern Co-operative has passed on more than half a million pounds to local charities and community groups – along with £0.8m from its own community fund.
The levy, introduced on 5 October 2015, to reduce plastic waste from single-use bags, saw retailers encouraged by the government to pass on the proceeds to good causes.
Gemma Lacey, director of sustainability and communications at Southern, said: “The 5p carrier bag levy has provided a great boost to our Love Your Neighbourhood community fund, enabling us to expand the reach and impact of our already active community support programme.
“We’ve also seen a significant decrease in carrier bag usage, down 68% since its introduction which helps to protect the environment. It is important to us that 100% of the proceeds are donated to our communities because we believe these funds belong back in the communities that helped to raise them.”
Southern’s says its Love Your Neighbourhood programme, informed by a survey of over 4,500 members and customers, is about “creating a greener, safer, healthier and more inclusive neighbourhoods”.
As well as supporting hundreds of community groups and charities close to their stores, funeral homes and offices across the eleven southern counties the company serves, Southern Co-op has partnered with four regional charities focused on the Love Your Neighbourhood themes. Each partner has received £80,000 as part of a two-year partnership, the society adds.
Taunton based charity Stand Against Violence was chosen as the ‘Safer Neighbourhoods’ partner. Its CEO and founder Adam Fouracre said: “Thanks to the partnership with Southern Co-op we have been delivering fully funded workshops to schools and youth organisations within a five-mile radius of a Southern Co-op store.
“Our partnership has also led to the joint development of a corporate training package called ‘stay safe’ which focuses on keeping public facing staff in the convenience store sector safe.”
Southampton based charity Solent Mind was chosen as the ‘Healthier Neighbourhoods’ partner. Head of peer support Sue Forber said: “We are delighted to have been chosen as a community partner for Southern Co-op. Their generous donation will enable us to develop our ground-breaking new peer support groups in local communities throughout Hampshire.
“These groups are run by trained volunteers who have experienced mental health issues and offer hope and mutual support away from a medical setting, by sharing interests, hobbies and social activities.”
Solent Mind will also be using the funding to support other local Mind charities and related organisations to raise awareness of mental health issues through peer support.
The Wildlife Trusts are the greener neighbourhoods partner, which sees Southern working jointly with 10 Wildlife Trusts across their region.
Steph Watson from Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust said: “We are delighted to be a Greener Neighbourhoods partner with Southern Co-op.
“This funding is used to support our work with people and communities right across the region, helping us to inspire more people to get outside in their local green spaces and discover the wildlife on their doorstep. After all, everyone’s life is better when it’s a bit wild.”
The national charity, Scope, was chosen as the ‘More Inclusive Neighbourhoods’ partner, which aims to ensure that disabled people are given everyday equality.
Ellie Notley, head of corporate partnerships at Scope, said: “We’re hugely grateful for the dedication, support and effort from all at Southern Co-op who have supported Scope since 2016. The money raised from the donation of the Carrier Bag Levy Fund has helped us campaign to change negative attitudes and challenge perceptions of disability.
“With the donation, we have been able to offer support to Southern Co-op colleagues so that they can deliver excellent customer service to all customers, regardless of their impairments in order to foster an environment where everyone feels included. We look forward to continuing to work with Southern Co-op as part of our ambition to achieve everyday equality for the 13 million disabled people in the UK.”
- More information on how to apply for funds from the Love Your Neighbourhood scheme here.
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