Community Impact Index: What are co-ops doing in their communities?

Co-ops take part in a number of initiatives to give back to communities, whether it’s through community dividend cards, grants awarded by local members or volunteer hours

Central England

Awards from its Community Dividend Fund, alongside donations to charities are how Central England connects with its communities.

Community groups can apply for up to £5,000 from the fund, though the average grant is £2,000.  Last year, £220,000 was granted to local causes through the scheme. From funds raised by the 5p levy on carrier bags, the society bought over 150 defibrillators to position outside stores.

Additionally, the society supported 185 in-store food banks, 50 educational classes for members, assisted bereaved parents with its Rainbow children’s funeral services and educated schoolchildren on food with its Healthy Choices Workshops.

Chelmsford Star

The Community Card scheme now supports 345 local community groups. Launched in July 1999, the scheme allows groups to apply for cards to distribute among supporters.

When supporters shop in stores, they swipe the card and send 1p for every £1 spent to the group. During the year, 103 groups withdrew funds from their account to the value of £7,088, this compares to 80 groups last year withdrawing £6,700.

Funds have been used for varying projects including Danbury Park raising £600 towards new tablet computers, St Johns Primary School raising £500 for a new kitchen garden to teach children about growing and cooking food, while Kings Road Primary School raised £427 for local projects and Blackmore Sports & Social Group raised £150 for Christmas preparations.

Chelmsford Star’s community card scheme helped buy playground equipment at Danbury Park School
Chelmsford Star’s community card scheme helped buy playground equipment at Danbury Park School

Co-operative Group

During 2016, the Group started a number of community engagement trials to find the most effect way to connect with members.

It found that Member Pioneers were a real asset in helping the society to connect with other members, colleagues and local communities. This member-led approach is being rolled out during 2017 by recruiting more Pioneers and improving the training, support and tools provided.

The investment in community activities in 2016 led to a total investment of £10.8m. In 2017’s annual report, the Group said it will reveal the full extent of its distributions to member groups through its Local Community Fund. When members shop in stores, 1% of what they spend on own-brand products and services goes to local groups.

It said it has accrued approximately £2.1m for the fund, which will be distributed throughout 2017. In addition, an extra £7m will also be distributed through the fund from the carrier bag levy. It has also said it aims to give back at least £20m a year to local causes through the fund by the end of 2018.

Fundraising for the British Red Cross saw £4.5m raised across thousands of activities, ranging from car washes and raffles to bake sales and bike rides.

East of England

The Community Token Scheme allows members to support to a variety of local causes, from parent and toddler groups to local hospices.

Since the scheme started 18 months ago, the society supported 540 local causes with £180,000 worth of donations. At the till, members are given a token to put in one of three boxes championing a local cause in their community. After three months, the society gives the cause with the most tokens £500, with a further £300 and £200 donated to second and third place.

Additionally, Co-op Cuppa provides local causes and communities with a regular supply of Co-op Fairtrade 99 Tea. This year alone, it distributed 294,979 tea bags, fuelling 223 local good causes and 44 events. The society also collects donations of non-perishable food and toiletries in all of its food stores for 22 food banks across the region, including independent local food banks. This has led to more than 80,000 meals being provided over the past year, more than double the previous year.


Over £1.6m was distributed to communities in 2016, with more than 500 community groups and good causes receiving a share of over £390,000 given through grants and carrier bag monies.

Through its 20 Regional Communities, Midcounties is providing support and making positive impacts in its communities. The programme enables colleagues and members to work together to identify relevant local community opportunities and collectively take action to make a positive difference in the community. In addition, Midcounties has engaged with over 9,000 young people through a range of initiatives working with over 50 schools and higher education partners.

Over the last three years, the society has also donated 104,000 products to foodbanks, providing meals to over 2,000 families. Engagement in its foodbank campaigns has increased year on year with 10,000 products being donated by members, customers and colleagues in 2014 and 70,000 products being donated in 2016. The society is now supporting 40 foodbank groups.

Scotmid Co-operative and Bala Sport teamed up as official match ball partners for the 2016 Homeless World Cup


During the year, the society’s Regional Committees Scheme distributed over £110,000 of community grants to community causes. The society says it is committed to the promotion of Fairtrade and organised a number of large events.

The society also broadened its support beyond Fairtrade food items to the Fairtrade football-making co-op, Bala Sports, teaming up as official match ball partners to support the Homeless World Cup, held in Glasgow in the summer of 2016.

At the end of August 2016, Scotmid completed its one-year charity partnership with Alzheimer Scotland and Alzheimer’s Society. It raised the highest ever annual total of £375,000. Its new charity partner Childline was launched in September 2016, which has so far seen £136,000 raised by staff, customers and members.

Southern Co-op

Love Your Neighbourhood is the name of its new community programme, which aims to create greener, safer, healthier and more
inclusive communities.

It empowers stores, funeral homes and offices to build their own neighbourhood network, supporting issues that matter most locally. Every site has its own budget to spend in their neighbourhood and community groups are encouraged to ask for support in a number of ways. Colleagues choose their own local partner who they want to raise funds for.

Love Your Neighbourhood is jointly funded by the proceeds of the carrier bag levy and central funding from Southern Co-op’s community funding pot. This community funding pot is agreed by a member vote at our AGM.

In 2016, funds raised encouraged young people to be more active, through support for swimming, badminton and football clubs; helped healthy eating sessions run in schools; supported community centre refurbishments in isolated villages; helped fund low cost hot meals for vulnerable people in a relaxed and social environment and; so much more.

Click here to view the full Community Impact Index for 2017

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