Central England Co-op gets top marks for corporate social responsibility

The society's focus on community, environment, marketplace and workplace was recognised by Business in the Community

Central England Co-operative has been awarded the maximum five stars out of five in Business in the Community’s 2018 Corporate Responsibility Index (CR Index).

This result means that in the space of just two years the dedication and hard work of colleagues from across the society has contributed to its rating leaping from 2.5 stars to five.

Central England Co-op’s overall score of 99% has jumped from 87% in 2016 and 98% last year.

Chief executive Martyn Cheatle, said: “Everyone involved with the society is delighted. This outcome reflects the continued focus and importance we place in this are as a co-operative business, and the commitment and hard work from colleagues.

“It is perfect recognition for the wide variety of initiatives and projects we are involved in across four key areas – community, environment, marketplace and workplace – as part of our corporate responsibility strategy.

“The new score is also a great indicator of our continued mission to support our partners in the community, make a difference by raising vital funds for charity, educate young people and limit our impact by reducing waste.”

Business in the Community’s 2018 CR Index is the UK’s leading voluntary benchmark of corporate responsibility and provides businesses with a framework to measure, manage and integrate responsible business practice into mainstream business strategy and operations.

It also allows businesses to benchmark against competitors and to transparently communicate progress to stakeholders.

Amanda Mackenzie, Business in the Community chief executive, said: “Business in the Community exists to build healthy communities with successful businesses at their heart.

“But that’s only possible if organisations are able to measure the progress they are making as responsible businesses. I congratulate Central England Co-operative for their leadership and look forward to working with them to grow the movement.”

Q&A: Hannah Gallimore, corporate responsibility manager, Central England Co-operative

What does a responsible business look like in 2018?

For us it’s a period of evaluation, reflection and planning which is key to the BITC ethos of continuous improvement and good governance. More generally the UN Sustainable Development goals are probably on the minds of most responsible business leaders. Which of the 17 goals are most relevant to their business, how can they contribute and what level of commitment is necessary and right to contribute their fair share.

Hannah Gallimore says a co-op is “a culture and a way of thinking”

What did Central England do to achieve the 5 star rating? 

We’ve progressed some of our more challenging projects and really developed our stakeholder engagement and reporting functions. Projects like the Social Return on Investment Report has taught us an enormous amount about the way we identify and tackle community issues and how we spend our members’ money.

What was the single biggest change that you made? 

We’ve really moved forward culturally in the way we talk about and engage with our suppliers on sustainability formalising processes and bringing them into business as usual. We’ve also really pushed forward with questions on diversity and inclusion, carrying out research and stakeholder feedback to understand what it means to our colleagues and customers and how we should be talking about it. On 27 February a group of our senior leaders held our very first Facebook live event to encourage people to talk about the big issues that matter to them and over 3000 people interacted with the event.

How does the rating reflect what CE is as a co-operative business? 

A co-operative is much more than a business model, it’s a culture and a way of thinking. The fundamental foundations of a responsible business can come from many sources and ours come from our co-operative values and principles, for others it may come from the particular market they operate in or their customer base.

What advice would you give to any other organisation trying to increase their corporate responsibility? 

I would say find really good partners and ensure that the programmes are transparent and accessible so that internal and external stakeholders can understand what part they can play. Good governance and reporting are key to maintaining momentum and continuous improvement but they are irrelevant without stakeholder engagement which comes from having a strong and honest agenda.


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