The Awards featured 12 categories focusing on key business areas. Entries in each category were initially shortlisted by a panel of judges, with the winners announced at a ceremony on 12 June.
The East of England Co-op has won in the Waste Not Want Not Award, in recognition of its food waste reduction initiative to sell products past their Best Before date.
The Co-op Group took home the Green Initiative of the Year Award for Project Closed Loop, a campaign to replace unrecyclable packaging with sustainable alternatives.
The judges described Project Closed Loop as “a worthy winner”, praising the Group for “leading the sector” in sustainable packaging and recycling. Over the past 12 months the society has taken a number of measures designed to address plastic waste. The Co-op Group has become the first retailer to switch to simplified plastic trays for all cooked meats, raw meat, poultry and fish. At its AGM in May, Co-op members passed a motion to make 100% of its packaging easy to recycle, with an interim target of 80% by 2020.
Cathryn Higgs, the Co-op Group’s head of policy, said: “As a leading ethical and responsible retailer, we have been working relentlessly for over three decades to minimise the environmental impact of our products. In the last 12 months we have taken great strides to meet our plan to make 100% of our packaging recyclable and we are delighted to get endorsement from our industry peers at the very highest level.”
Similarly, the East of England Co-operative’s campaign to address food waste received recognition from the judges, who said the initiative was “truly pioneering” and one “for others to follow”. The Grocer described it as “brilliantly executed and hugely influential.”
Through the society’s Co-op Guide to Dating scheme customers can purchase products such as tinned goods and packets for a nominal 10p for up to a month past their Best Before date, reducing food waste and keeping edible food in the food chain.
East of England Co-operative joint chief executive, Roger Grosvenor, said: “As an independent regional retailer up against some of the UK’s best known national supermarkets, we were extremely proud to accept this award. Receiving recognition from our industry is the latest in a string of successes for this scheme, which continues to flourish in stores. Reduced products fly off the shelves often within hours and we anticipate it will save at least 150,000 items from going to landfill in its first year.”
The East of England Co-op has recently rolled out the scheme to include fresh produce, selling fruit, vegetables and bread for up to two days past its Best Before date, and cake for up to seven days, all for 10p.
“We are continually exploring ways we can further reduce food waste and are currently investigating the feasibility of including frozen products in the scheme,” added Mr Grosvenor.