The Co-op Group, South Tyneside Council, Bristol Wood Recycling Project and The Schools’ Energy Co-op were among the winners at last night’s Co-operative of the Year Awards.
More than 33,000 votes – a new record – were cast in the national awards, organised by Co-operatives UK and supported by the Co-operative Bank, with nominations and votes coming from large and small businesses, members, customers and co-operators across the sector.
Maria Cearns, managing director, current accounts and savings from sponsor the Co-operative Bank, said: “What a great evening celebrating the achievements of a number of co-op organisations over the last year. A huge well done to all the nominees – for doing valuable, essential work growing the UK’s co-operative economy and using the power of co-operation to enable businesses to flourish in a fair and equitable way.
“Congratulations to the winners who thoroughly deserved their awards.”
Bristol Wood Recycling Project took home the Breakthrough Co-op of the Year Award, which is open to co-ops with a turnover of under £1m. This not-for-profit community co-op recycles waste wood, making resources available to local residents, and works to encourage social inclusion and volunteer support.
The Inspiring Co-op of the Year category – for co-ops with a turnover between £1m and £30m – attracted nominations from a hugely diverse range of thriving co-ops. This year’s winner was The Schools’ Energy Co-op.
Its mission is to enable all schools to use solar energy, and it has installed panels on 48 schools all over the country, from the south coast to the north east of England.
The Co-op Group scooped the Leading Co-op of the Year Award – for co-ops with a turnover of more than £30m. Having launched its Stronger Co-op, Stronger Communities ambition last year, The Co-op Group has grown significantly. As a result, members have shared over £60m of personal reward and have directly supported over 4,000 community projects.
The Co-operative Council of the Year Award went to South Tyneside Council. The council proactively supports and empowers local people to take positive action. It fosters local community pride via its #LoveSouthTyneside campaign, which celebrates initiatives that stem from a passion for the borough.
Lorraine Power from Leeds Bread Co-op was crowned Co-operator of the Year. HR expert Lorraine regularly goes above and beyond to help others learn and develop. She has been at the forefront of creating major changes in her co-op to help make working practices more efficient and free up more time for community-focused activities.
Roger Sawtell was announced as the winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award. Over the years, Roger has founded many co-ops including ICOM which merged into Co-operatives UK, ICOF which is now Co-operative Finance, Daily Bread Co-op and Trylon. He still promotes co-operative ideals and has convinced many companies to convert to being co-ops.
Ed Mayo, secretary general of Co-operatives UK, said: “The Co-op of the Year Awards is always a special occasion. And once again, a raft of worthy winners have taken home their coveted prizes. They – and all our nominees – are an outstanding example of how working co-operatively creates opportunity and prosperity and grows the economy at both national and local level.”
Along with the awards, the Breakthrough category winner will receive the option to access £1,000 worth of specialist business advice from The Hive, Co-operatives UK’s business support programme sponsored by the Co-operative Bank.
The Co-operative of the Year Awards are sponsored by the The Co-operative Bank.