Southern Co-op is being recognised for its work on diversity and inclusion at two separate events this year.
The member-owned retailer, which operates more than 300 food, funeral and coffee branches across the south of England, has been named a finalist in the Inclusive Employer of the Year category at the Weston College Business Awards for its placements with special needs students.
In addition, Southern Co-op has been invited to attend a special presentation by Share to Support and the Western Training Provider Network, after it pledged £75,000 of its unspent apprenticeship levy to businesses in the Bath and North East Somerset regions.
Southern Co-op’s diversity and inclusion manager Linda Masterman was behind both of these initiatives, as part of the co-operative’s efforts to serve its community and ensure equal access to opportunities across the co-op.
Rachel Evans, head of organisation development and diversity at Southern, said: “Linda has been very busy making sure we continually assess the way we work and interact with individuals. Our goal is to make everyone feel accepted, comfortable and ready to share their opinions and thoughts without hesitation, because everyone’s contribution is equally valuable.
“So it’s wonderful to have some of our work recognised from two well known providers in our trading area.”
One of the key ways Southern Co-op has been supporting a wider range of people into the workplace is through work experience placements, partnering with organisations who support individuals who do not cope well in a standard interview process. Southern has set a target of providing 50 work placements by next year, with one third being offered a permanent role.
Other inclusivity focused work from Southern has included providing grants through its More Inclusive Fund, as well as a series of neurodiversity awareness sessions for its HR team, leadership team and Board members, with a view to roll this out to all colleagues.