A PLEDGE that the first pilots of the new Co-operative brand should be up and running in 2005 was made on behalf of the Co-operative Group board at its half-yearly meeting by Bob Burlton, Chief Executive of Oxford, Swindon & Gloucester Society.
But Mr Burlton insisted that Brand Strategy recommended by the 2001 Co-operative Commission was a project envisaged to span five to ten years and could not be rushed.
"It is important we do it as soon as possible," he said. "But it is more important that we get it right. This is a once in a generation opportunity to get things right and people should remember that, five years ago, we could not have been talking like this.
"There are a number of key factors which influence the speed of implementation of of the Brand Strategy," said Mr Burlton.
"These include the development of a credible co-operative proposition across all business sectors; a new identity to signal change and clearly link all businesses and the development of consistent standards and a means of independent monitoring.
"At all stages, it is important that consultation takes place in a collaborative and co-operative manner. Participaption in the project is voluntary, so when all the constituent parts have been agreed, speed opf roll out will depend on when individual societies opt to join as well as the capital and revenue costs of applying it in each society."
Mr Burlton added that for those reasons it was difficult for the Brand Panel to set a timetable for full implementation but he assured delegates that the Co-op Group board was investing significant management time and resources to support the Panel in taking its complex project forward as quick as humanly ? and democratically ? possible.
He concluded: "We are planning for the first pilots of the new Co-operative brand, hopefully by early 2005."