INCREASED use of green energy and millions of pounds to good causes and community projects are among the highlights of the Co-operative Group's Corporate Responsibility Report.
The report details some of the Group's ethical achievements during 2003 and highlights areas it will focus on in the future.
It is the first such report to include details of all the Group's businesses ? including retail, financial services, pharmacy, farming, travel agents and funeral directors.
Among its highlights are:
? In 2003, 13 per cent of electricity requirements were transferred to green sources, making the Group one of the largest users of renewable energy in Europe
? The Group said ?no' to commercial growing of GM crops in the UK on the strength of current scientific knowledge and member opposition
? The Co-op's position as the UK's leading Fairtrade retailer was strengthened by switching all Co-op-brand coffee to Fairtrade
? Employees, members and customers raised more than £ 1 million for their chosen charity ? the Association of Children's Hospices
? Contributions to the community were £ 8.1 million, equivalent to 2.5 per cent of operating profit.
The report was produced in line with the leading corporate accountability standard. Behind it is a management system developed to ensure improvements in social and environmental performance are sustained.
Martin Beaumont, the Co-operative Group's Chief Executive, said: "Having a corporate conscience is part of our difference as a co-operative.
"Although, like shareholder-owned companies, we need to produce strong commercial performance and make returns to our members, we choose to make these returns in a wider variety of ways; both directly through our members and through them to the communities we serve, but also through our investment in ethical trading activities.
"A consistent approach to our systems and the way we measure our performance is critical. And developing an outstanding level of performance in corporate responsibility is integral to our business strategy."
The report illustrates the range of current corporate responsibility performance across the Group's businesses, and as well as highlighting the significant strides that have already been made, it also sets out a number of areas for improvement.
? Diversity ? a Head of Diversity has been appointed to spearhead improvement in the Group's approach to managing diversity
? Ethical trading ? the Group will develop a business-wide approach to sustainable purchasing, looking to screen suppliers on social and environmental issues
? Data ? it will improve the accuracy and coverage of data collection by focusing on embedding the corporate responsibility programme into the Group's day-to-day management.