The national awards — presented at a North West of England regional ceremony at Blackburn Rovers’ stadium — saw representatives from the Group accept Big Ticks in the following categories:
• Rural Action Award for the Co-operative Enterprise Hub. A first-time winner, pledging its support for co-operatives, The Hub represents a £5 million investment in the sector by the Group to provide advice, training and finance for new and existing co-operatives.
• Education Award for the Group’s financial services business’s Enterprise4Education programme. Almost 4,500 young people in the North West have attended tailored workshops to gain skills and qualifications and improve links with industry.
• International Development. The Co-operative Group has been trading ethically and fairly for more than 160 years and pioneered Fairtrade in the UK. It supports overseas co-operatives to help people lift themselves out of poverty, and assists communities where it has an existing relationship, with projects to provide clean water, sanitation and low-cost renewable energy. Donations from sales of its own-brand ethical water have funded water systems in Africa for more than 600,000 people. The Co-operative Bank has created a $50m micro-finance fund to help small businesses and alleviate poverty in some of the world’s poorest communities.
• Sustainable Marketing & Innovation Award for Co-operative Financial Services’ Banking on a Fresh Start programme. Introduced as a pilot project in 2006 with Forest Bank prison, Salford, this innovative partnership approach has now opened more than 4,000 basic bank accounts for ex-offenders from 30 UK prisons. This tackles financial and social exclusion, assists rehabilitation and resettlement and is shown in a recent study to have helped cut re-offending rates by around a third.
Group Chief Executive Peter Marks commented: “We are tremendously proud of our social responsibility activities. They form a hugely significant part of our Group policies and that is exactly where our members want them to be.”
The Big Tick awards follow the Co-operative Group’s success in achieving the highest ‘Platinum Plus’ ranking in the Business in The Community Corporate Responsibility Index, announced last month.