Midlands Society celebrates co-operative of the year award

Midlands Co-operative is celebrating after being voted 2013 Co-operative of the Year.

Midlands Co-operative is celebrating after being voted 2013 Co-operative of the Year.

The award is a major boost for the society and its Chief Executive Martyn Cheatle, he said: “We have a five-year strategic vision to be the UK’s best consumer co-operative society and everybody in the organisation whoever they are is all quite clear on where we are and what we are trying to do to fulfill that vision. Everyone has been a part of the success story.”

Latest figures show that the society has the highest trading profit of all independent co-operatives at £24.3 million (up 3.4 per cent on the previous year).

This success has enabled the society to reward its stakeholders with a £4.3m payout — its highest ever.

Mr Cheatle, who has been Chief Executive for three years and previously served as Deputy Chief Executive and Chief Finance Officer, said.
“The community is at the heart of what we do and our members are the lifeblood of our business.

“Being a co-operative means people want to engage with you more and that comes through in our customer satisfaction scores in the food business, which are 96 per cent.

“We have also been trying to get our 200,000 active members more engaged and more than doubled our attendance at bi-annual meetings to nearly 1,200.”

Three other co-operatives were shortlisted for the award, which was announced at the recent Co-operative Congress in Cardiff.

Mr Cheatle commented: “I was very pleased and felt what we have managed to achieve should be recognised and that we were in a strong position to win. This is another step in the journey and our vision to be both the best consumer co-operative as well as one which focuses on further success and expansion.”

Midlands Co-operative currently has 195 food stores, 88 funeral homes , 15 petrol stations and 24 Post Offices in its portfolio, with just over 7,000 employees on the payroll.

The last 12 months has seen the society opening 18 new retail sites resulting in an additional £75m in annual turnover and creating 300 new jobs.

It is now set to expand further with plans for 15 more new stores creating around 300 new jobs plus a rolling programme of refurbishments.

Environmental concerns are another key part of the society’s blueprint for the future with many innovative ways of reducing waste and lowering carbon emissions already making an impact.

Mr Cheatle said: “We were the first retail organisation to have Zero Waste to Landfill, which has now been rolled out across our entire business and our plan is to reduce our carbon footprint by 36 per cent by 2020.”

The society’s Oakham Food Store, rebuilt after a fire in 2008, is now heralded as one of the greenest in the UK with a host of initiatives including solar panels, environmentally friendly refrigeration and a biodiversity roof providing spaces for insects, birds and other wildlife

The development and roll out of The Co-operative Florist brand has also been an industry first.

Midlands invests over £500,000 each year to help employees achieve their full potential through a range of learning options including nationally recognised qualifications.

Society members can apply for a grant from the Making a Difference Community Dividend Fund, which distributes one per cent of the trading profit to local communities and has so far paid out over £1.5m to help local groups with initiatives ranging from improving school playgrounds to special needs equipment.

The society is currently supporting Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children and has already raised nearly £200,000, which has gone to help vulnerable families across the Midlands.

Other member initiatives include a dedicated website and award winning magazine, as well as discounted shopping days, exclusive offers, competitions and other special events

Midlands Co-operative also provides funding to organisations to support the development of co-operative and social enterprises, including the Energy Saving Co-operative, which helps families cut energy costs. And through its Locally Sourced range, the society helps over 60 local producers and small businesses.

Its commitment to employee engagement and work in the community has resulted in a clutch of recent accolades, including a ‘gold’ in the Good Employer Category at the Food and Drink Federation Community Partnership Awards and a Sustainability Award from the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce.

Martyn Cheatle and his team are now looking forward to building further on the society’s success – and hoping for another Co-operative Of The Year prize in 12 months’ time.

He added: “The key thing about us is what we stand for as a society and our values and ethics in the way we do things. You have also got to have the basics right in terms of food products and so on but we have something on top of that. It is in our DNA as a co-operative”

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