Engagement in the local community is one of the seven principles guiding co-operative enterprises. In order to increase this role in local communities, various co-operatives are giving employees the chance to decide on community projects.
The Heart of England Co-operative Society operates four “community chest” initiatives, which give employees, members and locals a chance to make a difference. The society, which trades in Coventry, Warwickshire, south Leicestershire and Northamptonshire, allocates a percentage of its profits to charities and causes in its area.
Through its Helping Hearts scheme, the retailer has given £786,000 to over 3,500 local non-profit organisations in the past 14 years. More recently, chief executive Ali Kurji decided to give staff the opportunity to get directly involved by voting and fundraising for a cause close to their hearts.
During the first two years of the scheme, the society has raised funds for Warwickshire and Northamptonshire Air Ambulance. This year it is fundraising for Myton Hospice, which runs three sites in Coventry, Rugby and Warwick and offers a hospice-at-home service. Heart of England has so far raised £23,000 for them.
The society also operates the Pamper With A Hamper scheme, in which deserving people are nominated to receive Christmas goods.
Community and membership adviser Jo Dyke said: “Helping Hearts has proven hugely popular and this good work is now being matched by our own staff, who are undertaking fundraising projects daily in aid of our corporate charity.
“While these schemes allow ourselves and our staff to help make a difference, both Pamper with a Hamper and our calendar survey take our efforts even further – allowing every single resident in our area to help make their mark on our society by contributing to all the good work that goes on every day.”
At the Midcounties Co-operative, the Innovation Programme allows employees to put forward business development ideas, which led to a scheme giving people the chance to donate to a local food bank.
Customers can donate an item from their own shopping to the food bank by placing it in dedicated in-store bins. The initiative has been launched in Church Stretton and Bicton Heath food stores, with other Midcounties branches announcing partnerships with food banks.
Clive Bosel, store manager at Bicton Heath, said: “Our community is at the very heart of all that we do and the launch of our in-store donation point will help us to continue to give something back to people in Shropshire.
“Both our colleagues and customers have really welcomed the introduction of the scheme, where their contributions will make a different to the lives of people who really need it.”
The scheme has so far helped supply more than £2,000 worth of food across participating stores.
Simon Prior, head of regional operations, said: “Amid a backdrop which has seen more than 900,000 people seek help in the past year, this is a hugely important issue, and it’s great to be working together to give something back to the communities in our trading areas.”
Society in focus is supported by: Central England, Chelmsford Star, Clydebank, East of England, Heart of England, Midcounties, Radstock, Scotmid and Southern.