A co-operative for a changing world

 Gemma Lacey from The Southern Co-operative explains how the society approaches the idea of ‘sustainability’. Our world is changing. Climate change, rising demand for precious resources like food,...

 Gemma Lacey from The Southern Co-operative explains how the society approaches the idea of ‘sustainability’.

Our world is changing. Climate change, rising demand for precious resources like food, energy and water and a rapidly growing global population are transforming the world in which we live and work.

The Southern Co-operative, like co-operatives generally, has always had a purpose beyond profit and a determination to create a different kind of business – one that is founded on values and principles and responsible and sustainable ways of working.

We had already made progress in achieving this but recognised that if we wanted to be a successful, independent business both now and in the future, we needed to do more to seize the opportunities these challenges present.

So in March this year we launched our sustainability plan – Making a Difference – as an integral part of our wider business plan. This signalled a step change to our colleagues, members and others with an interest in our business, and a clear commitment to fully embed sustainable thinking into our governance, decision-making, everyday operations and our organisational culture.

This plan now provides a framework for all our activity, making sure that everything we do links back to our three key business objectives: to grow our business; invest for the future; and stand out from our competitors.

This has given us real momentum behind the three key areas of our sustainability plan, to protect our environment, share our success with others and support our communities. Successes so far have included:

  • An 18% improvement in retail energy efficiency against a 2010 baseline and a target of 32% by 2016.
  • Rolling out waste backhauling to all our food stores, so 100% of our food waste and virtually all other operational waste is now diverted from landfill.
  • The opening of our new crematorium, The Oaks, which embraces sustainable thinking in its design, construction, landscaping and day-to-day management.
  • Extending the scale, reach and presence of Local Flavours, our local food and drink range, with over 1,500 lines now selling across selected food stores in 11 counties.
  • Leading BITC’s Solent Business Class programme, which will see local businesses developing long-term partnerships with underperforming secondary schools.

    Local Flavours in The Southern Co-operative's stores
    Local Flavours in The Southern Co-operative’s stores
  • Launching a new fundraising partnership with Whizz Kidz, which provides disabled children with the vital equipment, support and life skills they need to reach their full potential.
  • Starting an in-depth review of our community investment and engagement programme with a view to driving greater value for our local communities, business and colleagues.

Our board, leadership team and colleagues across our business are passionate about making a positive difference. Through this hub we want to share our successes, experiences and challenges in making this happen, but more importantly we want to hear from other co-ops around the world.

How important is sustainability to you? How are your businesses tackling this often complex and challenging area? How are your activities and thinking changing as a result and what opportunities does this provide for co-operatives in today’s world and in the future?

In this article

Join the Conversation