Two co-operatives have been recognised for outstanding achievements in sustainable development through the Queen’s Award for Enterprise. The award featured 12 winners in the sustainable development category, including the Midcounties Co-operative and Matrix Housing Partnership.
The UK’s largest regional co-operative society, Midcounties received the award for implementing a social responsibility programme that enabled it to grow its turnover, profits and staff during the recession.
According to chief executive Ben Reid, the accolade is an acknowledgement of the society’s work over the last six to seven years to establish itself as a “proper co-operative, one that is embedded in the local community”.
“Ten years after the Midcounties Co-operative was formed in its current structure, our society is proof that the co-operative model is thriving,” he said, “and can benefit not just our members but everyone that touches our business, from our partners and suppliers to local community groups and the millions of people that use our products and services every day.”
Engaging colleagues in the society’s environmental and social agenda has also been crucial. “We don’t direct them, we just say to them, can you find the need in your local community and see what you can do to help?” added Mr Reid.
Last year, Midcounties reported 40,000 hours volunteering in the local community. The society has also raised over £1.4m for local charities and good causes.
Midcounties has also recently achieved a 4.5 star rating in Business in the Community’s Corporate Responsibility Index. The CR Index also acknowledged the society’s success in reducing energy consumption by 10% since 2009 and increasing the percentage of its waste that is recycled from 21% to 83% during the same time period.
Mr Reid added that the society’s Co-operative Energy business was one of the key factors that contributed to Midcounties winning the Queen’s Award.
The co-operative acts not only as a supplier, but also as an actor of change in the energy infrastructure by supplying local producers and aiming to increase the amount of green energy it supports.
Nearly three quarters of the energy supplied from the energy business is from renewable sources, while customers can control the energy mix and source of electricity purchased from its Energy Hub.
The society saved over £1m a year through energy efficiency and waste recycling projects, while its Co-operative Energy business was recognised for being the first energy provider to give customers control of how it source its energy mix.
Another enterprise receiving the award, Matrix Housing Partnership, is a not-for-profit co-operative of housing associations that provides affordable housing and social care services.
The Midlands-based co-op has designed, manufactures and constructed over 30,000 affordable houses in the region for 80,000 low income, disabled and older people. It has also exceeded the Government’s standards in terms of energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions of its properties and has set targets for water reduction.
Its work assisting ex-offenders into training, volunteering and paid employment was another reason it qualified for the award.
The partnership, which is led by the Accord Group, has built 25 new urban and rural developments, many of them manufactured at the group’s timber factories in Walsall.
Commenting on the award, Nicola Inchbald, chair of the Matrix Housing Partnership, said: “Matrix has an enviable reputation for exceeding its delivery targets with a proven ability to provide top quality housing with our funding body the Homes and Communities Agency, which has provided over £30m of funding to support our development programme.
“Our new homes include a range of affordable developments across the West Midlands to meet a variety of housing needs from young families to more vulnerable people who require specialist housing.”
Chris Handy, chief executive of the Accord Group, added: “We are actively addressing the housing crisis while adding to the wider economic growth within local communities, which is a strong part of our delivery.
“So not only have we built £120m of homes in the last year – we have also created jobs, apprenticeships and support for local businesses.”
The award will be presented by the Queen during a reception at Buckingham Palace in July. The two co-op winners can use the Queen’s Award emblem in advertising, marketing and on packaging for five years.