Co-op is a story 175 years in the making, founded in 1844 by The Rochdale Pioneers, people who cared about their community and fought to change society for the better with fairness, education, inclusivity, and equality among the values still at the very heart of everything that the Co-op does.
Today, Co-op is one of the world’s largest consumer co-operatives, with 4.65M active Members, turnover in excess of £10BN, and interests spanning food, funerals, insurance, legal services and health. The Co-op aims to operate at the heart of local community life - championing better ways of doing business. In September (2016), Co-op rejuvenated its Membership proposition, this followed a move back to its iconic clover-leaf design “Co-op” logo, a logo which doesn’t just stand for a business, or even a family of businesses. It represents a powerful idea with values and principals. It represents a way of doing business that’s stood the test of time – 175 years this year. The many challenges society faces today are considerable- and the Co-op has to be ambitious, not only for its business, but for the communities which it serves. It wants those communities to understand how choosing the Co-op benefits them. To think of Co-op as something different, something that brings people together and keeps them together. It runs its business differently because it is owned by its Members.
It works to create value in its communities and supply chain - whether this is support for local suppliers; its pioneering work with Fairtrade- where Co-op was the first retailer to bring Fairtrade bananas to the UK; campaigning for greater protection for victims of modern slavery; alleviating water poverty in some of the world’s poorest communities; investment in Co-op Academy Schools and, its ground-breaking campaigning for Safer Colleagues, Safer Communities, Co-op invests in changing societies for the better.
How it runs its business creates value for the communities it serves – the many £Millions Co-op returns to local causes through its Membership scheme is a very big example of this, but there are many more ways in which it gives back. Its Stronger Co-op, Stronger Communities plan is helping customers recognise that choosing Co-op means choosing to do good for community. Co-op wants to help create stronger, more connected communities, which is why it launched the Endangered Spaces campaign in partnership with Locality, aiming to protect 2,000 community spaces by the end of 2022.
The Co-op today has 2,600 food stores, and in a challenging economic environment has seen over 20 consecutive quarters of like-for-like sales growth. It also supplies over 5,000 other stores including those run by independent co-operative societies; franchisees and independent operators through its acquisition of Nisa Retail Limited.
It has worked hard to ensure it remains relevant to all generations, in particular younger co-operators– this year Co-op operated a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles to reduce pollution and littering at its pop-up shops at some of the UK’s biggest music festivals, including: Download, Isle of Wight, Latitude and Creamfields.
Its Members also backed a move to accelerate action to reduce impacts on our natural world. Co-op has committed to accelerating steps to curb Green House Gas (GHG) emissions and backs global goals to limit warming to the most stringent of targets. In the last year alone, Co-op reduced GHG emissions by 20%. It has the lowest plastic footprint of any retailer, was the first UK retailer to make compostable bags widely available and, will eradicate hard-to-recycle plastic from stores.
The Co-op continues to grow, the strength of its business can be seen by its underlying financial position and the increasing impact it is having in communities. Earlier this year, Co-op was awarded the “Grocer of the Year” title at The Grocer Gold Awards. It continues to innovate and invests to maintain competitive advantage within the convenience sector. Delivering ease, convenience and choice for time-pressed shoppers. Last year (2018), Co-op became the first retailer to trial autonomous robots. It launched e-cargo bike deliveries and explores exciting online and digital propositions; developed the capability to offer Franchises at scale and, continues to invest in opening new stores, in particular in transport hubs, key city locations, residential apartments and Universities.
It believes co-operation today, as a way of getting things done and making changes for the wellbeing of society, is more relevant than ever.
It has worked to evolve its supply chain, working with strategic partners such as Manhattan to deliver scalable capability, and to support the creation of a sustainable and efficient logistics operation which delivers what its Members and customers want, need and care about, conveniently.