The Co-operative Group is launching a three-year corporate ethical plan, which it claims will spearhead its membership drive from 6m to 20m members by 2020 and help build a more sustainable economy.
It includes operational carbon reduction targets, which it claims are the toughest of any major business, and a £1bn investment in green energy by 2013.
Other initiatives include:
- a Fairtrade conversion programme
- the world’s first ethically-screened general insurance products
- enhanced funding for co-operative enterprises and schools
The Co-operative said the plan encompasses all its businesses and sets out a joined up set of goals and targets to drive its ethical and co-operative aspirations.
It will be supported by a new advertising campaign, breaking next month (March 2011), to showcase the breadth and impact of its community and co-operative initiatives and will urge customers to join The Co-operative revolution.
Group chief executive Peter Marks said: “Our ambition is to build a better society and this plan will stimulate and reinforce the unique benefit of the consumer co-operative model.
“At a time when UK society is picking up the pieces from a recession exacerbated by corporate greed and speculation, we are seeking to show there is another way. The plc model is not the only game in town. It is possible for business to embrace the efficiencies of the market economy and also the need for robust legislation to ensure that progress is sustainable and just.
“Taken together, we believe the measures and pledges set out in our ethical plan raise the bar on corporate sustainability. Over the next 10 years working with our customers, members, suppliers, staff and communities we believe we really can make Britain even better.“
Commenting on the Co-operative initiative, environmentalist Jonathon Porritt said: “By launching this ethical plan, the Co-operative is taking corporate sustainability into a new era. Other businesses will now be seeking to benchmark themselves against this plan”.
Harriet Lamb, executive eirector of the Fairtrade Foundation, said: “Always a pioneer of Fairtrade, The Co-operative’s commitment to ensuring that virtually all primary commodities that can be Fairtrade will be Fairtrade sets the bar anew for the corporate world.
”This commitment will be greeted by producers as a real lifeline in these tough economic times. This could herald a gear change for Fairtrade which chimes with the public mood and predictions that the public want to buy more Fairtrade in the future.”
The Co-operative’s Ethical Plan comprises 47 targets, which will be reported on each year within The Group’s sustainability report, an independent audit.
Democratic control and reward
Co-operative Group membership to grow to 20m by 2020 and to be opened up to the under 16s as soon as legally possible
Dividend scheme to be amended to reward ethical consumerism
The introduction of the world’s first ethically screened general insurance products, which will support over 2m policies
Double financial support for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects from £400m to £1bn by 2013
Protecting the environment
Having reduced its own operational carbon emissions by 20% since 2006, the target will now increase to 35% by 2017 – the most progressive of any major UK business
The Co-operative plans to enhance its pesticides policy further, and seek to ban chemicals such as endosulfan and paraquat
Leading biodiversity work in areas such as wood and fish to be matched with new targets on palm oil and soya
On top of the 15% weight reductions achieved in packaging, the retailer plans to reduce the environmental impact by a further 10% by 2012 and increase carrier bag reduction target to 75% by 2013
The construction by 2012 of a head office that will set new standards in sustainable design, construction and operation in the UK
Building a fairer and better society
Co-operative enterprise will be supported through the investment of £11m by 2013 and the launch a new £20m international Co-operative Development Loan Fund
The Co-operative’s community investment will be expanded to include £5m a year to help tackle poverty around stores and branches
The Co-operative claims it will spearhead a cultural shift in youth perception and opportunity through a £30m programme that will support an Apprenticeship Academy, providing 2,000 apprenticeships; a Green Schools programme and the creation of 200 Co-operative Schools by 2013
Tackling global poverty
Going forward, if it can be Fairtrade, it will be Fairtrade. By 2013, some 90% of the primary commodities sourced from the developing world will be certified to Fairtrade standards
The Co-operative will develop a range of projects and initiatives that benefit producers and take it beyond Fairtrade
Healthier choice products will be no more expensive than standard equivalent lines and the nutritional content of Simply Value products will be at least as good as standard equivalent lines