Good causes to ‘bag’ over £172,000 from The Southern Co-operative’s carrier bag levy fund

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The Southern Co-operative has launched regional partnerships with the disability charity, Scope and a group of local environment and nature charities, the Wildlife Trusts, donating £40,000 to each as part of a new community scheme to address local concerns across southern England.

The £172,000 raised in the first six months of the 5p carrier bag levy will go towards The Southern Co-operative’s new community initiative, Love Your Neighbourhood. The programme focuses on four goals to create ‘greener’, ‘safer’, ‘healthier’, and ‘more inclusive’ neighbourhoods – addressing these themes through the provision of funding to regional partners alongside more localised community support.  

Jessica Hughes, communications and community engagement manager for The Southern Co-operative, said: “At The Southern Co-operative, we have been really pleased with the 71% reduction of single-use carrier bags we have seen in our stores. However, the 5p levy has helped us to raise over £172,000 towards our Love Your Neighbourhood programme to help support our local communities, and we are pleased to announce that 100% of the proceeds will be donated because we believe that these funds belong back in the communities that helped to raise them.

“Love Your Neighbourhood seeks to address four key issues we have identified in our society following a survey of over 4,500 members and customers. This will be addressed by our four regional partnerships, as well as multiple local partnerships between our food stores, funeral homes and local causes of their choice. We have already helped a number of local causes with the carrier bag funding since we launched our pilot for our new programme in January; we are now looking forward to helping even more local groups and are excited to start our new regional partnerships”.

Since the levy was introduced on 5thOctober 2015, The Southern Co-operative has seen over a 70% reduction of single-use carrier bags given out by its 195 food stores. Between 5thOctober 2015 and 5th April 2016, The Southern Co-operative has cut the number of single-use carrier bags given to its customers by more than 10million.

The Southern Co-operative’s partnership with Scope will support the ‘more inclusive neighbourhood’ theme. There are currently over 2,600,000 disabled people of working age living across the south of England. Scope works with disabled people and their families by providing practical, everyday support and campaigns that change lives. The Southern Co-operative will be supporting Scope’s End the Awkward campaign, which aims to tackle the awkwardness people feel about disability. The charity’s research shows 67% of the British public feels awkward around disabled people, and as a result they panic or worse – avoid contact altogether.

Richard Lane, group head of campaigns at disability charity Scope, said: “We’re delighted to be working with The Southern Co-operative to help create neighbourhoods for everyone. Our End the Awkward campaign will be returning this year and we have lots of exciting plans in the pipeline. We take a light-hearted approach with End the Awkward – we don’t want to point fingers or use equality jargon. But there’s also a serious side to the campaign.

“We know that many disabled people still face negative attitudes at work, in the playground and in the street. We hope our campaign will start conversations about disability and get us all thinking about what we can do to overcome those awkward moments in life. After all, there are 11 million disabled people in Britain. That shouldn’t be awkward for anyone.”

The Wildlife Trusts and The Southern Co-operative have a history of working together and share many of the same values; localness, community engagement and environmental sustainability. Research by the Wildlife Trusts has shown that over a quarter (27%) of children aged 8-15 had never played outside by themselves, beyond their house or garden – and 37% hadn’t done this in the past 6 months. Working on a collaborative ‘Every Child Wild’ campaign with ten Wildlife Trusts across the south of England, the partnership will focus on ‘greener neighbourhoods’, raising awareness of why engaging with nature is good for children’s health, wellbeing  and education as well as being good for nature. The project will encourage families to take their own action and support the growth and development of nature-based groups and activities.

Alison Fowler, head of education & engagement at Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, said: “We’re delighted to work with The Southern Co-operative to help get more young people and families out into nature. The support of the Love Your Neighbourhood scheme means that we can help local people get the most out of their local green spaces and learn more about the natural environment around them.”

The Southern Co-operative will launch two further regional partnerships to address the ‘safer’ and ‘healthier’ neighbourhood aims in the coming months. Both of these partners will also receive £40,000 in funding.

For the next cycle of carrier bag funding, local groups will be able to apply through the Love Your Neighbourhood scheme in food stores and funeral homes to address the same four key themes. Through the initiative, local charities and community groups can also apply for: goods in kind donations, to become a local fundraising partner and local volunteering.