Co-op's Radical New CSR Plan

Co-Op's New CSR Strategy

The Co-operative Group already has an impressive CSR strategy. They have won numerous accolades for their CSR innovations but instead of resting on past laurels, they are once again re-hauling their policy. Their aim is to set a benchmark for CSR practices in the industry. The programme will look to increase group membership and bring a wide range of benefits to consumers across the UK.

They are calling it the Ethical Operating Plan and around 47 key targets have been established that Co-op members believe will tackle global poverty, protect the environment and improve society. Co-op's CSR policy states for the first time by any company that their Healthier Choice products will be priced the same as their standard goods. They also state that their Simply Value range will be at least as nutritional as similar produce.

Group CEO Peter Marks explained that the CSR plan will be intertwined with the company’s traditional three-year business schedule and will influence all decisions the group makes.

Fairtrade at Co-op

The new CSR plan encourages consumers to shop for sustainable and ethical products, which is one reason why the Fairtrade range will continue to be promoted and developed as a core element of the Co-op business.

The Co-op, which distributes at least 40% of its profits to its more than six million members each year, is looking to change the way companies operate. "The way businesses behave matters. Decisions in boardrooms matter. If a commercial decision doesn't fit with our ethics, then it won't be made," said Marks.

He added: "We're establishing a lead in this area and we want others to follow - we can't do this alone." One of the key elements of Co-op's new CSR plan, is its commitment towards Fairtrade. They are working towards ensuring that 90% of their primary commodities would be Fairtrade-certified by 2013. This also ties in with their commitment to ensure ethically sourced food with minimal environmental and social impact.

Somerfield and Co-op

Since Co-op acquired the Somerfield supermarket chain in 2008 for £1.57 billion, it has become the fifth largest grocer in the UK. It is now in the final stages of fully integrating Somerfield into their business. Co-op has said that the acquisition has helped to increase the pace at Co-op and has allowed them to compete at a totally different level.

The Co-op CEO described the new CSR plan as "revolutionary" and that the company was committed to making these changes despite the recession.

Photo Credit: Co-op Foods