Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


Co-op unveils ‘radical’ plan

April 2011

The UK-based Co-operative Group is claiming to have produced the ‘toughest’ and ‘most radical’ ethical business plan yet, with new targets due to be implemented across the group’s operations.

In a programme reminiscent of the Marks & Spencer Plan A project introduced in 2007, the Co-op has set 47 targets on issues ranging from ethical finance to animal welfare, which will apply to all its business areas, covering food retailing, banking, pharmacy, travel and funeral services.

The environmental targets include a 35 per cent cut in carbon emissions by 2017 – which the group says is the toughest goal set by any large UK business – and a pledge to reduce carrier bag use by 75 per cent during the next two years.

In addition, it aims to move ‘beyond Fairtrade’ by developing projects benefiting producers directly, but will continue its commitment to Fairtrade – the Co-op’s target is to use 90 per cent of developing world commodities in its own brand products through Fairtrade by 2013.

Part of the motivation is the Co-op’s strategy to increase its membership from six million to 20 million by 2020, having already doubled it over the past three years. Its 47 targets, therefore, include pledges to make the organization more transparent and democratic by introducing new dividend schemes and making the financial area of its business more ethical, with, for example, screened insurance products.

Every target will be reported on annually within the group’s sustainability report. The group has already begun an advertising campaign on the business plan, encouraging customers to join the organization with the tagline, Join the Revolution.

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. 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.’

The group has an annual turnover of £14billion ($22.5bn, €16bn) and operates more than 5000 retail trading outlets.

The Co-operative Group | UK & NI Ireland | Sustainability

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