Group - shapeourcoop- ethics

I’m Paul and I work on how The Co-op delivers on its promise to champion a better way of doing business, through ethics and sustainability. I’m currently looking at a series of ethical issues like, human rights, food and farming, the environment and resource use; all to help clearly define Co-op’s position on key issues into a succinct framework – and I need your help to do it.

As a co-op, we’re uniquely placed to champion a better way of doing business because co-operative values and principles are in our DNA. The Co-op exists to do things differently and give back to the communities we serve, so we’re already a step ahead. But, we can’t be complacent, we need to develop this framework so that all our efforts in ethics and sustainability are joined as one.

So, as we begin to articulate what our business ethics are, I want to know what you think.

  • What kinds of business should we engage with, and in?
  • How do we go about that business?
  • What do we do with the proceeds?
  • What ethical concerns do you think our Co-op should champion?

I don’t want a thesis, or the perfect answer (there won’t be one!), or beautiful prose (but poetry would be uplifting!), I just want to know what you think The Co-op’s ethics should be about.

Tell us in the comments below, on Twitter @TheCooperative using #shapeourcoop or pop your thoughts here, however you want to tell us, please do – because after all, that’s what The Co-op is all about.

Paul Gerrard
Group Policy Director

Join the conversation! 93 Comments

  1. Vegan meals to go in every local co op (sandwiches/pasta boxes/ salad etc), I recently went to a new co op that had opened in my area to find a quick snack and couldn’t find anything ! could eat. Investing and buying foods from local farms is important too.

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    • Daniel,

      thank you for taking the time to respond.

      These are exactly the kind of issues which I was hoping for views on. The local sourcing point is, I think, a really important one for us which is why we’ve done the Yorkshire and now Lancashire local sourcing trials. I also think an angle on that is how as a co-operative support and co-operate with other co-operatives. The vegan point is also not something I had at the front of my mind in all honesty but you have helped get it there which was the point of the blog!

      Once again thanks for the comments. What happens next is that as a society we are developing a series of policies to define what our Co-op position is on a series of issues which together will make up our ethical and sustainable policy framework. Your thoughts will feed into that work.

      Best wishes

      Paul

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  2. Dear Paul Gerrard,

    In answer to your questions:

    What kinds of business should we engage with? One of the charges often laid against large businesses is that they take customers away from small businesses and this can result in smaller businesses going under. If the Co-op engaged with local smaller businesses and especially co-ops, then it could be the friend of the small business rather than another threat to it.

    What kinds of business should we engage in? The Co-op needs to stick to a small range of businesses and do them well. While there may be scope for things like operating a repairs service from an electricals shop, or linking something like the ‘rated people’ service to the insurance business (with the Group providing the platform for the service rather than running any extra businesses). With libraries closing down and reducing hours, I guess there could be some scope for running an internet café in some larger stores; if people were there for any length of time then they’d want to purchase refreshments (though they may need toilet access too) and if it proved popular with older people then you could offer some basic tuition in how to use the internet in partnership with local colleges.

    Actually, another thing you could look at is a mobile phone charging station for each store, no bigger than a set of lockers, it is basically a set of lockers with mobile phone chargers in each locker; the customer locks their phone in a locker, leaves it to charge, then comes back for it when they’ve finished their shop – they’re quite popular at conferences, why not have them in stores too?

    How do we go about that business? Please see above for ideas.

    What do we do with the proceeds? After the dividend has been paid-out, focus more locally to make a bigger impact with the same funds. You could adopt the model used by the Jack Petchey foundation, whereby organisations that support people nominate members for awards, then if they win the nominee gets the award and the organisation gets money to spend on its own activities: this kind of model would help ensure that funds go to organisations which are actually having a meaningful impact. Such awards tend to be presented at ceremonies where a representative of the donor gives them out; but hopefully the Co-op wouldn’t spend too much money on that side of it.

    What ethical concerns do you think our Co-op should champion? The Freedom from Fear Campaign for shop workers (by USDAW), Fair Trade, fair treatment for suppliers, reducing unnecessary packaging…

    I hope this is helpful.

    Kind regards,

    Kat Rose

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    • Kat,

      thank you for taking the time to let me have your thoughts – they’re not just interesting but clear well-thought through so thanks again.

      I think there is a really important question about what kind of businesses we want to be involved in balancing commercial opportunities with our V&Ps. Are there some sectors which as a co-operative we just wouldn’t to get involved in regardless of the commercial opportunities? Equally are there some ‘good things’ we could do which commercially are damaging to us a business? You’ve given me food for thought certainly. I wasn’t aware of the Petchey model but am now and will investigate further so I can understand more.

      As a society we are developing a series of policies to define what our Co-op position is on a series of issues which together will make up our ethical and sustainable policy framework. You’ve got me thinking on extra, different lines now so thanks – all this will help and I may get back to you if I need to explore some of this further.

      Best wishes

      Paul

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  3. We need to work much more closely with other co-operatives and support local producers. The dividend needs to return ASAP to reward loyalty and those who share our values and principles. More needs to be invested in Local Forums with enhanced roles for member pioneers.

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    • Geoff,

      thanks – this is really helpful.

      The local agenda including the co-operation among co-operatives principle is clearly a strong theme as Daniel pointed out above and that’s not surprising given our history, values and principles and our very purpose ‘ championing a better way of doing business for you and your community’. The divi point is well made and reflects what others are saying, e.g. Alastair, about the central place of members in a member-owned co-operative.

      Thanks for your thoughts – they’re logged and will be in the room; best wishes

      Paul

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  4. What kinds of business should we engage with, and in? – business that the members want/need
    How do we go about that business? – putting the members first
    What do we do with the proceeds? – give surplus to the members – let us decide
    What ethical concerns do you think our Co-op should champion? – concerns that are raised by the members through a democratic process, rather than a blog

    Summary: it’s all about the members…

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    • Hi Alastair, thanks for commenting. But, I’m interested to know why you don’t see blogs and other social media as democratic when they’re open to all? Doesn’t social media represent the democratisation of the internet in the most brilliant way, with everyone being able to have a voice? ^Jordan

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    • Alastair,

      thanks for the post.

      The uniqueness of co-operatives, including our society, is that they are member-owned and so a core part of who we are has to be our members and adding value for them; so agree.

      Probably useful to be clear that approval of policies and positions is through the formal governance of the society and, specifically for our policy framework, through the Co-op Way Policy Committee which is made up of business representatives and 11 elected members of Council. Importantly, the Committee recommends approval of policies to the elected member Council and Board who actually approve them . So I am really confident in the democratic process here is very strong.

      However, this blog and associated social media activity is not about agreeing positions but about taking views. Getting the member voice in the room when we develop policies and positions is critical – and this is what this is about and your views and others will now be in that room as we develop propositions.

      Thanks again for your thoughts

      Paul

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  5. The Co-op supports Healthy and Sustainable Living for our members, colleagues and their Communities.
    Definition
    Healthy and Sustainable Living refers to the practices of population groups that are consistent with supporting, improving, maintaining and/or enhancing health. As it applies to individuals, healthy and sustainable living is the practice of health enhancing behaviours, or put simply, living in healthy and sustainable ways. It implies the physical, mental and spiritual capacity to make healthy and sustainable choices, negotiating the relationships of needs within limits across all the interconnected domains of social life, including consequences for future human generations and non-human species.
    The Co-op
    All the businesses of the Co-op Group are in a good position to support an overarching ethical policy -Healthy and Sustainable Living.
    The Co-op Businesses do a lot of this already, but need to put what they do under one ethical policy In terms of an ethical policy we felt the scatter gun approach needed to be ( there was a group of members discussed this) placed under one ethical policy or banner and in our view ‘Healthy and Sustainable Living ‘ did it, this would include all our businesses, members and colleagues. It would also make it easier to identify gaps and evaluate and monitor progress.
    Some examples – I’m know there are dozens more..
    • Ongoing interpretation of Food Policy eg ethically sourced meat and fish
    • Working with Love Food Hate Waste to meet the Courtauld commitment targets
    • Promoting healthy options in store with deals for consumers
    • Encouraging cooking from scratch
    • Gluten free products
    • Global solidarity ‘Growing Stories’- stocking and highlighting Fairtrade. Working in partnership with the wider movement.
    • Insurance and Legal policies
    • Funeralcare works in our communities to enhance healthy living
    • Sustainable communications systems.
    • Sustainable business practice
    couraging employees
    • Good reward scheme
    • Health and well being
    • Real Living Wage – working towards
    • Encouraging regular health checks
    • Co-op bike scheme
    • Employability schemes
    • Good pension scheme
    • Good relationship with unions
    All the CSR in our communities and the reintroduction of member economic benefit.

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    • Alison,

      thanks to your and your colleagues for this excellent post.

      As I said in my original blog, we are a looking at a series of issues that will help us be clear on the Co-op difference in those areas like the environment, etc. One of those is healthy living and your contribution here is really helpful – not least because it articulates really well that our position on healthy living is more than just the food we sell and is actually about what we do in the communities we operate in. You’ve articulated it really well.

      We’ll be looking in detail at the issue later in the year and when we do I will come back to you for some further thoughts from you and your colleagues.

      Thank you again – really appreciated.

      Paul

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  6. The mention of libraries closing , they need volunteers, Pioneers from CLFS being involved in helping local resources continue. .

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    • Eileen,

      thanks for the post. The importance of community for the Co-op’s purpose is clear both in understanding the impact of decisions on those communities and how we can, through opportunities like volunteering, support the communities. Again, it is one of the issues we will be looking at later in the year.

      Best wishes

      Paul

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      • Maybe this is not the sort of thing you were wanting.

        We should have our staff feeling safe in the workplace.. no more of trying to run stores with only 2 staff for most of the day every day.

        We should have enough staff in the stores to be able to do all the tasks thoroughly all the time.
        we should see staff as an investment for the company and NOT an unnecessarily cost.

        The people at head office that decide to cut delivery schedules should visit the stores and see what their decisions impact on store staff life.. eg too much stock on the delivery and there is not room in warehouse to store it.. so it stays outside and hope it does not rain for the day.

        The people in charge of TARA system should also visit stores and see what their system creates in real life !!! and try to do what is expected in a days work. and then they will realise why stores are not happy and only think ” selective” happens when challenges are made.

        We should have more local items stocked in stores.

        To work towards a pay structure where the top earning person is paid no -more then a set multiple ( maybe 30 times) of the lowest paid full time staff member.

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  7. Using local tradesmen for our maintenance work and allowing local management to obtain quotes for this work. We have contractors coming out to our funeral homes from miles away to quote and the costings that come back are often astronomical and the work is not of great quality. A local tradesman would have a reputation to uphold, it would give the team the opportunity to build a lasting rapport that we can rely on in case of emergency and it would also be a great way to build local relations.

    The same applies to vehicle maintenance, we have national chains that we have to use who charge above the going rate for mediocre work or we are forced to use garages in neighbouring towns when we have garages that are a stones throw away from our premises.

    I feel these national chains and large contracting companies are taking the Co-op for granted. If we wouldn’t accept it in our own homes or on our own cars why should it be acceptable for our premises and fleet?

    Trust our management to use best judgement, these costs come straight from their bottom line so if anyone is going to ensure quality work at a good price then it’s them.

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    • Hayley,

      thanks for the post and apologies for the delay in replying.

      I think this is a really interesting post and with our pilots on local sourcing in our stores something we are already looking at. The point you raise about services is a really interesting one because there could – only could and only in some circumstances! – a tension between competitive prices which come from economies of scale, supporting local communities through the business in them and improved customer experience. I think striking the right balance in this will be dependent on the specific circumstances of each contract but my own view is that our purpose ‘championing a better way of doing business for you and your community’ makes it clear that that local perspective should always be part of our considerations.

      Thanks again

      Paul

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  8. I have been kept awake yet again this week by your contractors carrying out work in you St. Albans store. This is the third round of week long ‘essential maintenance’ night work in as many years; any reasonable person looking at the location of your shop could tell you that you cannot carry out work at night without causing significant disruption to the neighbours.

    I completely understand that a certain level of disruption is to be expected when you live in close proximity to a shop such as yours; that is why I overlook your ‘ambient’ store music that comes on at 5:30am every morning, your staff having shouting matches at 10pm, the store bell ringing incessantly and your store alarm sounding for hours at a time.

    I understand from your post(and that of your colleagues) that one of your aims is to give back to the community and support healthy and sustainable living. When you keep my family awake all night long with construction noise, you are not supporting healthy and sustainable living. When I have to spend hours on the phone navigating your bureaucratic system in an attempt to speak to someone in charge before the dreaded noise begins again, you are not supporting healthy and sustainable living. When my children cannot play outside due to the billows of smoke created by your staff doing ‘wheelies’ in their cars, you are not promoting healthy and sustainable living. Your behaviour as my neighbour is not health enhancing.

    My advice to your organisation – before you “champion a better way of doing business”, remind yourselves of the basics. Your talk of “ethical issues like, human rights, food and farming, the environment and resource use” seems vacuous and contrived when you cannot muster basic respect and for the people in the communities which you are part of. The fact that you stock fair trade bananas and sustainably sourced salmon means little when you have no regard for the people buying the products from you. From my front line experience dealing with your organisation I can tell you that The Co-op vision and The Co-op way are at odds. Perhaps your policy should include strategies to marry the two.

    I am aware that this is probably not the best forum for my grievance. I would complain to your customer services team but frankly I’m just too tired and secondly, it is not worth my time. All I will receive is a stock letter of apology and a £15 voucher ‘for the inconvenience’ to tide me over until the next time you decide to disrupt my life, at which point we will rinse and repeat.

    I suppose I should be grateful that in the meantime I can pop into your shop for Fair Trade Organic coffee to keep me awake…

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    • Dear ‘tired neighbour’,

      firstly apologies for the disruption and upset caused.

      Secondly, thanks for the post. It doesn’t make comfortable reading if I am honest and while I could try and point out some facts which may counter some of your assertions, I am not going to. You feel that our public position doesn’t in your experience match the reality.

      What we need to do -and what I am here to do – is to redefine and recalibrate what we are about in ethical terms and then, critically, make that a reality for all who come into contact with us. Its a pretty high ambition and we may not get there all the time but it is what we must aim for if we are going to live up to the expectations of our members.

      Apologies again from me and best wishes

      Paul

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  9. It is important that the Co-op maintains political neutrality. Our members hold a diverse range of political views and we should respect that.

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    • Robin,

      thanks for the post.

      I think you’re right although when we have a clear mandate from members and/or something is clearly aligns with our values and principles then we should live up to our ‘campaigning’ heritage.

      Best wishes

      Paul

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  10. In the Co-op we hope one remembers,
    That policy’s made by the members,
    If this ceases to be,
    Then take it from me,
    That all we’d have left would be embers.

    Well Paul, you invited poetry; you didn’t say it had to be good poetry.

    Seriously, I hope you will support the requirement for council members to be able to conduct a two-way communication with members in their regions.

    Chris Sumner

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    • Chris,

      wow – wasn’t expecting that but I have printed it out and put in my desk!

      Our uniqueness is surely that we are member-owned and if we are to make that a reality then the voice of members is an important element in how we run our Co-op and make decisions. I also agree – and I have heard lots of Council members say the same – that we need to support and connect our whole society so when we says ‘members’ think we can be sure as colleagues and Council members we have some data behind it.

      Best wishes

      Paul

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  11. Continue lowering the sugar in your foods. (Biggest health issue of the 21st century and quite a number of your new lunch time items are crazy high in sugar)
    Reduce packaging (other than the environmental issues, we are all being given less and less bin space even if we do recycle effectively at home).
    Boycott Nestle (Their ethics are non-existent. Multiple scandals and gouging of African communities for essential items)

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    • Robert,

      thanks for the post.

      Welcome thoughts and helpful ideas. We’ll be developing the Co-op position on healthy living and the environment through the work and its good to know that those two are issues you care about as, its clear, do lots of members.

      Best wishes

      Paul

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  12. Does dependency on membership and committee prevent us from voicing national concerns? I wonder what the pioneers would make of ever increasing inequality, the apparent dismantling of the nhs and teachers going on strike. previous comments here have said we must stay politically neutral, however this may lead the co-op being silent on the most important issues of the day.

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    • Matthew,

      thanks for the post and apologies for lateness of reply.

      Its a interesting point given that, as you say, we have 17 decades of campaigning behind and its very much a part of the Co-op. I do think that as we move into an increasingly digital age we will be able to understand the views of members ever more be it through AGM motions, feedback on products, opportunities like this, votes like the one which saw us choose the British Red Cross, etc.

      I don’t think that we should or can stay silent on issues where our members are clear on their position and/or a stance we take is so completely aligned with our values and principles that not to take it would be perverse.

      Best wishes and thanks again

      Paul

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  13. As someone else already said – I think animal welfare should be very high up on our list. This in my mind likes to vegetarian and vegan options.

    It is very difficult to shop in co-op as a vegan. Labelling is clear when put on items but there are so many areas missing that other supermarkets have.

    Being pragmatic about it as well I think would be the easiest start. e.g. we already sell ISB pretzels…but they contain animal products. M&S sell ISB pretzels – and they are suitable for vegans. If we were to switch to the same ingredients then we could meet the expectations of a whole new group of customers. There are lots of examples of this where honey is added, but maple syrup or agave could be used (e.g. moroccan topped hummus – pretty much a vegan staple).

    You could also look at labelling standards. At present, items suitable for vegans are not labelled vegan as they are produced in the same factory as an item containing milk/eggs. This does not make the item not vegan. I understand this is due to allergies – but this is nothing to do with veganism and should not be considered. It would make co-op different to other supermarkets and much easier to shop.

    It would be great if there was some sort of working group to always consider products/missions through the eyes of an ethical consumer – whether they are vegan, vegetarian, fairtrade, organic (this is higher welfare standards for animals as part of the spec), etc. There are over 0.5million vegans in the UK and many more people who try to on a regular basis/as much as possible. It’s a large market and if co-op could be the goto retailer it would be brilliant.

    As an employee member – I’d be happy to be involved in this and very active! I want to shop in the co-op as much as possible – but we just don’t have the right range for a vegan shopper.

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    • Simon,

      thanks for the email – sorry for the delay in replying.

      We are aware of the increasing number of people moving towards flexitarian/vegetarian or vegan diets and so we are currently working on how we can increase the number of meat free, low meat and alternative protein options in our stores to better cater for this need.

      As part of our Right Range Right Store programme, we are committed to creating optimum ranges for our customers in every store and ensuring that even our smallest shops meet the needs of different groups of customer. So we are committed to increasing the number of delicious meat-free/vegan options in our stores in 2017 with a key focus on Food to Go and Ready Meals.

      We put our vegetarian/vegan logo clearly on the front of our products so they can be easily identified. Vegetarian and vegan recipes feature regularly in our Co-op magazine, again these are clearly labelled as suitable for vegans/vegetarians.

      The add on to this is that in terms of ethical policies – as opposed to meeting customer needs – where does this align with our ethical approach?

      Hope this helps and best wishes

      Paul

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  14. I would love to see more vegan products. Encouraging people to buy vegan produce would be one of the easiest ways to make a positive environmental impact, as well as reducing the impact we have on the animals we share a planet with. Thanks 🙂

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    • Colin,

      thanks for the email – sorry for the delay in replying. I’m going to repeat below the reply I gave to Simon above

      We are aware of the increasing number of people moving towards flexitarian/vegetarian or vegan diets and so we are currently working on how we can increase the number of meat free, low meat and alternative protein options in our stores to better cater for this need.

      As part of our Right Range Right Store programme, we are committed to creating optimum ranges for our customers in every store and ensuring that even our smallest shops meet the needs of different groups of customer. So we are committed to increasing the number of delicious meat-free/vegan options in our stores in 2017 with a key focus on Food to Go and Ready Meals.

      We put our vegetarian/vegan logo clearly on the front of our products so they can be easily identified. Vegetarian and vegan recipes feature regularly in our Co-op magazine, again these are clearly labelled as suitable for vegans/vegetarians.

      You make an interesting point about the link to the environment and our approach to food and farming which helps me position this beyond just the need to meet the needs of our different customers

      Best wishes

      Paul

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  15. Definitely would like to see more vegan food available!

    Veganism ties in both issues of ethics and sustainability – after all, the most environmentally destructive industry is animal agriculture, in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, rainforest destruction, land use, species extinction, ocean deadzones etc. etc., and is also surprisingly a considerable driver in world hunger, as we are growing enough food to feed the world at least twice over, yet a minimum of 40% of all grain grown worldwide goes to feed livestock. Food waste and food distribution are also important issues here of course, so Co-Op could also work on tackling the food waste issue if they are not doing so already.

    The ethics are quite clear in vegan eating, too, as choosing vegan options saves animals from being slaughtered – but there have also been numerous findings of slaughterhouse workers being mistreated, such as the US workers who recently revealed they had to wear ‘diapers’ all day as they were denied bathroom breaks. There are also numerous studies showing slaughterhouse workers to suffer with a range of mental health issues, particularly PTSD. It is a cruel industry for both human and non-human animals, so introducing ethical vegan options gives consumers the choice of whether they want to contribute to this industry or not.

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    • Matthew,

      you’ll see my reply to Simon above on the issue of the availability of vegan food.

      You’re clearly passionate about the ethics behind adopting a vegan diet and its really helped me understand that perspective as I’m not vegan myself – so thank you. I think for me, as you suggest, this is about meeting our customer needs while also giving them options.

      Best wishes

      Paul

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      • Paul,

        Thank you for your reply – I’m glad to have helped you understand a little behind the ethics of a vegan lifestyle. Also, please never change your jam or custard bakery doughnut recipes – you’re the only local shop that doesn’t put egg or milk in them! 🙂

        Best wishes,
        Matt

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  16. I work for the co-op legal services, I have a few suggestions on how we can champion a better way of doing things and be a part of the community more.

    1. We should look at supporting local businesses, maybe even create some sort of community card where customers who have this card can get discounts for using local businesses instead of the larger businesses that have destroyed many a high street, town centre. Local community business is vital and must be protected and supported.

    2. The co-op should run more community type events, whether it is via local fares, to educating the communities on the range of services available to them, without them having to go around searching for things, they should know our entire range, I personally experience the lack of coverage co-op has informed the community of services we provide. Many don’t realise for instance the range of legal services we offer, or the fact that we have a travel company and the range of insurance services available. This is where the co-op needs to improve and the most important factor is all branches of the co-op support each other so that we as a whole support the community better.

    3. The co-op should also engage with the homeless and the food banks more, make more donations to food banks and run in all stores a system where a customer can contribute to the local food bank by buying one or two items to donate as well.

    4. the dividend although is a great benefit it is not why many use the co-op, they use it for convenience, we need to start engaging more with the community, everything we do and everything other people do when working for the co-op or working on behalf of the co-op, it reflects on the co-op as a whole. So all staff and contractors should work and act respectfully, I saw a post from a member of a community being subjected to loud music and shouting from contractors and colleagues, this is not a good light to be seen in, so all contractors should have to follow a strict list of guidelines laid down by the co-op when they are working, again personal experience when contractors are refurbishing the funeral homes, the contractors have been playing loud techno music and shouting and swearing and that is not acceptable.

    5. Why can the co-op not provide a A4 card with a list of services we do, telephone numbers to contact these departments, and their out of hours numbers, also a list of local emergency numbers etc, that our members can pin to their fridge or wall board.

    6. Finally when work is needed to be done on our food stores, Funeralcare and the like, we should again be supporting local contractors, I think its totally wrong to use a contractor that has to travel miles to do the work when there is local contractors available. We promote ourselves as a community business yet we use contractors that are not from the local community. Stop using big companies/national companies who often cut corners, do a basic job and basically just don’t care. Local tradesmen are hardworking family members living in the local community we are striving to support, support them where it is needed in local business and local community projects.

    Thank you

    David
    Co-op employee

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    • David,

      thanks for such a thorough and considered post – I really appreciate the time.There is loads in here and none of it will be lost I promise you.

      The centrality of ‘community’ is clear in our purpose – ‘championing a better way of doing business for you and your community’ – and the new membership offer which we launched at our AGM in May and as a colleague member you’ll now be part of puts community at the heart of what we do; 1% of all spend on own brand products and services now goes to locally chose community charities. I think this is a really strong example of how important community is and will be even more at the Co-op. We’ll be looking at all the issues you highlight around how wee interact with our communities so none of this will be lost.

      Finally, your point on food banks and the homeless is one that really resonates with me. One of the reasons I came to the Co-op was because of the values and principles which underpin what we do – none more than solidarity and concern for community; the more we can do on the issues you highlight the prouder I’ll be.

      Best wishes

      Paul

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  17. Hiya!

    You should definitely champion having more readily available food for vegans.
    Already having a free from section is amazing, but a lot of the free from products aren’t vegan which is sad, would be amazing if more consideration was put in to find those same foods that are free from gluten, but also free from eggs and dairy too! Just so then you can include more people that can have those foods.

    I also think a vegan sandwich or wrap would be amazing! You don’t even have to label it as so if you think it will put people off, cause vegans always check the labels.
    But like a falafel and baby leaf salad wrap with hummus or something along those lines would be amazing!✨
    People in general like falafel so all kinds of people would buy it, not just vegans, but then we wouldn’t be excluded.

    Thank you for taking in our opinions! I use co op all the time because it’s just around the corner from my house.
    Would just be nice to not always have to make my own sandwiches or be able to pop in and find there are more options and new things to try!

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    • Zoe,

      thanks for the email – delay in replying was due to my hols, sorry! I’m going to repeat the reply I gave to Simon on the availability of vegan options in our stores..

      We are aware of the increasing number of people moving towards flexitarian/vegetarian or vegan diets and so we are currently working on how we can increase the number of meat free, low meat and alternative protein options in our stores to better cater for this need.

      As part of our Right Range Right Store programme, we are committed to creating optimum ranges for our customers in every store and ensuring that even our smallest shops meet the needs of different groups of customer. So we are committed to increasing the number of delicious meat-free/vegan options in our stores in 2017 with a key focus on Food to Go and Ready Meals.

      We put our vegetarian/vegan logo clearly on the front of our products so they can be easily identified. Vegetarian and vegan recipes feature regularly in our Co-op magazine, again these are clearly labelled as suitable for vegans/vegetarians.

      Hope this helps and best wishes

      Paul

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  18. its really refreshing to see this interaction and replies to comments too!
    I like the vegan comments, and would also like to see clearer labelling and information for gluten free dairy free, halal? kosher? etc. the library ideas, how great would it be to get properly involved in providing assistance for our libraries which are all suffering from austerity cuts etc. but an issue I would like to move a little forward in all our thoughts, don’t leave behind people who are not tech savvy, ie the older generation. those who don’t get the internet, blogs, emails etc. those people who, because of these innovations could become more isolated and lonely, lets not forget that they could be our parents / grandparents! the co op is about these people as much as the new generation. I don’t have the answers to this, I just don’t want our older generation to be left out

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    • Steve,

      thanks for the post.

      I am an enormous fan of digital tools because they provide enormous reach instantly to get views and have virtual conversations. However, you are right to remind me and probably many that lots of folk, even many who use some digital tools like emails, don’t want to communicate via digital means…and if we don’t engage them we (a) get poorer answers and (b) risk, as you say, isolating people who will be somebody’s brother or sister, son or daughter, mother or father, aunt or uncle.

      Like you I don’t have the answer but you’ve helped keep the question very much in my thoughts; best wishes.

      Paul

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  19. Im vegan and I love finding vegan products in your shops. The Jammy doughnuts are lovely. For me price, special offers and range of vegan goods – including ready made items are most important. I also very much appreciate the 10% NUS card discount. The CoOp stores do seem to vary in quality and product availability more than other Supermarkets and I would like that addressed.
    Thank you for giving us the opportunity to give you feedback.

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    • Kate,

      thanks for the post and sorry for delay in replying.

      Its great you like the donuts and the discounts – keep an eye on the new membership offer in a few weeks because it’ll get even better for all our members! I’ve heard the point about variation which I’ve passed onto colleagues although its not something I’ve seen as much of in my own experience although as we seek to support local suppliers even more as we are then some variation of what you can buy will always be there…but that can be a good thing!

      We are currently working on how we can increase the number of meat free, low meat and alternative protein options in our stores to better cater for this need. As part of our Right Range Right Store programme, we are committed to creating optimum ranges for our customers in every store and ensuring that even our smallest shops meet the needs of different groups of customer. So we are committed to increasing the number of delicious meat-free/vegan options in our stores in 2017 with a key focus on Food to Go and Ready Meals.

      We put our vegetarian/vegan logo clearly on the front of our products so they can be easily identified. Vegetarian and vegan recipes feature regularly in our Co-op magazine, again these are clearly labelled as suitable for vegans/vegetarians.

      Hope this helps

      Paul

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  20. PS I also value you using small local suppliers so respect that standardisation of products isn’t always possible.

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  21. I second the suggestions for vegan meals, more vegan products, and vegan brands! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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    • Elena,

      sorry for the delay.

      We are currently working on how we can increase the number of meat free, low meat and alternative protein options in our stores to better cater for this need. As part of our Right Range Right Store programme, we are committed to creating optimum ranges for our customers in every store and ensuring that even our smallest shops meet the needs of different groups of customer. So we are committed to increasing the number of delicious meat-free/vegan options in our stores in 2017 with a key focus on Food to Go and Ready Meals.

      We put our vegetarian/vegan logo clearly on the front of our products so they can be easily identified. Vegetarian and vegan recipes feature regularly in our Co-op magazine, again these are clearly labelled as suitable for vegans/vegetarians.

      Best wishes

      Paul

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  22. More animal-free products, please!

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    • Andrew,

      thanks for the post.

      We are aware of the increasing number of people moving towards flexitarian/vegetarian or vegan diets and so we are currently working on how we can increase the number of meat free, low meat and alternative protein options in our stores to better cater for this need.

      As part of our Right Range Right Store programme, we are committed to creating optimum ranges for our customers in every store and ensuring that even our smallest shops meet the needs of different groups of customer. So we are committed to increasing the number of delicious meat-free/vegan options in our stores in 2017 with a key focus on Food to Go and Ready Meals.

      We put our vegetarian/vegan logo clearly on the front of our products so they can be easily identified. Vegetarian and vegan recipes feature regularly in our Co-op magazine, again these are clearly labelled as suitable for vegans/vegetarians.

      The add on to this is that in terms of ethical policies – as opposed to meeting customer needs – where does this align with our ethical approach?

      Hope this helps and best wishes

      Paul

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  23. I would like to see more fresh vegan (sandwiches, salads, wraps) and frozen vegan food items- it would be good to have a vegan frozen meal deal. Also more vegan long life item and staples. Coop has a good reputation for vegan items, so it would be going to enhance this further

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    • David,

      thanks for the email – sorry for the delay in replying.

      We are aware of the increasing number of people moving towards flexitarian/vegetarian or vegan diets and so we are currently working on how we can increase the number of meat free, low meat and alternative protein options in our stores to better cater for this need.

      As part of our Right Range Right Store programme, we are committed to creating optimum ranges for our customers in every store and ensuring that even our smallest shops meet the needs of different groups of customer. So we are committed to increasing the number of delicious meat-free/vegan options in our stores in 2017 with a key focus on Food to Go and Ready Meals.

      We put our vegetarian/vegan logo clearly on the front of our products so they can be easily identified. Vegetarian and vegan recipes feature regularly in our Co-op magazine, again these are clearly labelled as suitable for vegans/vegetarians.

      Hope this helps and best wishes

      Paul

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  24. I really love co-op for your own brand cruelty free international (BUAV/leaping bunny) approved range of everyday household cleaners and toiletries. Please never stop this range!

    I would like to see an expansion of dairy free/vegan chilled ranges, such as plant based milks (not just soya! Things like rice milk, almond milk, coconut milk, oat milk) and also dairy free cheeses (violife, vegusto, sheese etc), yoghurts, cream etc. Dairy free chocolate and snacks (no eggs!). It would be really good if all co-op own brand things were labelled as vegan friendly if this was the case.

    I would like to see more organic ranges, particularly in the fresh produce section, eg fruits, vegetables and mushrooms but also across other staples eg bread, lentils, rice, pasta etc.

    I would also like to see organic cotton, unbleached ladies sanitary wear, eg natracare liners, pads and tampons.

    Co-op definitely seem to be ahead of the game in terms of ethical choices in their cleaners and toiletries but perhaps a little behind the bigger players in terms of vegan and dairy free options. Many are moving entirely away from consuming animals products at all for ethical decisions. I think an expansion in catering for this market would be an excellent direction for co-op to take moving forward.

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    • Justine,

      thanks for the email – sorry for the delay in replying.

      I really appreciate the positive feedback and for your suggestions for where else we may want to consider.

      We are currently working on how we can increase the number of meat free, low meat and alternative protein options in our stores to better cater for this need. As part of our Right Range Right Store programme, we are committed to creating optimum ranges for our customers in every store and ensuring that even our smallest shops meet the needs of different groups of customer. So we are committed to increasing the number of delicious meat-free/vegan options in our stores in 2017 with a key focus on Food to Go and Ready Meals.

      We put our vegetarian/vegan logo clearly on the front of our products so they can be easily identified. Vegetarian and vegan recipes feature regularly in our Co-op magazine, again these are clearly labelled as suitable for vegans/vegetarians.

      Hope this helps

      Paul

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  25. I would also like to see more vegan options available, this is something I frequently enquire about in my local store. Having vegan cheeses, spreads and larger variety of plant based milks in local co-op store would mean not having to travel to a big supermarket when I am within walking distance of a co-op (therefore reducing my environmental impact, too!) Also love the co-op’s range of vegan and cruelty free household products and would like to see this expanded. Thanks for your consideration.

    Liked by 1 person

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    • Kyleen,

      sorry for the delay in replying – you’ll have seen replies to others who have raised similar points but I’ll repeat it here for ease.

      We are aware of the increasing number of people moving towards flexitarian/vegetarian or vegan diets and so we are currently working on how we can increase the number of meat free, low meat and alternative protein options in our stores to better cater for this need.

      As part of our Right Range Right Store programme, we are committed to creating optimum ranges for our customers in every store and ensuring that even our smallest shops meet the needs of different groups of customer. So we are committed to increasing the number of delicious meat-free/vegan options in our stores in 2017 with a key focus on Food to Go and Ready Meals.

      We put our vegetarian/vegan logo clearly on the front of our products so they can be easily identified. Vegetarian and vegan recipes feature regularly in our Co-op magazine, again these are clearly labelled as suitable for vegans/vegetarians.

      The add on to this is that in terms of ethical policies – as opposed to meeting customer needs – where does this align with our ethical approach?

      Hope this helps and best wishes

      Paul

      Thanks again and best wishes

      Paul

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  26. More vegan options please!

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    • Nikkiq,

      thanks for the post – all welcome especially succinct ones!

      We are currently working on how we can increase the number of meat free, low meat and alternative protein options in our stores to better cater for this need.

      We put our vegetarian/vegan logo clearly on the front of our products so they can be easily identified. Vegetarian and vegan recipes feature regularly in our Co-op magazine, again these are clearly labelled as suitable for vegans/vegetarians.

      Hope this helps and best wishes

      Paul

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  27. I concur … the more vegan options the better!!! 🙂

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    • Libby,

      thanks for the post – you’ll see my replies on similar posts but I’ll repeat it here as well.

      We are currently working on how we can increase the number of meat free, low meat and alternative protein options in our stores to better cater for this need.

      As part of our Right Range Right Store programme, we are committed to creating optimum ranges for our customers in every store and ensuring that even our smallest shops meet the needs of different groups of customer. So we are committed to increasing the number of delicious meat-free/vegan options in our stores in 2017 with a key focus on Food to Go and Ready Meals.

      We put our vegetarian/vegan logo clearly on the front of our products so they can be easily identified. Vegetarian and vegan recipes feature regularly in our Co-op magazine, again these are clearly labelled as suitable for vegans/vegetarians.

      Hope this helps and best wishes

      Paul

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  28. I believe the Co-op’s ethics need to be based on sustainability.
    Your non-edible grocery section is great for vegan products – toiletries & household cleaning products – and they are clearly labelled. However, the edible grocery section is a huge disappointment. I would like to see clearly labelled fresh, frozen and ambient vegan ranges. If my local store stocked more vegan products I would spend a lot more there.
    I’d also like to see a greater emphasis on organic and fair trade products. I think that the Co-op should be pioneering environmental issues, for example reducing meat & dairy consumption and reducing product packaging. You could also lead the way by phasing out single use carrier bags.
    Because your store staff are your front line, they need to feel valued, respected and adequately rewarded. I think the previous comment about allowing stores to use local contractors makes sense. Stores should also be able to choose which local causes/charities they support as they are best placed to understand and know their community.

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    • Angie,

      thanks for the post and apologies for delay in replying.

      On the vegan products points, we are currently working on how we can increase the number of meat free, low meat and alternative protein options in our stores to better cater for this need. So we are committed to increasing the number of delicious meat-free/vegan options in our stores in 2017 with a key focus on Food to Go and Ready Meals.

      In relation to fair trade, we were the first major retailer to champion fair trade and, from memory but I stand to be corrected, we continue to be one of the leading retailers in terms of the proportions we stock and sell; this will continue to be the case I am sure.

      Your point on our colleagues in store is well made. My background before this role including the privilege of leading 6,500 civil servants who delivered services direct to customers – so I understand very well that the most important people we have in the organisation are those who add value for our customers. One of the areas we are looking at from an ethical perspective is colleague well-being because we want working for the Co-op to be positively different fro working for others – that will be our Co-op difference.

      On your final point on local charities – watch this space in September for our new membership launch which will be music to your ears!

      Thanks for the post and best wishes

      Paul

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  29. Hi there,
    More Vegan products please,
    Especially fresh food, ready meals, sandwiches, etc a bit like Pret a Manger have done.
    Improve on the quality and recipes of chilled food sandwiches etc generally.
    More Organic fresh veg and fruit produce. I don’t tend to buy my fruit and veg from CoOp due to lack of organic produce.
    Improve the labelling for the ingredients and nutritional content for the baked goods.
    More instant gratification for the customer regarding reward points I.e. can use them instantly at the checkout when paying for goods rather than having to wait for vouchers or a few months at a time.

    More focus on animal welfare generally with products throughout store.

    Encourage as a community meeting point.
    More self service tills.
    Add reward points for people bringing in and using their own bags.

    Have a delivery service for elderly or disabled people.

    Look round a few whole food stores( if you don’t already) like Planet Organic, Wholefoods, Health Food, Holland and Barrett shops,go to some of the Vegan Fayres , free from fairs to get an idea of what products are out there and how popular. Buy from new businesses that are promoting such.

    More Ethical Magazines

    Keep up the good work with the great ethical household products

    More paraben free beauty products.

    It’s inspiring you are asking.

    Best of luck !

    Kitty

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    • Kitty,

      thanks for the email and for being inspired by my asking – don’t worry I’m getting so much our of the replies that its been worth it! Sorry for the delay in replying btw!

      We are currently working on how we can increase the number of meat free, low meat and alternative protein options in our stores to better cater for this need. So we are committed to increasing the number of delicious meat-free/vegan options in our stores in 2017 with a key focus on Food to Go and Ready Meals.

      Interesting ideas on the role our stores and funeralcare homes can play in the community for the elderly and the disabled. Our purpose at the Co-op is ‘championing a better way do doing business for you and your communities’. Watch this space for our membership launch in September because you’ll see community is at the heart of what being in the co-op – as a colleague or as a member – is all about.

      Best wishes

      Paul

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  30. Hi Paul,

    You may have noticed Clive Schlee’s Veggie Pret. It’s doing very well (check the top 8 best sellers) options. And the huge growth of dairy-free milk has been important. In fact vegan food is growing everywhere as people learn about health and environment issues via TV, films, social and print medias. People try plant-based food themselves and discover that it tastes great and has massive positive effects on everything. Especially young people, grocery buying mums and older people looking after their health.

    Maybe a newly inspired Co-Op would like to be the first to sell ‘cell meat’? Bring Impossible Foods Beast Burger or Hampton Creek Mayo to the UK? Invest in or run competitions for ambitious UK and EU plant-based entrepreneurs (as big USA companies such as General Mills and Campbells have set up to fast track new plant-based start ups). Or set up a scheme where you help struggling farmers to swap livestock for crops. Post Brexit we need more crops anyway – we import too much fruit & veg. Then there is the Paris Agreement to adhere to, of which the UK will need to cut meat consumption to meet its target. Poor people in countries like India and Ethiopia are suffering terribly due to climate change, reefs are dying, arctic melt worsens each month, 13 consecutive months of record high temperatures.

    In your position, you have huge power to lead on so many things to differentiate and lead with, you will be in good company. Time to be brave and bold and bring on the big issues (not those tinier go-to ‘CSR’ issues such as ‘let’s tackle waste’). And there are so many in civil society, academia, fellow business leaders, government members and customers ready to get behind you.

    My business provides NPD for plant-based food for both CPG and Food service. Here to help and support anytime if you need to navigate the plant-based sector. Good luck with the role!

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    • Jennifer,

      thanks for the post and the offers of support!

      I think its fair to say – and I get a sense that you recognise this – that after 17 decades the Co-op has got a pretty good track record on balancing ethics with profits; so we were the first major retailer to champion fair trade, for example. The thing that strikes me about the Co-op though – and I’ve been here for about five months now – is that with our purpose (championing a better way of doing business for you and your communities) we are always looking to provide leadership on issues that matter in the moment. You may have seen our CEO’s correspondence to The Times post-Brexit on the need to give EU citizens living and working in the UK, of which some are my colleagues in the Co-op, now some certainty.

      While I don’t I agree that tackling waste is a tiny issue – given, for example, the impact some solutions could have for those in real need in the UK now – your ideas are certainly interesting and challenging and we need to define where we are on them in a way that is distinctly Co-op, balancing profits AND ethics as we have always tried to do.

      Best wishes

      Paul

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  31. I know lots of people have said it but i want to agree with them, more vegan options please!!!! If we are talking ethics and morals vegans should be catered for in all stores even the little village ones like mine. Vegans have made a moral decision to not eat anything which causes death or suffering to an animal. There is something incredibly ethical about that but they are often overlooked in shops. I have been impressed to see the vegan written on lots of the coops products and this is extremely helpful to us!!!! I would love to see the vegan ranges expanding though, i often have to do an online shop to get everything i need. This is something the coop can address positively. Things like engevita’s nutritional yeast would be really handy to go snd pick up in a local shop rather than having to order online and has a really long shelf life so there is no real reason not to stock it. Also this is a bugbear of mine but free from type ranges are ofter lumped together with the vegan products and it is up to the customers to look at the back of every packet and check. We are used to this but it would be lovely if we didnt have to and there was a specifically vegan section. Same goes for freezer things. There are often meat products in with the veggie and vegan options because they dont have gluten in for example, this is about education of staff too, it is confusing and quite unsettling to see meat in a vegetarian section. I very often read the back of boxes anyway but if i was older or more vulnerable i may have just bought it thinking it was meat free. Would love to see more cruelty free household products that would be great… Cleaning sprays, dishwasher tablets etc as would vegan cheeses like violife, meat alternatives such as frys and vbites, VEGAN quorn (this has been available for ages but my local coop still sell the egg version only)
    Thanks for listening to our views i appreciate people trying to make a difference in a positive way!

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    • Lydia,

      thanks for the post and apologies for the delay in replying; I’ve been in the Co-op for five months now having spent 19 years in public service and making a difference is why I was in the public service and what I also see here in the Co-op.

      We are currently working on how we can increase the number of meat free, low meat and alternative protein options in our stores to better cater for this need.

      As part of our Right Range Right Store programme, we are committed to creating optimum ranges for our customers in every store and ensuring that even our smallest shops meet the needs of different groups of customer. So we are committed to increasing the number of delicious meat-free/vegan options in our stores in 2017 with a key focus on Food to Go and Ready Meals.

      We put our vegetarian/vegan logo clearly on the front of our products so they can be easily identified. Vegetarian and vegan recipes feature regularly in our Co-op magazine, again these are clearly labelled as suitable for vegans/vegetarians.

      Hope this helps

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  32. It would be nice for you to stock vegan meals, more specifically something beyond falafel and houmous which is every stores default vegan option and a bit boring now to be honest. This accompanied with strong labelling. Stocking meat and cheese alternatives suitable for vegans would also make a massive impact.

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    • Zoe,

      thanks for the post and sorry for delay!

      We are currently working on how we can increase the number of meat free, low meat and alternative protein options in our stores to better cater for this need. So we are committed to increasing the number of delicious meat-free/vegan options in our stores in 2017 with a key focus on Food to Go and Ready Meals.

      We put our vegetarian/vegan logo clearly on the front of our products so they can be easily identified. Vegetarian and vegan recipes feature regularly in our Co-op magazine, again these are clearly labelled as suitable for vegans/vegetarians.

      Hope this helps

      Paul

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  33. Really loving all the vegan and cruelty free comments on here. Very inspiring. This is definitely the best thing I’ve found about the Co-op but do find that it is something that still needs furthering. I feel Co-op can be the store that leads the way with this, if enough work is put in! & it has definitely been something I’ve previously ‘shouted’ about, but would love to shout more if we furthered it to some of the great examples given in the above comments. (especially the vegan sandwiches part! vegans are in need of quick easy meals for lunch breaks.

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    • Sarah,

      thanks for the post and sorry for delay!

      You’ll have seen my responses elsewhere but I’ll repeat it here as well. We are currently working on how we can increase the number of meat free, low meat and alternative protein options in our stores to better cater for this need. So we are committed to increasing the number of delicious meat-free/vegan options in our stores in 2017 with a key focus on Food to Go and Ready Meals.

      Best wishes

      Paul

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  34. Again, more vegan products. Clear labelling so we are not left wondering if the flavourings and additives are ok. Animal agriculture is a significant cause of global warming so removing then from foods that are just as good without them would have a positive environmental impact, just like buying locally.
    If you are interested in the health and wellbeing of you customers and communities there are many charities around the country that do amazing work within some of our most disadvantaged communities that you could support corporately. I work for one, that through many projects helps via education, support and therapeutic services.

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    • Deb,

      thanks for the post and sorry for the delay.

      On the vegan issues, you’ll have seen my replies elsewhere but essentially we are currently working on how we can increase the number of meat free, low meat and alternative protein options in our stores to better cater for this need. So we are committed to increasing the number of delicious meat-free/vegan options in our stores in 2017 with a key focus on Food to Go and Ready Meals.

      We put our vegetarian/vegan logo clearly on the front of our products so they can be easily identified. Vegetarian and vegan recipes feature regularly in our Co-op magazine, again these are clearly labelled as suitable for vegans/vegetarians.

      The Co-op at its heart is a community-focused business – our purpose is Championing a Better Way of Doing Business for You and your Community – so your points on the community are well made. All I’ll say is watch this space in September for our new membership offer – you’ll love it for many reasons I am sure but not least because of what it means for the Co-op in communities!

      Best wishes

      Paul

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  35. Firstly, can I say thank you for giving us the opportunity to answer this question. It’s nice to be able to have a say and I hope it makes a difference.

    On the question of the Co-op and ethics I think many of the answers lie in the past, as well as embracing new trends and ideas. We have already championed some amazing causes and shown even quite recently that our pioneering spirit is alive and well. The key, to me, is consistency and doing things for the right reasons and once we have chosen a cause we should stick by it.

    A few years ago we made a really big deal about ‘naked’ cucumbers… a cucumber that came without an individual plastic wrapper. What a great, common sense, idea that was. And I, for one, was really happy to buy them and to use this as a tangible example when talking to people of how the co-op did things differently… ethically.

    It was a small thing, and a small step towards reducing the ridiculous amount of needless, un-recyclable, unsustainable, packaging that fills all supermarkets. But after a couple of years we stopped the naked cucumber and now they come wrapped in cellophane, and I’m left wondering why..? But there’s a start for you… we should be campaigning to reduce the amount of needless, excessive packaging. And what we do use should be easily recyclable and sustainably sourced.

    Moving on, you may remember a few years ago Jamie Oliver and friends campaigning to get a better quality of chicken onto our supermarket shelves. And I’m pleased to say the Co-op embraced this with open arms. Whilst we didn’t go the whole way to only selling free range products (which may not have worked commercially), we put a line in the sand and said that we would only sell chicken that was reared to a certain standard… the standard that Jamie said should be the minimum.

    It was another great example of our Co-op difference that I was happy to advocate and share with anyone who would listen (my poor family and friends and anyone else with ears). But then a couple of years ago we stopped that and went back to just any old chicken. A backwards step in my opinion… and one that turns us into just any other supermarket. So, that’s number two… we should strive to source meat, fish and dairy products in the best possible way we can. Using sustainable and humane farming methods that continue to push the quality boundaries up in the UK, not down.

    Next, and I think this is probably my most topical point, we should be looking really carefully at the ingredients in the foods we sell. It’s widely recognised that the amount of hidden salt and sugar in various products is a cause for concern. Again, I think the Co-op should be championing campaigns to reduce this and educate the public about what we’re doing and why… maybe that’s where we spend some of our proceeds, it can’t do any harm right…?

    In common with other supermarkets we sell many products that are laden with ingredients that really don’t need to be in there. I continue to be shocked by how difficult it is to buy a loaf of bread without sugar in it… and since fairly recently I’m now terrified to go near a jar of pasta sauce. God forbid. So, being a champion for healthy, tasty foods and taking on some responsibility for educating the communities we serve about this, is number three.

    In terms of the businesses that we engage with, they should be ones that support the above ideas and help push us forward with the key initiatives that we are trying to achieve.

    Lastly, something that the Co-op built it’s foundations on is fairness. We need to pay our suppliers a fair price for what they provide, not just get ourselves the best deal (as we did with milk for years – pleased to say we now pay a fair price). And we need to pay our staff in a progressive fashion… again, I’m aware of the initiative to get all staff up to a minimum of the ‘living wage’ which is fantastic news. But I think we could take this further and bring in an official multiple, like John Lewis, of how much the highest paid person in the Co-op gets in comparison to the lowest paid. Richard’s high profile decision to reduce his own pay, to reflect the changes in his role, is a very welcome first step on this road.

    Fair pay for the products and services we buy, and fair pay for ALL staff.

    People still feel quite an emotional attachment to the Co-op, some would say it’s our USP. I feel like a have a relationship with it… and that relationship, like any, has its ups and downs. The key to a successful relationship is consistency… I need to be able to predict the Co-op’s reaction to and position on certain things. I always used to think I could do that but over recent times I have been less certain. The Co-op is based on some commercially great values and principles that are as relevant today as when the pioneers first came up with them. All we need to do is make sure that we base the decisions we make today on these values and principles and we won’t go wrong.

    Thanks again for giving me the opportunity to share my views, I appreciate it. (Although I have gone on a bit, you may be sorry you asked!)

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    • Jamie,

      thanks for a great post – you’re right it is long but the fact that I didn’t notice until you said it at the end tells you you really hit the spot!

      I’m a historian by training – if you want to know about friars and nuns, medieval or modern I can help! – so could not agree more that the answers we are looking for will very often be in the past and re-purposed for a different age. What has struck me most about the Co-op is that the foundations we have since 1844 and before in thinking terms give us a hugely rich heritage to draw from.

      I’ve picked up – and telling them in the stories you did was genius! – concerns for the environment (cucumbers), animal welfare (chickens) and human/labour rights including remuneration and, finally, healthy living (your pasta sauce – always better to cook it yourself I find!). I’m really pleased that all those issues are picked up in the framework we are developing and, indeed, human/labour rights is work we are finalising right now.

      My final point is an observation really. The relationship bit of your final para really hit home for me on two fronts. Firstly, the challenge for any organisation – and I say this as some one who has not done just policy/strategy work but also big leadership commands leading literally 1,000s of people – is stating clearly what we are going to do, then actually doing it before reporting back how we did. Secondly, our business ethics – based on the rich heritage of our values and principles – need to embue every decision we take.

      Best wishes

      Paul

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  36. Hi Paul,
    A few ideas.
    1) Support Co-ops specifically as we do fair trade by creating a “Sourced from a Co-op” brand to add to the fair trade brand. In the process of sourcing co-ops and inspecting to ensure a standard is being met we can develop those businesses and learn from their experiences.
    2) Seek dysfunctional markets where a Co-op presence would represent “a better way of doing business”. Examples might be child care or community rideshares ( a Co-op version of Uber is happening elsewhere for example).
    3) Support members more – how about working with some partner organisations to provide reduced rate broadband to enable better access to digital skills and education programmes. The big Spanish supermarket Co-op Mondragon feels an ethical imperative to support members health by reducing the amount of unhealthy products it sells as well as unhealthy ingredients used.
    4) Climate change and waste are underlying issues – it’s a scandal how much food is grown only to be wasted and there’s loads we can do there from selling wonky veg, making more of our work to pass food to foodbanks etc. and so on. We are dealing with narrow climate change margins and anything we can do to support those are vital.

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    • R – hope that’s not too familiar!,

      thanks for the post and the ideas.

      One of our values and principles is, as you will know, co-operation among co-operatives and there is a lot we already do in this area but the challenge you pose here is how we do more to make the co-operative way of doing business ever more clearly defined; not sure I have the answer yet but you have helped me not lose sight of it.

      Your point on dysfunctional markets is well made and certainly as we finish rebuilding our Co-op we will be looking at where we should intervene and I would expect that to be informed by the voice of members. Membership is our uniqueness for me and doing more to support members, both financially and non-financially, is central to our new membership which we launched at the AGM.

      Finally, your point on the environment is well made and while we have strong examples of what we are already doing the margins are fine and extra elements can make a difference.

      Best wishes

      Paul

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  37. The Co-op has been great about providing fairtrade choices and does a goodjob with cruelty free toiletries, but I agree with all the others who would love to see many more vegan options across all ranges. I feel like the Co-op has lagged behind in picking up on the huge growth in numbers of vegans over the last few years, especially in the 18-24 age group. Even Tesco has many more vegan choices tha the Co-op. I’d love to see Co-op carry the bigger vegan brands—Violife cheese, for example–but also to support smaller vegan start-ups. Tyne Chease, for example. With Co-op’s ethical stance on food, I always expect to see a greater commitment to reducing animal agriculture both for animal welfare reasons, but also because animal agriculture is the number one cause of greenhouse gasses and global warming, but I feel like you miss a trick on this issue. A new Co-op is being built in my town and I would LOVE to be able to shop for all my vegan needs there. Here’s hoping…

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    • Carol,

      thanks for the post – sorry for delay in replying.

      We are currently working on how we can increase the number of meat free, low meat and alternative protein options in our stores to better cater for this need. So we are committed to increasing the number of delicious meat-free/vegan options in our stores in 2017 with a key focus on Food to Go and Ready Meals.

      In terms of the range then as a convenience retailer – rather than a superstore like Tesco – we always look to meet the needs of all our customers groups and our plans for 2017 will continue to do this.

      Hope this helps

      Paul

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  38. Thank you for the opportunity to comment, I feel the co op doesn’t operate in a ethnical manor when sourcing sites to build new stores, many new stores are built on the sites of well established community pubs, pubs that have been purchased by asset stripping pubco’s. Village pubs that serve the community in many more ways than serving a pint, people who sometimes have no contact with family can go to the village pub for a coffee some lunch and more importantly to them campany. Our village pub where the Bishop holds prayer meetings, the WI come in for lunch and play bingo, a panto written and acted by the locals in the pub garden attended by 200 people to raise funds for the community, a pub that raised £3000 for good causes in 8 months, all causes relating to people within the village. Yet the co op want to build a co op in the garden and car park of our pub, the pub has a ACV so obviously well valued by the community. So by the co op taking away the garden and car park this will leave the pub itself unviable, the manner in which these pubco’s act to achieve planning permission for these co op’s is defiantly not ethical and yet the co op still continue to work with them. The co op are now getting bad press via social media and magazine publications for there partnership with these pubco, so ethical co op we don’t think so, and we already have a co op 4 streets away from the proposed one that has served our village for many years. If you require more information please don’t hesitate to contact me

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    • Kim,

      thanks for the post and apologies for the delay in replying.

      I don’t know the circumstances or specifics here and others more skilled and experienced in these issues than me will be dealing with issues you describe. Therefore, I’m not sure I can comment on the specific. What I would say is that the Co-op puts a great deal of importance to the impact it has on the communities we operate in and in making decisions it is one of the factors we weigh in along with others and the judgement we take will put all those factors into balance.

      Best wishes

      Paul

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  39. We need to actually tell the public about our policies. We have loads, in particular with regards to food additives, supply chain, refusing to purchase from certain countries/occupied states etc etc, but we don’t tell anybody!

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    • Abbie,

      thanks for this post.

      You are absolutely right that in the Co-op we have so much to be loud and proud about. What’s really powerful is that even as we went through the difficult times in recent years ethics have continued to be important for us whether it be ethical trade, supporting local communities, the environment, fairtrade, etc. I think that’s because we have been balancing ethics and profits for 17 decades and it is at the heart of what we do; sometimes we don’t get it right but its what we are about.

      The work I am doing is designed to redefine that ethical and sustainable policy framework (sorry – bit jargon I know!) and in ding so really make clear the C-op difference to all our members, customers and communities. So don’t worry we will be telling our stories!

      Best wishes

      Paul

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  40. We have nothing against the Co-op and do shop there from time to time, however if they were to build another Co-op in our village (which is not needed as there is already a Co-op just a few hundred metres away) in the car park and garden of our (much used and valued) village pub then we would never step foot in one again. The pub in question is much valued by all of us in the local community and we feel that by building in this location it will spell the end of this pub as well as cause chaos on the already busy road outside. In terms of ethics the co-op should not be dealing with these pubco’s who clearly have no moral compass and who ignore the wishes of the local community. I would hope that the Co-op would think long and hard before making any deal with such a company.

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    • Donna,

      thanks for the post and apologies for the delay in replying.

      You’ll have seen my reply to Kim on the same issue. I don’t know the detail on this specific but we put a great deal of importance to the impact it has on the communities we operate in and in making decisions it is one of the factors we weigh in along with others and the judgement we take will put all those factors into balance.
      Best wishes

      Paul

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  41. Dear Paul

    I visited a co-op for lunch today and as I approached there 2 men just beyond the pavement in the road. One was an elderly man with a brace on his lower leg and who appeared like he was sleeping rough and a co-op security guard. At first, it looked like the security guard was helping the man up from his knees but on a closer observation, there was another co-op employee holding the man’s crutch with both appearing to hold it ransom to get something back. The scene seemed to settle down after a few people intervene and the single crutch returned but all appeared to be quite chaotic and unnecessary.

    I would not condone shoplifting or stealing, but the thought did occur to me that the co-op would have the ability to have a policy related to people sleeping rough, in need or homeless that would be a bit more positive and empathetic. You might say that you give support to charities but I would wonder if this could be a greater feature of your how your chain of stores supports people in need. This is after all one of the hallmarks of your brand.

    I am sure there are charities out there that could help you think through how one might do this. I understand that Pret offer anyone who says that they are hungry at the cashiers to a meal. This seems doable given the fact that you have discounted items and expiration of meals.

    The staff at the at your store would clearly need some training and guidance in how to approach and support someone who is sleeping rough or in need as they seemed to leave a lot to be desired in terms of empathy but worth it, if anything for reputational purposes but more specifically for the fact that it’s the right thing for humanities sake.

    Best regards
    Fergus

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  42. Fergus,

    thanks for the post.

    I don’t know the circumstances of this incident and, by the sounds of it nor do you so I am not sure I can talk about the specific but two key points:

    * firstly, we work with the leading redistribution charity FareShare to take surplus food from our depots and get it to those most in need. Since September 2015 we have redistributed enough food to contribute to over 1 million meals. We are also looking at ways in which our stores can give food to local charities and community groups instead of us sending it to anaerobic digestion where is produces green energy. We’ve been running a number of trials on how we could do this, and will tell our story when we are have finalised the plan. Our ultimate ambition is that no food in our operations ends up going to waste and we are focussed on feeding people first; and

    * secondly, our partnership with British Red Cross to tackle loneliness has already raised over £1m – against a target of £3.5m – in funds which will do enormous good for people suffering from loneliness and shouldn’t be dismissed.

    Finally, I’ve been in the Coop for five months now and what has amazed and moved me is the extra mile that colleagues in store, in funeralcare homes and elsewhere go for people in their communities. The stories and accounts I hear are generally moving and, for me, inspirational. Those stories tell me the people in the Co-op really show they care and do what matters most …. and they do that because they are part of the community in which they work and because it is, as you say, the right thing to do.

    Best wishes

    Paul

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  43. Ethics and rights should start with your own staff. Compulsory additional shifts in logistics is more like slave labour from Victorian times. Rota patterns are appalling, with very little time off with family as it is, waiting many weeks for a whiole weekend off, let alone two days off together, which is important physically when you do heavy manual work. Then to be given only 3 days notice that you HAVE to work your weekend off is just not on. It’s supposed to be 7 days notice but somehow the co-op has wangled it that they only have to give 48hrs if it’s an emergency. How is high volumes on a bank holiday an emergency? I think it can quite easily be foreseen! When these shifts were introduced the HR guy explained that they would almost never be used, they are just a contingency in case of depot power failures, shutdowns etc. In reality they are used frequently every time you fail to plan for the obvious.
    Get your own house in order co-op before preaching ethics and rights to everyone else!

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    • Hi Damien, have you spoken with your manager about these frustrations? ^Jordan

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      • Yes but it doesn’t go anywhere. I re-iterate the points made every time I’m issued one. The last time I challenged management I pretty much got a “we’ve ok’d it with the union” answer. I can tell you from myself and my colleagues that forcing people to work in what little quality time they have with their families does not make anyone feel like #beingcoop

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  44. Paul,

    The original purpose for the co-op was to provide good food (and later, services) for a fair price. This has to be the heart of it, but its tricky balancing ‘good’ and ‘price’. To me good means quality and safe (no horse, British and simple transparent to the member supply chains) but also just (higher animal welfare, fairtrade and cooperative/local producers). Price perception is the clincher though – people need to be able to afford to shop there – and this is something the coop has been poor on for decades. But value without compromising on good which is tricky. This is what people seem to be saying, but I think there is one more thing.

    Stories.

    Richard has hinted at this before. Read through the “ethical trading” section of the coop wiki page. What proportion of the public know about that? The co-op needs to be better at getting its message across without being preachy. If the food is ‘good’ then it needs flagging up. If the premium faitrade coffee/malbec is sourced from some great cooperative then tell their story with specifics on the pack and if thats better than buying cheaper FT/non-FT coffee/malbec from another supermarket then you have to make that clear. If you want values to be your selling point, then “sell them to me”. But in a world of greenwash, it has to appear authentic. How about getting coopdigital on a scan-a-product-get-the-story app along the lines of the RAPANUI clothing transparency idea? (https://rapanuiclothing.com/traceability-clothing/)

    Alex

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  45. […] did a blog recently and it was the most responded to blog. What was interesting was the number of people who […]

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  46. Your whole blogging systems confusing and frustrating. I posted something regarding Fairtrade in Orkney the other day and can’t now find it or any follow up. Robert Wilson

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Community, Fairtrade, Food, Food Policy

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