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This morning we published our annual results for 2018 and set out the progress we’ve made in the first year of our Stronger Co-op and Stronger Communities ambition.
Our results show that we’re growing, staying competitive, innovating, and proving that we are a responsible business. Most importantly, we’re creating value for you, our millions of members, through strengthening the business you own and the communities in which you live.
You can read our news release which outlines 2018 and what our focus is for 2019 here.
I’m proud that we’ve given £79m back to members and the causes that matter to you during 2018. £60m went directly back to individual members through our 5% reward, and £19m to more than 4,000 community projects across the UK through the 1% Local Community Fund and sales of carrier bags. That’s an average £4,500 per project, enough to make a real difference.
Food had an outstanding year in what remains an incredibly competitive market. We’ve now delivered five consecutive years of growth. Our funerals business had a more challenging 12 months with a drop in profits. We’re taking action to address this in 2019 while continuing to respond to funeral affordability and choice. Our life planning and legal services saw a rapid increase in sales.
2018 was a year which saw us taking significant business decisions which will set us up for long-term success.
- our acquisition of the Nisa wholesale business means our Co-op brand is already reaching hundreds of thousands of new homes
- our deal with Markerstudy to sell our insurance underwriting business will reduce our financial risks and allow us to focus on developing innovative new insurance products
- the acquisition of Simplify Probate in the spring makes us the number 1 probate provider in the UK
- and the acquisition of the Dimec digital platform means we’re ready to re-enter the healthcare market later this year
I doubt that many of us can remember a more turbulent time in our country’s history. At the Co-op, we are doing all we can to deal with the uncertainty created by Brexit.
What’s certain is the need to bring more co-operation to all aspects of life – economic, political and social. At the Co-op we’ve always believed that our business has an important role to play in creating a fairer and stronger society locally, nationally and globally.
Stronger Co-op and Stronger Communities
We believe that the strength of our Co-op is integrally linked to the strength of the communities that we serve – that a stronger Co-op creates stronger communities and vice versa. This is the ambition that we’ve spent the last year living out.
- It’s why we’ve continued to reduce our carbon footprint and the use of plastic in our packaging.
- It’s why we’ve introduced the UK’s first compostable carrier bag and we’re sharing for free the technology behind it with our competitors.
- It’s why we’ve expanded our support for British produce and to Fairtrade farmers around the world.
- It’s why we’re continuing to tackle loneliness and modern slavery and have begun a new national campaign, Safer Colleagues, Safer Communities, focusing on the safety of store colleagues and the root causes of crime.
- It’s why we’re going to treble the number of Co-op Academy schools we support with plans to add nine more schools in 2019 helping to improve the life chances of thousands of children.
- Its why we’ve evolved our Local Community Fund to invest in projects that build resilience and encourage co-operation in communities and why we’re recruiting Member Pioneers to support community co-operation on the ground.
- And it’s why our Co-op pension trustees announced their decision to invest up to £50 million into the social and affordable housing market over the next 12 months.
At the same time as we’re publishing our results, we’re also publishing this year’s Co-op Way report which reports on our Co-op difference and ethical sustainability performance. I really encourage you to have a read. I hope it inspires you and makes you proud of your Co-op.
In 2019 we’ll move to the next phase of our support for local communities. Following extensive research with our members and local communities, we’re going to give priority to addressing three areas of particular concern: physical and mental wellbeing, community spaces, and education and skills. We’ll have more to say on this in the coming weeks and at our Annual General Meeting on Saturday 18th May.
We want our business to be an inspiring example of a successful co-op that puts people and communities first. We know that a stronger Co-op creates stronger communities and stronger communities create a stronger Co-op. It’s a way of working which has relevance and urgency well beyond our own business endeavours.
So in the year in which we celebrate the 175th anniversary of the birth of the co-operative movement, we’re going to be telling our story with greater clarity and passion than ever before so more people understand how our Co-op brings people together and keeps them together.
I’d like to thank you for being a Co-op member and for your continued belief in a better way of doing business.