545 words approx. 3 minutes to read.

Today we’re celebrating the 175th birthday of the world-wide co-operative movement. As the UK’s biggest consumer owned co-op, we can trace our story directly back to that small shop in Toad Lane, Rochdale, which opened its doors for the first time just before Christmas in 1844.

The shop may have been small and humble but the idea behind it was big and ambitious. It was a response to the injustice and unfairness of those times and within a few decades it had caught the imagination of millions of people around the world. The idea was simple: treat your customers fairly; run your business responsibly; and give back to the community in which you trade. Above all, by giving customers the opportunity to become joint owners of the business, co-operation gave back to ordinary people control over their lives.

Down through the years, we’ve kept true to the Values and Principles of co-operation, adapting to new commercial and social challenges to make sure we continued to be relevant to the needs of our members and the communities in which they live.

Co-op thinking continues to shape all we do: from our commitment to Fairtrade farmers abroad and British farmers at home; to our support for education in some of the most deprived parts of the north of England; the way we’re helping to protect and enhance community spaces; and through our campaigning to address crime and its causes across the UK.

In our birthday year, we were able to give back £17 million* to more than 4,500 fantastic local community causes across the country. That money’s being spent to bring communities together to address urgent as well as long-term needs.

Looking ahead

It’s important to mark a moment like this and remind ourselves of the values and traditions that have formed who we are today. But as a different kind of business, it’s not our style to brag about a birthday for its own sake. Instead, we’ve used this anniversary year to think carefully about how to respond in a co-operative way to the new challenges we face in the world. That means thinking through how we use our voice and our resources to tackle huge issues like the climate emergency and growing social inequality.

So our aim in the years ahead is to help ready our local communities for the difficulties and the opportunities to come. We especially want to make sure that a younger generation has a fair chance to be the best they can. And we’re absolutely convinced that co-operative business endeavours and co-operative ways of working together will be needed in the future even more than they were in the past.

So let’s take a moment today to celebrate who we are and where we’ve come from. But most of all, let’s look forward to an even stronger co-operative future in the UK and around the world, one that we can all build together.

Let me finish by thanking our thousands of colleagues working across our Co-op for their hard work in support of our millions of Co-op members. All of us have a past to be proud of and a future to look forward to.

PS Do look at what The Guardian has written about our anniversary and in particular our work with schools.

Steve Murrells,
CEO, the Co-op 

Read more from Steve:

*The amount raised and given to local causes has been generated from the 1% our Members earn for local causes when they buy selected Co-op branded products and services from selected Co-op Group businesses. This doesn’t include purchases made in non-Co-op branded stores or independent societies. For more details view our Local Community Fund website.

Join the conversation! 3 Comments

  1. Great company to work for, fantastic values which are absolutely fundamental to every thing we do. Here’s to the next 175 years

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  2. It’s always a pleasure to shop in my local Coop in Kyle of Lochalsh ,the store is always clean and the staff always cheery ans smiling and the array of goods on sale is varied and fresh .

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Co-op Leaders' Blogs, Steve's Blog