Approx 1120 words.
This year has opened our eyes to the gross inequalities that still exist all around us. The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the global protests it sparked, rightly told us that tackling race discrimination must be an everyday priority for all of us.
We know that when it comes to race, the issues we’re facing are systemic, deeply entrenched, and knotty. It may seem complicated, but at the end of the day this is about everyone having a fair and equal chance to fulfil their potential.
At the Co-op, we believe that the act of not being racist, is not enough. I’m crystal clear that we must be Anti-Racist.
Being Anti-Racist, means that we’ll work to eliminate individual, institutional and systemic racial inequalities that currently exist within our Co-op. And we’ll do all we can to influence the wider world too. We won’t stand by when we see racism happening. We’ll speak out and we’ll act against it.
I know we’re far from where we want to be right now, but honest recognition of this is an important first step.
Our founders – the Rochdale Pioneers – were world changers. And since then the Co-op has continued to be bold in taking a stand. Co-operators in Britain worked to end slavery during the American Civil War in the 1860s, and our own Co-op supported the South African apartheid boycott in the 1980s. But the responsibility is now on us, to wake up each day and make new, proactive and tangible choices for the better.
At the Co-op we’ve set ourselves the vision of ‘co-operating for a fairer world’. To be frank, we will not achieve our vision without delivering on these commitments. These aren’t on the side, or nice to have. Our very purpose of existence will fly or fail based on our ability to deliver these commitments.
I’ve no doubt that future generations will judge us on how well we respond to this challenge. We’ve got a long way to go. But I have the talent, energy and determination of my colleagues alongside me and I’m sure the support of our millions of Co-op members.
Our new commitments
Throughout our 175-year history, we’ve campaigned for social change on the issues that matter to
our members – from women’s suffrage and food standards to modern slavery and loneliness. Right now, it’s time to use our voice on issues of racial equality.
- Work with our Co-op Academies Trust to develop a new curriculum on anti-racism so that the next generation knows what it means to be anti-racist. We’ll then lobby the government to roll this out as part of the national school curriculum across the UK.
- We’ll publish annually our ethnicity pay gap. As we know transparency drives action, so we will call on the government to make this mandatory for all businesses.
Our business is owned by our millions of Co-op members across the UK, so we want our leaders and managers to reflect the diversity of the nation and the local communities we serve.
- Double the representation of Black, Asian, and minority ethnic leaders and managers across the business by the end of 2022, moving from 3% to 6%, and then to 10% by 2025. To make sure we achieve this, we’ll have diverse shortlists for all leadership roles – no exceptions, and we’ll partner with organisations that will help us to reach talent from Black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds.
- Maximise the use of our apprenticeship levy and seek partnerships and opportunities which focus on benefitting Black, Asian and ethnic minority candidates.
- Collect and monitor data which enables us to track progress and reduce inequalities within our internal systems and processes when it comes to promotion and opportunities.
- Require all our leaders to have objectives that ensure they are playing their part in delivering to our commitments to racial equality from 2021.
Supporting and strengthening local communities is at the heart of who we are and we’ve been improving our diversity and inclusion in recent years. Now we’re going much further.
- Use our Community Wellbeing Index, ethnicity data, external evidence and partner insight to understand issues of race inequality in the communities we support and where we need to focus our activity.
- Increase the number of local causes whose projects include Black, Asian, and ethnic minority beneficiaries to 25% through the Local Community Fund.
- Increase the number of ethnic minority led community organisations that our charity the Co-op Foundation will support.
- Provide targeted vocational and enrichment opportunities for Black, Asian and ethnic minority students at our Co-op Academy schools, building on their individual aspirations and ambitions.
- Work with the Co-op Academies Trust to increase the representation of senior leaders in the Trust.
- Target racial inequality as part of a broader focus on youth inequality through national programmes and the partnerships we select.
Products and services
Our products, services and customer proposition must reflect the diversity of our communities.
That means making sure that what we sell meets the needs of our ethnic minority communities and our Co-op brand is seen as inclusive and welcoming.
- Create more diverse consumer and member panels to get closer to what our customers and members need from our businesses.
- Develop specific products for ethnic minority groups and equip our colleagues with training in order to service our newly-attracted customers well e.g. our soon-to-be launched African and Caribbean funeral service.
- Ensure stronger representation of Black, Asian and ethnic minority groups across all our marketing platforms.
- Ensure that we celebrate with communities and that our products meet the needs of our customers as they celebrate key cultural events.
- Create more inclusive ways to access product and service information.
- Change our procurement process so that we partner and invest more with suppliers that have a strong focus on inclusion and closing the inequality gap in their own businesses.
- Encourage ethnic diversity as a focus for the businesses we trade with and offer practical support and encouragement where we can to those that need to progress.
As a co-operative, we exist to meet the needs of our members and respond to their concerns. So it’s vital that we listen to them on this issue so we can become a truly inclusive and welcoming organisation.
- Ask our members from Black and Asian and ethnic minority communities to tell us how they view us and what we need to change to make us more welcoming and inclusive.
- Once we really understand these views, we’ll work to address the issues being raised.