The Co-operative Group is determined that the turnaround of its business will continue to be shaped by its Co-operative roots and values and is demonstrating this through its latest initiative. “Let’s Talk” is all about getting members, customers, communities and employees to talk about their priorities for the companies new purpose – “Championing a better way to do business for you and your communities.”
New online community
The Group has set up an online platform http://co-opletstalk.co.uk/ where each week a different theme is being discussed: Rethinking food, curbing food waste, resilient communities, managing the rising cost of living, fairness inspiring young people and localism. Discussions have also been held at a series of member events across the country, some specifically aimed at young people. The feedback from the events and online discussions will be used to determine three key issues that the Co-operative Group will champion. It’s a novel and inclusive way of prioritising focus areas.
Debate on fairness
This week they are talking about Fairness. The discussion has been broad ranging covering delisting publications that portray an imbalanced society through to pay and conditions in the Co-operative Group’s supply chain. Fairtrade has surprisingly not had much airtime so far. The Co-operative Group has been a pioneer in the Fairtrade movement, supporting the label since its launch in 1994 and our assurance statement this year recognises that the Group achieves proportionately more Fairtrade sales than the other major supermarkets. Fairtrade also epitomises the Group’s aim for fairer trade with all its suppliers, which it demonstrates through its Ethical Trade programme. Not abusing market power with suppliers is another import facet of fairness, which we considered in our assurance work this year. Dairy farmers have been one group in particular who have been impacted by the approach of supermarkets in general to milk pricing. Being fair to dairy farmers is challenging in a competitive market place, but paying a price that allows farmers to make a profit is an important way to demonstrate fairness.
Fairness can also extend to social inclusion which for a retailer means being present in all communities, although returns differ. It can also been extended to consider services that can be offered in store to promote social inclusion. For example providing amazon locker facilities and photocopying facilities are essential services in more rural communities.
A company that is operating fairly is one that is demonstrating transparency in the way it runs its business and acknowledges the challenges it faces. The Co-operative has been a leader in sustainability reporting, openly sharing its success, aims and challenges in an annual report that is independently audited. The Group has been reporting for 16 years, long before sustainability reporting was the norm, and has won a number of reporting awards. As it faces one of the most challenging times in its history, it is encouraging that it is openly seeking our views on the shape of the future organisation.
What is fairness to you?
What do you think fairness means? How can the Co-operative Group support fairness? Have your say this week (discussion closes 17th August): http://co-opletstalk.co.uk/topic-fairness/
The Co-operative Group commissioned DNV GL to undertake independent assurance of its Sustainability Report 2013. Our assurance statement can be found here.