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I joined Co-op 20 years ago, and in that time, I’ve worked across a variety of functions and roles before starting my current job as a Portfolio Operations Manager. I’ve been a steering group member of our Rise colleague network for 2 years.

The Rise network was created in 2018 to help build a supportive community for Co-op’s ethnic minority colleagues. As a network, we believe cultural awareness plays a huge part in creating a more inclusive working environment. One of the many reasons I joined Rise was not only to make a difference at Co-op, but to also change the outlook for my children’s future. A huge ambition, but you have to start somewhere!

Creating change at Co-op and beyond

I’ve been involved in some great things as part of Rise. I reverse mentor some of our senior leaders, and frequently join team calls to discuss topics like microaggressions and intersectionality. We host a read, watch, and listen club where colleagues vote on topics they want to explore more by reading a book, watching a film or documentary, or listening to a podcast. It’s a great way for colleagues to start their diversity and inclusion journey, and educate themselves at their own pace. It also provides a safe space where we can have difficult conversations.

For Windrush Day I wrote a fact sheet about my family’s journey from Jamaica to the UK and during last year’s Black History Month I wrote a story about my afro hair journey. I’ve also been involved in webinars and job fairs to showcase careers at Co-op and support our partnership with the Black Young Professionals network.

Time for change – action not words

For Black History Month this year, Co-op will be running a session exploring some of the events that have shaped our understanding of race equality in the UK. Our Black colleagues will also be sharing what makes them proud as well as the challenges they’ve faced in the workplace. To conclude the month, we’ll be hosting a colleague panel event to highlight the importance of allyship and intersectionality.

This year’s Black History Month theme is “Time for change – action not words”. Co-op has been taking action since 2020 through our Commitments to Racial Equality and Inclusion, and we have 24 pledges to help create an anti-racist and inclusive organisation. We have achieved 16 of those pledges, and the others are on track. Some of the progress we’ve made on our commitments since we announced them includes:

  • Earlier this year we published our first ever ethnicity pay gap report, and we’re asking government to make reporting like this mandatory for businesses
  • We’ve increased the percentage of Ethnic Minority senior leaders in our business to 9%, and we’re on track to meet our target of doubling the representation of ethnic minority leaders overall to 6% by the end of 2022
  • We’ve increased the percentage of colleagues sharing their ethnicity data to 67% – we want to grow this to 85% so we can more accurately measure our progress in the future

We’ve taken action and made some progress, but we are not complacent, and there is still much to do. We have aligned our anti-racism pledges with our holistic diversity and inclusion strategy with a stronger focus on intersectionality. This supports us to reduce inequalities and support broader inclusion goals without losing the focus on anti-racism.

The economic challenges that are impacting people and businesses everywhere mean it’s more important than ever for us to focus on building a more inclusive Co-op.

Elaine Codrington,

Portfolio Operations Manager