This means we're not owned by shareholders, but by our customer members – over seven million of them! It also means that as we're not a plc, we're responsible for looking after our members, our customers, and, of course, our colleagues. And that's the sort of responsibility and ownership we like.
Together, we're one of the UK's biggest food retailers, a major insurance provider, the UK's number one funeral services provider, and a growing legal services provider. In total, we operate 3,750 retail trading outlets, employ nearly 70,000 people and have an annual turnover of more than £11bn. Not bad for a business that started out with just 28 members, over 170 years ago in a small Northern town...
At our AGM on May 21st, we let everyone know that we're going back to 'Being Co-op' and calling ourselves 'Co-op' reflects our decision that membership, the very thing that makes us truly distinctive, must be at the heart of all we say and do. We've also chosen a new look because it links to a time when people understood how they could be co-owners of their Co-op and how a strong Co-op could help to create strong communities.
At the same time as we developed our new look and membership, we developed our Ways of Being Co-op. They describe how we do things here at the Co-op. In simple terms, they're four phrases about behaviour which our colleagues shaped. The phrases are:
We want all our colleagues to feel empowered to live our Ways of Being Co-op. To make that really clear, our Freedom Formula should help you see what we're all about and where our culture's heading:
To find out more about how we do things and what makes us different, search #beingcoop
We’ve always had a purpose beyond profit. From the very beginning, we’ve been a commercial organisation first, with an ethical foundation and social responsibilities at our very heart. This unwavering spirit is what makes us unique. And, today, we’re more committed than ever to realising our ethical, social and commercial ambitions. From the range of food in our stores to the diversity of our colleagues, we want to be fair, ethical and socially responsible in everything we do – for our customers, members and our communities.
The Co-op is a place where you can feel valued for being yourself and supported to achieve success. And, while many other large companies pay lip service to the notion of diversity, there’s a palpable, living, breathing commitment to it here.
Diversity at the Co-op is all about inclusion. We want everyone to feel as if they belong here and we work hard to make sure we appeal to and engage with people from across all sections of society in order to make this happen. We also think that understanding exactly who we are as an organsation is vital to making sure we have a diverse appeal too.
For example, we realise that to many people across the UK, who have grown up with the Co-op brand, we’re as trustworthy and comfortable as an old pair of shoes. But, that a lot of BME groups, won’t have this historic societal connection. So we need to work harder on this and see how we can make stronger links in these areas.
We’re also aware that while a lot of time and money in the UK is spent understanding how we can attract millenials and generation Z to our workforces – we have an aging population too. So, in partnership with Salford University, we’ve commissioned a 3-year research project to look at how we can support and engage with this aging workforce - because this is another, equally important reality of 21st century life.
As is the fight for gender equality in the workplace (and especially the boardroom) – another diversity issue that we champion. And we’re doing quite well as 51% of our employees are female, and we’re above the national average for senior level female roles, although there’s still room for improvement.
Added to this, we’re proud to be the most gay friendly retailer in the UK, ranked 26th in the 2015 Stonewall Workplace Equality Index and the only retailer to feature in the top 100. While Respect, our inclusive LGBT network, has over 10,000 Twitter followers.
So, there’s a huge amount going on – and lots more to do – if we’re to continue reflecting and embracing the changing needs of society today. You’re welcome to join us and join in.