Why? Because sustainability and ethics are at the heart of the Co-op’s values and history.
“We’re member-owned, we respond to our members and our members have been consistently concerned about the environment and nature. They have helped drive what we do as a movement and we have been consistently doing this for 20 years.”
Nigel explains to me that from its origins 176 years ago in Rochdale the UK Co-op has grown into a vast 4.6million member-led organisation and a recognised leader for their social goals and community-led programmes. From food, insurance and legal services, to energy and funeral care, Co-op exists to meet members’ needs and stand up for what they believe in. Nigel describes how Co-op have played a critical role in responding to the Covid-19 outbreak and how it’s helped to prioritise what matters most.
“We’ve been at the heart of the pandemic. I think it’s shown the Co-op in the best light and colleagues have responded fantastically. You know key workers in shops, the logistics business behind the scenes. As a Co-op, it’s made us focus our minds
“Some of the things that are most important to us and nearest to us are right beneath our feet, in our hands or in our gaze. And those are things we need to appreciate more going forward. Including the environment.”
Is he talking about the net zero challenge? Absolutely, as he confirms the CEO’s vision to make carbon neutrality a central core of all the Co-op does.
“We’ve been buying green electricity for 15 years. It’s typical of the Co-op that we just quietly get on with it, because it’s what our members expect.
“If anybody’s out they’re going to say ‘oh we are going to go carbon neutral and whatever else and next year we’ll have done it,’ then they’re not really doing it. We’ve been at this for 15 years. We halved our emissions by 2017, earlier than the 2020 target.
“We used to use about 1.3 million tonnes of CO2 within our own operations we’ve halved that. And we’ve committed to halving that again by 2025. Climate change emissions associated with our supply chain is probably 10 times that.”
“Our latest commitment of zero carbon is that we will not only be zero carbon for our own operational emissions but we will be zero carbon for our whole supply chain. That is absolutely massive.”
The organisation vows to do this by 2050 and Nigel berates the chest-beating that’s going on by companies claiming to get there faster and instead champions the need to work together.
“This is not about competition, it’s about co-operation and we have set that target, if we can do it earlier we will. It’s not just what we do but it’s what our suppliers and partners do too.”
The power division is recent and growing in strength, it will offer its customers the lessons learned from 15 years of buying and developing green energy. Co-op has actually helped to develop five wind farms to increase UK renewable capacity and ensure it can generate clean energy.
Nigel has bold plans for Co-op Power too, with more digitalisation and much more transparent sharing of data and information, so it can help empower businesses towards net zero.
He concludes: “At a recent members meeting net zero dominated the agenda. Over a 100,000 people voted for it and it’s actually a board commitment now to go net zero.”
Somehow I don’t doubt it!