To those of us to whom shopping is a chore, it seems perverse to actually enjoy it. But shopping, the market researchers say, has become our number one leisure activity, with retailers fast becoming the natural habitat of modern man. And little wonder when the environment, choice and service is as exceptional as that at Britain’s much-loved ‘Co-op’, which today operates over 5,000 stores, employees more than 110,000 people and has an annual turnover of £13.7 billion.

Like all true classics – it first opened its doors for business in 1844 – The
Co-Operative Group transcends the boundaries of time and style, providing a community based service that is not only extremely diverse and cost-effective, but also convenient.

It is the UK’s fifth largest food retailer, the leading convenience store operator and a major financial services provider, operating both The
Co-operative Bank and The Co-operative Insurance. Among its other businesses are the number one funeral services provider and Britain’s principal farming operation. In addition to having clear financial and operational objectives, the Group has also set out its social and sustainability goals in its groundbreaking Ethical Plan, which specifies almost 50 commitments in these areas.

The Co-operative Food has a turnover of over £6.5 billion per annum and serves 3,000 of its own stores and a further 1,000 Independent Co-op stores.

This of course is a big operation and is supported by the Co-operative Foods Supply Chain which over the last five years has embarked upon transforming its distribution network in order for it to maintain its pre-eminent position within the marketplace. It has completely integrated Somerfield’s network (following the acquisition of this business in 2009) and will conclude its transformation programme in early 2013, at which point it will operate over 4 million sq ft of multi-temperature warehousing. The key focus is on providing a first-rate service to The Co-operative Food outlets and supporting continued growth in the main convenience market.

A strategic piece of the jigsaw for this developing distribution network has been the opening of Andover Composite Distribution Centre (CDC) which, created to further improve the service to its stores, will be equipped with all of the latest warehouse and transport systems.

Time to Grow and Evolve
The new Andover depot will service over 400 stores using a fleet of multi-temperature vehicles across three different temperature bands (ambient, chilled and frozen products). Over 25% of the stores will be fully composite and have all three temperature bands delivered at the same time.

Covering an area from the south west of London to Yeovil in the West, this state-of-the-art depot is over 467,000 sq ft and will handle in excess of 1.3 million cases per week.

Naturally, as with any new project of this size and complexity, there were a number of challenges, not least that this new distribution centre has restrictions on vehicle movement following a request by Test Valley Council as a part of the planning conditions. With this in mind, The Co-operative management team, in tandem with site security operators Vindex, will monitor vehicle movements using a series of ANPR cameras located on-site and along restricted routes in Andover.

Utilising Specialist Expertise
Co-operative has complete control of the new operation, but has formed a new partnership with Norbert Dentressangle, which will manage the transport operation on its behalf.

Norbert Dentressangle has been awarded a five-year contract and will employ in the region of 350 drivers, including colleagues in the scope of the TUPE transfer from The Co-operative’s transport operation at Fareham, whilst operating a fleet of 110 tractor units, 200 trailers and 61 rigids across all temperature bands.

In addition to the secondary distribution operation, Norbert Dentressangle will also provide a night service, trunking frozen product from Andover to other
Co-operative Food RDCs. The warehousing operation will continue to be managed in-house.

The decision to outsource the transport operation at Andover will enable The Co-operative Group to utilise the expertise and skills of Norbert Dentressangle as it continues to transform its food supply chain.

Committed to the Local Community
The Fareham distribution centre will close in the summer of 2011; however, volume will be taken from a number of other locations as part of The Co-operative Group’s nationwide network realignment and development.

In excess of 900 new jobs will be created at the Andover facility, and it is important to note that the local community has been very supportive of the development and the many opportunities it will present.

The new site began to receive supplier deliveries on May 9th, with store deliveries commencing on June 6th. The site will be ramped up over six stages, finishing in January 2012.

Mark Leonard, Head of Logistics (South) commented: “Andover is an excellent location to serve our stores in the south of England and we have worked closely with the developer who has delivered a fantastic facility on time and on budget.

“Our new regional distribution centre will not only provide major employment locally but will also help further boost the local economy for many years to come. This is a major investment in and commitment to the local community.

“The Co-operative Group’s food business has significantly grown in recent years and our logistics operation has undergone a major overhaul to develop accordingly. This investment will help us to continue to provide high standards of service to our customers, while also allowing for further growth.”

A New Era in Distribution
This further growth is being helped enormously
by the sheer number of innovative aspects
that have been built-in to Andover CDC. Due to the size and complexity of the site, for instance, the company will pilot a new Yard Management System, which will allow the transport operation to track and allocate vehicles much more efficiently.
The site is also equipped as an MOT testing station. In addition, the site is equipped with a number of innovative environmental solutions that are aimed at reducing carbon emissions.

These include:

  • The use of Ammonia as the refrigerant rather than Ammonia Glycol will improve the like-for-like efficiency of the temperature controlled area by 15% compared to the Co-operative Group’s existing sites
  • Rain water harvesting to supply the refrigeration and toilet flush
  • The use of T5 fluorescent lighting in the warehouse, which runs much more efficiently and can be controlled with PIR and daylight dimming
  • Power management of the office area, incorporating a dual circuit that turns off non-essential power such as monitors and photocopiers, leaving a power supply for items such as the server or cleaners
  • 95% reclaim vehicle wash, which means limited top-up while reducing discharge into the drains and the interceptor
  • Daylight dimming to the office allows for complete control of the lighting levels; dimming the lights
  • nearest to the windows in order to keep a
  • constant level.

By storing and using the vehicle waste oil – burning it through a boiler to heat the VMU – The Co-operative Group does not have to pay for either the removal of the oil from site or the heating of the VMU.

It will come as no surprise, therefore, to discover that in February 2011 The Co-operative Group set a new benchmark for corporate sustainability in the UK, which will support its aim to have 20 million members during this decade and boost the move to a more environmentally sound and just UK economy.

Among the groundbreaking pledges in The Co-operative’s new Ethical Plan are the toughest operational carbon reduction targets of any major business and a cultural shift in youth perception and opportunities for young people through a £30 million programme that will support an Apprenticeship Academy, a Green Schools programme and the creation of 200 Co-operative Schools by 2013.

In total there are 47 distinct targets within The Co-operative’s Ethical Plan, which will be reported on each year within the Group’s sustainability report, a globally recognised leader in terms of transparency, materiality and independent audit.

An Ethical Plan in Action
The Co-operative’s Ethical Plan spans the breadth of its work on corporate sustainability and is outlined below, with the commitments themselves in italics; they make for stimulating reading.

For more than 150 years, The Co-operative has been owned and democratically controlled by its members. The Co-operative is now the largest consumer co-operative in the world, with over six million members, who last year earned more than £50 million from a share of the Group’s profits. In actual fact, at least 40% of profits go to members, staff and community groups, although The Co-operative truly does have a purpose beyond profits.

  • We will continue to set new standards for openness and honesty globally, and seek to utilise new technology to enhance consumers’ abilities to make ethical choices
  • We will continue a profit sharing scheme with our members that is amongst the broadest and most generous of any major UK business
  • We will aim to have 20 million members by 2020
  • We will encourage ethical consumerism through engagement with members and extra share of profit from 2012
  • Subject to legislation, we will encourage a new generation of co-operators with an extension of membership to under 16s
  • Uniquely in the UK, we will continue to use our influence to campaign for a more sustainable world and engage with 500,000 members per annum, and always be open about such lobbying and its outcome
  • The remuneration of senior staff will be influenced by the degree to which The Co-operative is viewed as a leading champion of corporate social responsibility in the UK.

Against the backdrop of a difficult economy, the UK Co-operative Sector has continued to expand. There are at this time around 4,800 Co-operatives nationwide, involved in everything from food retail to housing, farming and education. Worldwide there are more than 800 million individual co-operators; and when taken together, the leading 300 Co-operatives equate to the world’s tenth largest economy. The Co-operative Group believe that economies that excessively reward the providers of capital are both unsustainable and unfair: strong public and Co-operative sectors are essential for the sustained progression of equality and quality of life.

The Group believes in the principleof co-operation amongst co-operatives and will endeavour to support the sector, above all growth in new areas such as schools, community energy, sports clubs and rural services.

  • We will act as the primary funder of co-operative encouragement bodies such as the Co-operative college, and invest £11 million to support the growth and development of co-operatives by 2013
  • We will invest £1 million to celebrate 2012 as the United Nations year of Co-operatives, seeking to help more people than ever understand the strength and benefits of the co-operative difference
  • We will initiate a £20 million international
  • Co-operative Development Loan Fund
  • We will support the development of peer to peer lending between our members and individuals in the developing world.

Ever since 1844, The Co-operative has aimed to serve as wide a range of groups as economically viable, and its ethical offering is for ‘all’ and not just a privileged few. It is very much a community business, with a presence in every postal area in the UK. There are some 5,000 stores and branches, and members, via area committees and regional boards, ensure that local interests are considered in matters as diverse as community giving to store portfolio changes.

  • We will continue to be socially inclusive, seeking to have a physical presence in every postal area in the UK, and will increase our number of stores by 300, by 2013
  • We will ensure that 10% of the profits available for distribution is made available for community investment by 2013, with £5 million deployed per annum to tackle UK poverty around our stores and branches
  • Our stores and branches will act as a focus
  • for 10,000 community initiatives per annum
  • We will grow our UK farming business further and aim to supply a quarter of all fresh produce sold in our stores by 2015, whilst at the same time helping secure the future of priority species in our locales.

The Co-operative acknowledges that there are physical limits to the resources of the Earth (both in terms of generating materials and absorbing waste), and that any business activity that exceeds these limits is, by definition, unsustainable in the long run. It takes an evidence-based approach to policy making, and is committed to making absolute reductions in emissions, but never at the expense of the world’s poorest.

  • We will reduce the gross greenhouse gas emissions from our operations by 35% by 2017, and will generate the equivalent of 25% of electricity needs from renewable sources by 2017
  • We will render our operations carbon neutral by 2012, with carbon offset solutions provided by a programme of international co-operative projects
  • We will construct a head-office by 2012 that will set new standards in sustainable design, construction and operation in the UK.
  • We will ensure that the vast majority of our operational waste is diverted away from landfill by 2013, and will expand our work with Fareshare on food waste, and on top of the 15% weight reductions achieved in packaging, we will reduce the environmental impact by a further 10% by 2012 and increase our carrier bag reduction target to 75% by 2013
  • We will enhance our market leading pesticide policy further, and seek to ban chemicals such as endosulfan and paraquat
  • We will aim to be the UK’s leading retailer on forest protection, moving our palm oil and soya sourcing to a sustainable footing by 2011 and 2015 respectively, whilst maintaining our leading edge work on wood and paper
  • We will continue to maintain our position as one of the UK’s most responsible retailers of fish
  • We will extend our Plan Bee campaign and seek to address the decline of additional at risk pollinators, and broaden our campaign against unconventional fossil fuels to encompass solutions such as community energy
  • We will reduce the water consumption across our operations by 10% by 2013.

Shackled with the legacy of national debt, an increasingly wobbly property ladder and an uncertain future shaped by climate change, it’s a challenging time to be a young person in Britain. So The Co-operative has established a community programme that will directly benefit over 250,000 young people across the UK, and help them change their world through active citizenship. But it has also set its sights higher and wants to help bring about a cultural shift in the way that young people are viewed and treated in this country.

  • We will provide £30 million for our Inspiring Young People programme by 2013, and establish a
  • Co-operative Academy that will create 2,000 apprenticeships
  • We will broaden the work of the Co-operative Enterprises Hub and offer advice and training to support young people who wish to start up co-operative businesses
  • We will support the establishment of 200
  • Co-operative Schools, drive forward our Green Schools programme which reaches some 100,000 children per annum, continue to campaign for Votes at 16 and demonstrate how young people are ready, able and willing to be more fully engaged
  • We will create an advisory panel of young members who will inform a newly appointed Board Champion for young people.

Whilst a world devoid of extreme poverty may seem like a distant dream, considerable progress has been achieved in recent years and the lives of hundreds of millions of people have been improved. The Co-operative believes that when undertaken equitable, trade and finance have an unparalleled capacity to enhance quality of life, and is proud to have led the way for over 165 years. The Co-operative’s founders, the Rochdale Pioneers, fought for trade justice from the very beginning.

Today, the Group continues to strive for a fairer world, where basic human needs are met and rights are respected, and are proud that some 500,000 people benefit every year from its work.

  • We will continue to show the greatest commitment to Fairtrade in the UK, remaining second to nonein terms of availability and overtrade, and will now aim that if a primary commodity from the developing world can be Fairtrade, it will be Fairtrade by 2013.
  • We will develop a unique range of projects and initiatives that benefit producers and take us Beyond Fairtrade
  • We will invest £7 million per annum to help tackle global poverty through
  • co-operative support initiatives and look to further expand our affinity range, with initiatives such as a
  • Pharmacy UNICEF handwash product that will fund vital sanitation work
  • We will introduce a balanced scorecard in 2011 to influence the selection of Food suppliers that share our ethical values, and as part of our commitment to ensure workers benefit from decent jobs that will lift them out of poverty, we will target 800 sites in six countries in our supplier training programme to create better workplaces by 2013
  • We will continue to champion our human rights and trade policy, and as a matter of last resort curtail trade when called upon by the peoples of affected areas
  • We will campaign anew to make poverty history, beginning with a reinvigoration of the Jubilee third world debt campaign.

By 2050 it is anticipated that 60% of men and 40% of women will be clinically obese and that we could be seeing the first generation to die before their parents. The Co-operative is determined to play its part to improve the health of the nation by making it easier for customers and colleagues to make healthier food and lifestyle choices. It believes that Co-operative ‘Simply Value’ products should not be nutritionally inferior and that its ‘Healthy Choice’ products should not attract a price premium. Openness and honesty are core principles of The Co-operative and it will always seek to maintain a leadership position on labelling and the improvement and extension of consumer advice and information. Its Pharmacy chain provides a growing network of dispensing services, and health and lifestyle advice, to communities across the UK.

  • We will continue to target salt, saturated fat and sugar reductions in key products while maintaining food safety and product quality
  • We will ensure a minimum of 30% of food promotions are for healthy offerings
  • We will ensure that Healthier Choice products are no more expensive than standard equivalent lines
  • The nutritional content of Simply Value products will be at least as good as standard equivalent lines.

The Co-operative has long known that animal welfare is an important issue to many of its members, who tell it that they are against unnecessary suffering and the testing of cosmetic and household products on animals. As a result, the Group seeks to ensure that good baseline standards are applied across its own-brand range, and are not only available to a select few.

  • We will continue to ensure that shoppers operating on a variety of budgets have the opportunity to support higher baseline animal welfare standards, and that all shell eggs and egg ingredients in own-brand products are at least free-range
  •  We will extend our higher baseline standards, Elmwood, from chicken and turkey to pork in 2011
  •  We will improve the animal welfare standards for dairy cows, together with environmental impacts, by developing a dedicated supply chain for milk
  •  We will continue to take a lead on the issue of animal testing of cosmetic and household products.

As a final point, The Co-operative has long recognised that the provision of ethical finance is fundamental to the pursuit of sustainable development. Following the introduction of an Ethical Policy in 1992, The Co-operative Bank has withheld over £1 billion of funding from business activities that its customers say are unethical, whilst at the same time, increasing its total commercial lending sixteen-fold to very nearly £9 billion. Against a background of failing financial institutions, The Co-operative remains independent and strong, increasing lending to businesses by 40% in the last three years alone.

In addition to the provision of ethical finance, active and responsible shareholding is fundamental in encouraging corporate responsibility. Its asset management business introduced the world’s first customer-led Ethical Engagement Policy, and is committed to use its influence to push for improvements in the social and environmental performance of its investee companies.

  • We will extend our ethical screening activities to £1 billion of investments underpinning our key insurance products, bringing the total assets screened to £18 billion
  • Where screening is not feasible (owing to fiduciary duties) we will continue to ensure that our engagement with investees is the most active, assertive and transparent of UK institutional investors and supports our campaigning activities
  • We will continue to take a lead on financial inclusion and champion financial literacy among young people
  • We will extend our commercial lending in the area of energy efficiency and renewables from £400 million to £1 billion, recruiting extra resource to key business centres, and will help to kick-start a revolution in community-owned renewable energy generation via a combination of £1 million of grants and the development of a new financial product for the public sector
  • We will continue to tackle global poverty via our £25 million microfinance fund support.
  • Revolutionising Environmental Education A wide-ranging, multi-channel green education programme that will revolutionise the way young people learn about sustainable and healthy living was unveiled in April this year by The Co-operative.

All schools are invited to join The Co-operative’s Green Schools Revolution by registering at, which will give them free online access to a broad array of cross-curricular classroom resources and activities, in addition to a number of other valuable benefits for the first schools to sign up.

It will give young people the tools to instigate change in their schools, homes and local communities and teachers will have access to materials covering key stages 1 to 4, including lesson plans, topic webs, assembly presentations, classroom activities, and debating topics, quizzes and competitions.

Schools will also be able to arrange free visits to The Co-operative’s own windfarm to see renewable energy in action and to one of seven Co-operative Farms to see how food grows and how to cook it. They will also be able to take advantage of support and free materials to set up walking buses at their schools.

Additionally, a series of Green Schools Revolution events will take place across the UK from the autumn, including activity days at regional science and discovery centres, funded by The Co-operative.

Written by educational specialists, Green Schools Revolution is available free to all UK schools and incorporates many areas of the national curriculum for 5 to 16 year olds, including science, geography, literacy, citizenship, PSHE, maths, design and technology and art. It also provides valuable opportunities for learning outside the classroom and complements existing Eco Schools and Healthy Schools initiatives to help support schools on their sustainability journey.

Peter Marks, Chief Executive of The Co-operative Group, said: “Green Schools Revolution forms a major part of our £30 million drive to inspire young people and is a key part of The
Co-operative’s revolutionary Ethical Plan.

“Through Green Schools Revolution, we will give young people the opportunity to inspire others in their school, at home and in their local communities, helping them to learn about the challenges we face environmentally and giving them the knowledge and experiences to be pioneers for their generation in living more sustainable and healthier lives.”

Ann Finlayson, Chief Executive of SEEd (Sustainability and Environmental Education), said: “It’s fantastic that The Co-operative is investing in inspiring and educating young people and showing the links between farming, renewable energy and business in such an engaging way through practical lessons, schools visits and helping teachers get started quickly and easily with sustainability.”

Dave Boston, Head Teacher of Sir Thomas Boughey Co-operative Business and Enterprise College in Newcastle-under-Lyme, and Chair of the Schools Co-operative Society, said: “Co-operative values and principles are more relevant than ever at a time when people are being urged to be more independent and active citizens in their communities.

“The Co-operative has a wealth of experience in the education sector, working with over 120 Co-operative Schools, and three Co-operative Group sponsored Academies. To expand its offering to schools through Green Schools Revolution, using its experience in renewable energy, sustainable living and the environment and passing this on to schools, will inspire young people to be more environmentally and socially aware of the issues we face and how to combat them.”
Plan Bee Renowned not only for its concern but also the action it takes concerning the environment, The Co-operative Society has also launched an ambitious project to initiate a series of “Bee Roads” across the country which will act as food-rich main routes for pollinators.

As part of its extended £750,000 Plan Bee campaign, The Co-operative will help identify and convert corridors of land to create and secure habitats for pollinators.

By encouraging and supporting landowners to create wildflower meadows, the Bee Roads will promote species such as Lesser Knapweed, Field Scabious, Birdsfoot Trefoil and Red Clover, which are becoming more and more rare in the British countryside. These wildflowers will offer a rich habitat for a host of pollinators such as honeybees, hoverflies, butterflies and moths to find the nectar and pollen they need. The Co-operative and its partner Buglife will create the first Bee Roads in Yorkshire, where farmers and other landowners will sow wildflowers in two long rows that will eventually stretch north to south and east to west across the county.

By demonstrating the benefits of reinstating five hectares of lost wildflower meadows in Yorkshire, it is hoped this £60,000 pilot project will be emulated in other counties across the country, reversing the decline in pollinator numbers.

Paul Monaghan, Head of Social Goals at The Co-operative said: “The UK has lost an alarming 97% of its wildflower meadows since the 1930s and this has had a major impact on pollinator numbers. The number of honeybees in the UK has halved in the last 25 years, and three quarters of butterfly species and two thirds of moths have seen populations decline since the 1970s.

“Given that honeybees alone pollinate a third of the food we eat, a further decline in their numbers could have a devastating impact on our diets in the long run. By setting up these ‘Bee Roads’ we hope to make life easier for all pollinators and reverse their alarming decline.”

In recognition of the key role that wildflower habitats play in sustaining pollinators, The Co-operative’s Plan Bee is also giving away a further 300,000 packets of wildflower seeds in 2011.

Plan Bee, also includes supporting the native British bee, encourages the growth of urban beekeeping and takes action on pesticide usage and is an integral part of The Co-operative’s Ethical Operating Plan which was launched in February.

The Co-operative will fund new scientific research into the effects of pesticides on bees, and the mapping and breeding of native bees.

The Co-operative helps to engage its customers and members by helping them to become pollinator-friendly gardeners, with advice and tips, through the Plan Bee campaign and on the Plan Bee website. In addition, The Co-operative will distribute a further 300,000 packets of free wildflower seeds to Co-operative members and customers bringing the total distributed to 900,000.
Moreover, The Co-operative supports its members to take up beekeeping, and has established urban beekeeping training projects in Manchester, London, Inverness, Mid Antrim and Sheffield.

Technology for Tomorrow … Today
The Co-operative Group‘s strategy on the environment is extremely forward-looking; indeed, the whole organisation is modern and progressive. It has, for example, linked up with O2 and Coca Cola to become one of the first UK supermarkets to take advantage of mobile proximity marketing.

From May 4th through to June 14th 2011, customers within 0.5 miles of a Co-operative food store will receive a text message offering them a free 500ml bottle of Dr Pepper at their nearest Co-operative store.

The initiative is being supported by O2 Media, which is providing the database of 16 – 34 year olds who have chosen to receive location-based marketing messages. O2 customers can sign up to be part of the scheme by visiting

To facilitate the scheme, virtual perimeters or ‘geo-fences’ have been set up around Co-operative food stores and the service is triggered by the customer’s proximity to one of these stores.  Eligible customers in these areas will receive an SMS/MMS text message with the offer and the address of the nearest store.

The Co-operative Group has already announced that it will become the first major UK food retailer to introduce contactless payments, which will be trialled in 150 Co-operative food stores from September, following a link up with Barclaycard.

Sean Toal, Commercial Director for The Co-operative Food, commented: “The Co-operative is keen to make use of cutting-edge technologies, and mobile proximity marketing means we can target customers with specific offers and engage with them directly.

“The Co-operative has almost 3,000 stores nationwide, many of which are at the heart of local communities and on high streets, which makes this initiative and technology ideal for us as a community retailer.”

Award-Winning Performance

By now it will not be a surprise to discover that The Co-operative Group has been crowned Responsible Retailer of the Year at the prestigious Oracle Retail Week Awards 2011, which recognise the very best in UK retailing.

It is the fourth year running that the consumer-owned retailer has taken the fiercely contested title, but the judges said The Co-operative was a clear winner and still “streets ahead” in the responsible retailing stakes.

The Co-operative, which raised the bar further in February with the launch of its groundbreaking Ethical Plan, beat Asda, B & Q, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco to take the coveted ‘green’ award.

The depth of The Co-operative’s commitment to being a responsible business and the sheer scope of its initiatives, from inspiring young people to tackling global poverty, impressed the judges.

Peter Marks, Group Chief Executive, The Co-operative Group, said: “The Retail Week Awards recognise the very best in the highly competitive UK retailing industry, not just the grocery sector, so to win this particular accolade four years in succession is an incredible achievement.

“However, as the launch of The Co-operative Ethical Plan demonstrates, we are not resting on our laurels, and this award recognises the hard work and commitment of colleagues across the Group in delivering our Co-operative difference and campaigning for what we believe in, supported by our members and customers.”

The Best Convenience
Store on the Planet!

In the increasingly sophisticated modern age, consumers want respect and will shop at stores that give it to them. Indeed, the focus seems to have shifted from living longer to living well and food and services that genuinely understand this are emerging as winners, with The Co-operative at the forefront of this stimulating trend.

The Co-operative Group is continuing to push back the boundaries of excellence, not only in convenience shopping, but across all of the sectors in which it operates, including the new Andover CDC. And when you consider that British food stores in particular are generally thought to be the finest in the world this puts forward a good argument that The Co-operative runs the best convenience stores on the planet!

Related Posts