The Co-operative has saved £40m through sustainability initiatives.

The Co-operative said environmental efficiency initiatives are creating savings which are being ploughed back into the business to reduce costs.

The Co-operative said it will invest £17m in supporting the development of independent co-operatives. It has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2020 and water consumption will be reduced by 30% by 2014.

The company said it is in the process of lending £700m to green energy projects as part of its “radical” sustainability programme first launched a year ago.  

The grocer will complete 30,000 loans to entrepreneurs in the developing world will by the end of the year.

Group chief executive Peter Marks said that The Co-operative had “remained true true to our pledge to show the way on corporate responsibility” despite the economic downturn.

He said: “Our work in the communities in and around our stores is going from strength to strength. Amazingly, the average person in the UK is now only a mile away from a community project that has received our support.

“The one million new members we now have bears testimony to the continued support we have had from our customers.”