Always taking the initiative, Hermes Global Impact Award winner the Co-op has helped spearhead ethical trading on a global scale, supporting and promoting Fairtrade products for years

The Co-op’s credentials on ethical concerns, contributing to local communities and making an impact internationally do not just exceed those of many modern UK businesses – they pre-date them. 

Tracing its roots back as one of the trailblazing cooperatives – founded by the Rochdale

Pioneers in the 1840s on the principles of ethical trading, improved working and living conditions and fair prices – the Co-op has been fighting for its principles since long before corporate and social responsibility was a concept, let alone a requirement.

Taking a global stance

It is a grocer that has social responsibility and social conscience at its core, reflected in its commitment to a wide range of causes. 

One example is the Co-op’s commitment to addressing the troubling issue of modern slavery. It is thought that globally there are about 40 million victims of the practice, of which 13,000 are in the UK.

It is a crime that relies upon a wide range of organisations to address it, ranging from Government to business, and the Co-op is playing with full member backing from its AGM.

The grocer has launched its ‘Bright Future’ initiative to enable vulnerable people who have escaped modern slavery into paid work placements, with the possibility of a permanent job after. 

“In terms of multiple initiatives over time and the aggregate impact they have, the Co-op stands on its own”


It is envisaged that as many as 300 people will participate in the scheme by next year, and about 50 have already done so.

In 2018 the Co-op became the first global corporate organisation to sign the Anti-Slavery International Charter, and encourages others to do the same as part of its push to draw governments, businesses and NGOs together in order to end modern slavery.

The Bright Future programme is just one of the Co-op’s ongoing initiatives. In 2017 the grocer donated £2.1m to support vulnerable international communities, of which some of the donation was targeted at improving water and sanitation projects in Africa. The Co-op is also a pioneer partner of The One Foundation’s Global Investment Fund for Water.

Similarly, the Co-op’s ‘Future of Food’ sustainability strategy is designed to improve the sourcing of food and to treat people fairly, encompassing issues from food waste and plastic, as well as fair trading and community wellbeing.

It has a long-term commitment to make all own-brand packaging easily recyclable by 2023, and in the longer term to only use 100% recyclable product packaging.

Making trade fair

For years the Co-op has championed Fairtrade products, and claimed a UK retail first by making all of the cocoa it uses in its products Fairtrade – which was followed up by a similar ingredient commitment to tea, coffee and bananas.

One of the judges said: “If it was about a single initiative or a campaign there were good entries, but in terms of multiple initiatives over time and the aggregate impact they have, the Co-op just stands out on its own. 

“The grocer shines a light on important issues like slavery and water – not always the ones that are popular. There’s a pure intent. Tackling modern slavery by offering a path back into employment is a great approach.”

Another judge commented: “The Co-op consistently delivers. It’s cultural across its business – the grocer doesn’t just talk about it, it lives and breathes it.

“The Co-op has a strong, genuine sense of duty and community. It is properly entwined with every part of the organisation and it deserves to be properly recognised for that.”

The Co-op is staying true to its purpose of ‘championing a better way of doing business’, which makes it the worthy winner of this award.



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