Every year The Co-operative supports thousands of initiatives both in the UK and the developing world, helping people to change the world around them. The Co-operative now aims to inspire even more people to get involved and make a difference to their world.
The Co-operative proves that you don’t have to be small to be an ethical business. It’s different from other major retailers in the UK because it’s earned not by a small group of shareholders, but by more than five million consumers. Today it has 5,000 outlets across its family of businesses including food, financial services, travel, pharmacy and funerals, serving more than 20 million customers per week.
Ethical business is not a new idea. The Cooperative was started in 1844 by the Rochdale Pioneers who founded a new kind of business – one that would be based on democratic principles, owned by the customers and would reinvest in the community it served. And it’s still going strong 167 years later.
The Co-operative has helped communities and individuals both here in the UK and around the world to make a difference. It has invested in projects from protecting inner-city bee populations to starting a film academy for young people, to helping Kenyan tea farmers form co-operatives. This is done by members agreeing to donate from their share of the profits.
My interest is in developing young people, though, so I was really pleased to hear the difference that the Co-operative had made to a community play group in North Wales. Play Montgomeryshire provides families with free or low cost activities that give children greater opportunity to learn through play.
One of their services, the Machynlleth Toy Library, came under threat of closure when its existing funding was cancelled. The library is a well-loved part of the local community, and the Play Montgomeryshire team were determined to save it. The group approached The Co-operative and secured a donation of £2,000 and they are now confident that the library will continue to serve local children.
Have you heard of the Co-operative’s Green Schools initiative? It’s the most wide-ranging sustainability programme in UK schools. From helping to organize walking buses, to providing visits to green energy sites, and to farms to see how food is grown, the Co-Operative engages pupils with a broader spectrum of projects than any other UK business.
The Co-operative helps individuals too, including offering mentor training to young people. It provides sporting activities in communities where they may not have been available previously, and lets the volunteers explore new possibilities and gain new qualifications.
One such volunteer was Jamie, a teenager from Northumberland, who has used her love of dancing to map out her future career path. After becoming a StreetGames Volunteer, Jamie now teaches urban dance 5 times a week to younger children at her local dance academy – Factory Dance Academy.
Jamie’s expectations have been transformed. Instead of leaving school at 16 as she first intended, Jamie is about to start a BTEC in Dance, Health and Social Care and Business, with the aim of pursuing a career in community dance.
I’m always on the look out for parent-run businesses that give something back to their communities here at Business Plus Baby. So it’s great to know that an ethical business can grow to be so big and last for so many years. That’s really something to aspire to!
The Co-Operative now want you to Get involved and Join the revolution! They are looking out for the best revolutions up and down the UK. Submit your initiative on the Join the revolution page with a brief description of what it’s all about, and the most popular revolution from each region will receive a £5,000.