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The Co-operative launches radical ethical plan

Retailer raises the corporate responsibility bar

Co-operative Finance logo

The Co-operative last night launched a new three-year programme designed to significantly raise the bar for corporate social responsibility, setting out a new set of ethical goals.

Group Chief Executive Peter Marks said: ‘At a time when UK society is picking up the pieces from a recession exacerbated by corporate greed and speculation, we are seeking to show that there is another way. The plc model is not the only game in town. It is possible for business to embrace the efficiencies of the market economy and also the need for robust legislation to ensure that progress is sustainable and just.’

Ethical finance

  • The introduction of the world’s first ethically screened-general insurance products, which will support over two million policies
  • Financial support for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects increased from £400 million to £1 billion by 2013

Building a fairer and better society

  • Co-operative enterprise will be more heavily supported through the launch of a new £20m international Co-operative Development Loan Fund
  • The Co-operative’s community investment will be expanded to include £5m a year to help tackle poverty around its stores and branches
  • A £30m programme will support an Apprenticeship Academy, a Green Schools programme and the creation of 200 Co-operative Schools by 2013
  • The Co-operative group will reduce its operational carbon emissions by 35% by 2017

Tackling Global Poverty

  • In terms of it food business, the group has pledged that ‘if it can be fairtrade, it will be fairtrade’. By 2013, 90% of the primary commodities sourced from the developing world will be certified to Fairtrade standards

Setting the ethical finance bar higher

Martyn Saville, Which? principal researcher, commented: ‘The targets the Co-operative has set itself are very ambitious and will act as a benchmark for other retailers and financial services providers. In terms of its financial products, the Co-op is already well known for its firm ethical stance. The addition of ethical screening on its insurance products marks a deepening of this pledge and will be welcomed by those customers who want their money to be used ethically by their bank. The new pledges on renewable energy, carbon offset, poverty and education further cement the Co-operative’s position as the leading ethical bank on the high street.’

The Co-op’s move was also welcomed by other ethical providers. Huw Davies of Triodos Bank commented: ‘It’s great to see strong policies such as this and we urge more organisations to commit to similar positive action.

‘People are increasingly aware of the positive choices they can make when it comes to their shopping or other consumer actions. However, fewer are aware of the huge impact they could be having if they also made a positive ethical choice when it comes to their finances. Because it’s interconnected with all areas of the economy and life, choosing ethical finance is one of the more powerful things you can do as a consumer.’

Which? Recommended Providers

The Co-operative is a Which? recommended provider for credit cards, car insurance, current accounts and savings accounts.

To find out more about ethical finance, read the Which? guide to ethical investments.

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