Business is pivotal in strengthening our local communities

It has felt in recent months as though there is little we can agree on as a country.

The Brexit debate has led to division across kitchen tables, across offices and in the local pub.

In the aftermath of the Brexit result we are seeing increasing consensus on one point though – most of us agree that the vote highlighted the alienation that many people in Britain feel from the national institutions of state, from local government, and from the City and big business.

At the Co-op we think there is a key role for employers nationwide to start bringing the country back together again. Community is an over-used word where business is concerned, but at the Co-op we do believe that making a difference in local communities can play a role in bringing the country together.

As the country’s biggest member-owned organisation – with more than 5 million people across the country carrying Co-op cards and having a direct say in our future – we take this responsibility very seriously.

Last month we launched our new membership offer, which goes to the heart of this approach. Our members now receive a five per cent reward for any purchases they make of Co-op own-brand products and services, but perhaps more radically, a further one per cent of the value of those purchases goes directly towards benefiting local causes.

Members choose the local cause they want to support from a list of three in each of 1,500 communities across the UK, centred on Co-op Food stores and Funeralcare homes.

The money raised will provide much needed funding for thousands of organisations, from playgroups to luncheon clubs and from hospices to animal sanctuaries that contribute so much to local life in Co-op communities from inner cities to remote rural islands.

This offer is part of our on-going investment to ensure we deliver for our members, our colleagues, our customers and their communities and places them firmly at the heart of the Co-op where they have been since the Rochdale Pioneers formed the first Co-operative Society back in 1844.

We chose this approach because it links to a time when people really understood how they could be co-owners of their Co-op, and how a strong Co-op could help to create strong communities.

I can’t tell you the number of conversations I now have with people in local communities, either in our shops or working for the local causes we are supporting, who are absolutely thrilled by this return to our roots. They recognise that as the Co-op grows and prospers, so our members and their communities benefit.

In an era of faceless global organisations, we fervently believe that there is still a role for a business that is clearly focused on the local communities in which it operates. Indeed, that is why we have designed this modern membership scheme to embody the Co-op difference and we are confident it will help us deliver against our determination to champion a better way of doing business for our members and their communities.

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