Britain’s biggest mutual honoured


The Co-operative Group honoured as ‘beacon of best practice’ to scoop ICAEW Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability Award.

Emerging triumphant against finalists including Coca-Cola Enterprises, Unilever, Commercial, Kestrel Liner Agencies and Redeem, the UK’s largest mutual, The Co-operative Group, was presented with the ICAEW Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability Award at the National Business Awards Gala Dinner at the Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane, London on 9th November 2010.

The Co-operative Group was one of ten finalists selected by the National Business Awards as an outstanding business that has demonstrated exceptional financial returns, strong growth and innovation strategies, and market prominence in its sector over the last year. “Open to all UK organisations in the public and private sector, this Award recognises the organisation that can best demonstrate a company-wide commitment to Corporate Responsibility and business sustainability,” explained Alex Evans, Editorial Director & Head of Judging of the National Business Awards. “The Co-operative Group has set a high benchmark on CSR, not just for this Award but the wider business community. Every decision made at board level must accommodate the ethical principles of a vast membership, so it’s excellent financial performance is testament to the commercial value of doing the right thing.”

An industrial and provident Society employing over 110,000 staff, owned and democratically controlled by its members, the Manchester-based Co-operative Group is one of the most ethical businesses in the UK – with influence spanning several market segments including food retail, financial services, pharmacy, funeral, travel, legal services, property and farming. The Group has hit a number of milestones over the last two years, with its acquisition of Somerfield and Britannia Building Society vastly expanding its CR programme.

CEO Peter Marks, who was voted Orange Leader of the Year 2009 in recognition of his ability to achieve sustainable and ethical growth, said CSR is in the DNA of the business. “Our business is unlike any other business models,” he explained. “We’ve been doing social responsibility for over 150 years, and the credit crunch has brought into focus the importance for all businesses to put something back into society as well as taking things out. We like to think we lead the way where others follow.”

Commenting on the significance of the this Award win at a glittering ceremony attended by 1,200 of the UK’s most influential business people, Marks added: “We’re not just for profit, we have a business philosophy called Social Goals – so winning this Award emphasises the Co-operative difference. That’s a source of great pride to all of our employees.”

Judges for this year’s ICAEW Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability Award included Michael Izza, Chief Executive of the ICAEW; Oliver Greenfield, Head of Sustainable Business and Economics at the World Wildlife Fund; Nicky Major, Director, Corporate Responsibility at Ernst & Young; and Wendy Stephenson, Managing Director at WSB Consulting Ltd.

Commenting on the judges’ decision to give top honours to Crafter’s Companion, Michael Izza said: “It is clear that the Co-operative Group has taken the time to look at their business models and, from end to end, every part of this large and diverse organisation lives by its sustainability principles every day. We were impressed by the group’s proactive work, whether it relates to tar sand within its toxic fuels campaigning or sustainable lending practices through its banking arm. The Co-op showed us how it is possible to develop new business models and be successful and profitable while staying true to the sustainable ethic in all aspects of their business.”

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