In the four years since I moved to England, I have witnessed the country go from a powerful, prosperous country to one with widespread recession, unemployment and economic hardship. It seems crazy that the very banks that caused the worldwide economic downturn and had to be bailed out by tax-payer money are just about the only entities that managed to award bonuses to their staff last year.
It is no surprise then that I’ve added “corporate and social responsibility” to my list of requirements in a company when job-seeking these days. What is surprising to me is how many employment agents ask me “why?” I would have thought it was obvious. Not only do I want to make a difference in the world but I want to work for a company I can believe in!
It is for this reason that I have found the latest campaign by The Co-operative interesting.
A co-operative is a business that is owned by its members, with profits being reinvested back into the community. The Co-operative was started in 1844 by the Rochdale Pioneers and it currently has six million members across sectors such as food, banking and funerals. While The Co-op (as it is known in the UK) is a well known brand here, it is their vision and involvement globally that caught my eye.
The Co-operative has an eight part plan focusing on environment, democratic control, communities, responsible retailing, ethical finance, co-operatives, global poverty and young people. By supporting thousands of initiatives every year, both globally and locally, The Co-operative aims to inspire people to get involved and to make a difference in their world.
You don’t have to work for The Co-operative or even part with money if you are unable to but the Join the Revolution website gives you various ways on how to get involved.
These are just three of the current schemes that The Co-operative is backing:
It is no secret that honeybee populations in urban areas are dwindling and The Co-operative have already invested £500,000 into Plan Bee, their own bee protection and education programme. Now they are helping bee-lovers Brian McCallum and Alison Benjamin to run training courses, talks and conduct other work in order to save the urban bee population.
Baywind Energy Co-operative
Baywind Energy Co-operative is the UK’s first community owned wind farm. Starting in 1998 with a loan from The Co-operative Bank, the wind farm now generates around 10,000MWh of electricity a year which is enough to power around 30,000 homes.
Fairtrade in Kenya
Through their Enterprise Hub, The Co-operative actively promotes the development of co-operative businesses around the globe. They invest £7 million a year in some of the world’s poorest countries to support initiatives that will benefit farmers, their families and the entire community.
In Kenya, for example, they have worked with The Co-operative College and The Co-operative Food, to help over 10,000 smallholder tea farmers to organise into co-operatives.
This has increased their negotiating power and provided access to markets previously closed to them. It has also helped them to achieve Fairtrade certification, so they can supply tea for our ‘99’ Fairtrade tea blend. All of which means they will now get a fair return for their crop.
I think multi-media and multi-layered campaigns such as these are a great way to encourage people to become more involved in the world around them and to develop social awareness and ethical consumerism. You can visit the Co-operative website for more information on how to get involved or you can find them on Facebook too.
Do you know of any other companies that have complex social awareness and corporate responsibilities programs like this?