This month, LBG caught up with the Co-op, who – like many LBG Members – have been exceptionally busy throughout this pandemic. They took some time to tell us more about the impact they’ve had in their communities across the UK.
For those outside of the UK, who are the Co-op? How did you respond to this pandemic?
The Co-op is one of the world’s largest consumer cooperatives, owned by over 4.5 million members. As the Co-op, we knew we had a unique responsibility to use our experience and programmes to rise to the community challenges of the coronavirus pandemic. We had to act fast, adapt our existing community strategy and reprioritise in a world that was often changing overnight.
What area did you identify that your business could have the most impact?
We identified four key areas – rooted in our Co-op values – that we knew we could get behind; supporting vulnerable people through our businesses, finding volunteers, keeping connected and securing funding.
Can you tell us a little bit more about the type of initiatives you set up?
The Community Shopping Scheme was set up to allow volunteers to shop for those shielding at home with a reusable Co-op gift card. We then fast-tracked the launch of our Co-operate platform, our online community centre that helps people come together to make good things happen, which has seen over 80,000 visits since the start of April.
The Co-op Academy Trust secured 1,000 devices to support students studying at home without access to the internet. And every Co-op Academy student on free school meals received a £20 Co-op Food voucher for every week their school was closed.
We launched the Co-op Members’ Coronavirus Fund which allowed Co-op Members to donate all, or part of, their unspent personal reward to help fund foodbanks through Fareshare, support bereaved families and over 150 community causes handpicked with insight from our Community Wellbeing Index.
This was coupled with a further £1.5m stock donation to Fareshare and a repurposed £2.5m worth of TV airtime from our Easter marketing campaign to encourage public donations to Fareshare.
Our network of Member Pioneers also had a vital role to play in supporting our community response. They helped with local volunteering activities, set up mutual aid groups and supported community specific initiatives.
How do you see the future? Will communities continue to need the support of the businesses around them?
The thoughts of many are turning to the future, and how we as a co-op can contribute towards developing the connected, inclusive and resilient communities that our country will need to face the challenges to come. The significant increase in applications for the latest round of our Local Community Fund provides strong evidence of the level of need in the communities we support. The relationships we’ve built, the community insight that we’ve developed and the community programmes we’ve invested in will be crucial in helping to support our members, customers and the communities we serve.