Responsible Business Week 24-28 April Central England Co-operative is the Heart of the Community

Posted by Heather Clapton | 25/04/2017 | Category: Community

Central England Co-operative is a business that places itself in the heart of its communities. The colleagues who work within our stores and homes are members of the communities they serve, meaning they have real insight into the local community issues that matter to members and customers.

Added to this we have Membership and Community Council representatives (MCC’s) within the business who are elected by their community and represent each area. The trading area is split into three regions, and 18 MCC's in each region.  These are split between Members, Employees and Board Members.

This structure ensures that we can see the overall picture of the business in the community, and ensure the activity we are doing is of benefit to all. The MCC’s are our local members on the ground that steer the business into projects that will make a real impact.

We have recently commissioned a Social Return on Investment report to discover the actual benefit of our community projects.  The findings came back with an average of £20.50 return in social value on each £1 we spend in the community.

As the first UK Co-operative to look at SROI in such detail, the information discovered was pioneering and has led to many businesses starting to really look at what benefit their community work returns.

See the full report here.

Community Dividend
Our members and community groups have access to the, “Making a Difference” Community Dividend Fund. This scheme involves the redistribution of 1% of our trading surplus in the form of grants to local community groups, good causes and local charities across the trading area.  Our customers contribute towards helping local projects every time they shop with us.

The Community Dividend has been running for six years, and during that time more than £1 million has been donated to groups in CEC’s trading area.  Members can apply or nominate community groups, schools and community projects for grants of between £100 and £5,000. 

SENse to Aspire
Our pioneering SENse to Aspire scheme is a Business in the Community (BITC) accredited programme, providing young people with special educational needs work experience in our stores, and florists.

Since 2014 Central England Co-operative has been running SENse to Aspire with Selly Oak Trust School with the support of BITC.  The programme also has an enormous impact on our colleagues, because it raises awareness around learning difficulties and disabilities. The school had found it difficult to find employers willing to offer students with special educational needs work experience, so were delighted when Central England offered to help.

We have embraced the opportunity, and take pride in helping these youngsters increase their confidence, and gain additional life skills. The programme is now growing and being rolled out to other schools.

Member Classes
2,290 of our members currently benefit from our classes, which can be anything from creative pursuits, to fitness and wellbeing, providing a rounded experience for everyone.

We have invested £85,000 in these classes in 2016, and have 61 classes running currently, giving our members a chance to enjoy more social contact, and contribute to an improved mental and physical wellbeing.

Feedback we have received from customers has been positive, and shows that the community is enhanced by these classes, ensuring our commitment to benefitting the communities we serve.

We listen to what our communities tell us is important to them, while making sure that the projects we run, and fund are in tune with our Co-operative ethics and values.