Central England Co-op unveil special portrait and join celebrations to mark 250th birthday of pioneering co-operator

Central England Co-op have joined with fellow co-operatives across the country to celebrate the 250th birthday of one of the founding fathers of the co-operative movement and commissioned a special portrait of the great man to mark the occasion.

Robert Owen is one of the most well-known names associated with early forms of co-operation. A Welsh socialist and philanthropist, Owen’s impact is still felt today in the values and principles of co-operative Societies such as Central England Co-op.

Owen felt that workers should be treated properly, and he worked hard to improve the conditions in his own factories, reducing working hours, cleaning up accommodation and providing schools.

At the same time, he continued to lobby and campaign for legislation to protect workers and is credited as the first person to introduce the eight hour workday and proved production was just as successful on limited hours.

Owen grew up during the industrial revolution and though born in Newtown, Wales in 1871, it was in New Lanark, Scotland where he first made his mark taking over the village’s mills and introducing the working practices for which he has become synonymous. 

He is also closely linked with The Arkwright’s from the Derbyshire mills and in particular to Belper and Cromford and the Strutt family – associated with the first Co-op in Derby.

To mark his birthday, Central England Co-op today (14 May) joined a virtual event organised by Co-operatives and Mutuals Wales, which included school children interviewing the Welsh First Minister, Mark Drakeford about what Owen would be doing today if he were still around.

During the event, Central England Co-op unveiled a special new portrait of Owen commissioned by members from the Society’s Membership and Community Councils covering all its trading area across 16 counties.

Debbie Robinson, Chief Executive of Central England Co-op, said: “We, at Central England Co-op are incredible grateful for the vision and insight of Robert Owen that guides us today.

We must always remember our history and the sacrifices that others have made in their lives to ensure we have a Co-operative Movement fit for future generations. 

“We continue to deliver Robert’s legacy and ensure co-operative and sustainable communities are always part of our decision making and that Robert Owen’s legacy carries on beyond us.

“Today we can use his life and work to showcase the current work of co-operatives as enterprising businesses with social and ethical standards and ways of being. The Co-op difference.”

Central England Co-op is planning more celebrations of Robert Owen’s life and impact on the co-operative movement during the annual Co-op Fortnight which this year takes place between 21 June and 4 July.


Notes to editors

About Central England Co-operative

Central England Co-operative is one of the largest independent retail co-operative societies in the UK with interests in food, funeral, floral and property investment.

Owned by hundreds of thousands of members, its over 7,800 colleagues serve customers across 400 plus trading sites in 16 counties in the East and West Midlands, Yorkshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire.

Its purpose is to inspire communities to create a sustainable Society for all.

It actively campaigns for the Government to increase sentencing for violent attacks on retail workers and works with FareShare Midlands and hundreds of food banks, generating enough food donations to create over 2.1 million meals for people in need.

The Society embraces inclusivity and equality and is a signed-up member to the Business in the Community (BITC) Race at Work Charter, while it is also fully committed to addressing the impact of climate change and is on track to be Carbon Neutral by 2030. 

It invests a percentage of its trading profit into local communities through its Community Dividend Fund scheme which has seen over £175,000 shared out between 116 good causes over the past 12 months.

Press office contacts: Rob Smyth and James Brindle

Phone - 01543 421390

Email - publicrelations@centralengland.coop