The Midcounties Co-operative - A Co-operative Approach to Combating Climate Change

The Sustainable Products and Services Award, Finalist 2015, Reaccredited 2016.

The Midcounties Co-operative has reduced its energy consumption and waste, increased recycling and developed a successful low carbon energy business. This has reduced CO2 emissions, saved money and contributed to record growth.

Environmental impacts

  • Developed low carbon energy supplier Co-operative Energy with 68% of electricity supply secured from renewable sources in 2013/14, compared to a 12% UK average.
  • Reduced operational energy consumption by 9% since 2009, saving more than 4,000 tonnes of CO2.
  • Increased recycling of operational waste by nearly five times in five years (to 4,135 tonnes in 2013) and increased recycling rate from 21% in 2009 to 75% in 2013.

Business impacts

  • The Midcounties Co-operative's customer base has grown from 128,000 to 204,000 in 2013 and sales have grown from £46 million to £159 million.
  • Ethical trade sales reached £51 million in 2013, while sales from locally sourced range increased by 26% to £8.7 million.
  • Saved over £750,000 per annum on energy costs and over £450,000 per annum through waste reduction and recycling activity.

Midcounties Co-operative is run on behalf of and for the benefit of its members, with a focus beyond profits alone.

Reducing energy and saving money

To reduce its environmental impact, Midcounties Co-operative prioritised energy reduction and efficiency in its operations, investing £800,000 per annum over the last five years. As a result, it is saving more than £1 million a year through reduced energy use, reduced waste and recycling.

It has improved electricity use efficiency by 30% and increased recycling of operational waste five-fold, from 844 tonnes in 2009 to 4,135 tonnes in 2013. This has meant its recycling rate has risen from 21% in 2009 to 75% in 2013.

Providing customers with low-carbon energy and local food

In 2011, Midcounties Co-operative launched the low carbon Co-operative Energy business, attracting more than 200,000 customers, generating sales of £159 million and opening up new markets. Its business model is based on providing low carbon, community generated energy to customers and lobbying policymakers for a more balanced legislative and regulatory regime. In 2013/14, 68% of the electricity it supplied came from renewable sources.

Co-operative Energy has also established itself as one of the most important providers of citizen-backed, low carbon energy in the UK. It sources power from community generation initiatives by offering long-term power purchase agreements. In July 2014, its customers became the first in the country to be able to control the exact energy mix of the electricity they buy, at no extra cost.

Midcounties Co-operative’s responsible approach through its Food Retail business focuses on sourcing local produce, reducing packaging and improving the sourcing of its products. Since 2009, it has tripled the number of businesses it supports through its Local Harvest range, reduced primary packaging by 25% and improved the sourcing of items with significant associated sustainability impacts, such as palm oil. All its own-brand eggs, milk, fresh and frozen chicken, turkey, beef, pork, sausage, and premium bacon are UK-sourced.

In 2013, the business enjoyed record turnover (more than £1 billion), profits (£22 million) and membership (507,000 people). Many factors contribute this, but its sustainability programme is crucial to its success.

What The Midcounties Co-operative's CEO said:

“Defending the environment is a core component of Midcounties’ Social Responsibility strategy. Working with colleagues and members, we have systematically championed sustainable development across our operations, products and services. We have made great strides in many areas, not least energy and climate change.

“Operational eco-efficiency gains are now running in excess of £1 million per annum, our support for local sourcing has tripled and (perhaps most significantly) we have developed a successful co-operative energy offering that is one of the most important deliverers of citizen-backed, low carbon energy in the UK.” - Ben Reid OBE

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