Modern Pioneers #7 – June Jones, Co-operative Group
Co-operatives Fortnight runs from 21st June – 5th July. This year, we’re paying tribute to the Rochdale Pioneers who, along with Robert Owen, were among the forefathers of the co-operative movement.
We’re doing so by showcasing the work of 14 ‘Modern Pioneers’ from the Welsh co-operative sector, through a series of blog posts.
Today’s post looks at the work of June Jones, Vice Chair of the Mid Wales Area Committee for the Co-operative Group.
“I am an elected member and Vice Chair of the Mid Wales Area Committee of the Co-operative Group and also Chair of the Regional Values and Principles Committee and therefore represent the interests of the members and customers of our Co-operative family of businesses. I work with other committee members to plan, organise and evaluate a programme of member and community activity within the budgetary and strategic frameworks in consultation with the Regional Values and Principles Committee.
Membership is open to everyone as long as they share our values and principles. Members show these values by working together for everyone’s benefit, and are encouraged to play a full part in the community. It provides a platform whereby local and global issues are raised and resolutions can be found. A share of the profits is paid back to the communities which we serve and to our members. The business is not driven by shareholders/investors, but democratically controlled. As an elected member I am accountable to the membership
In February 2011, the Co-operative Group launched its Ethical Plan, a three year rolling programme integrated into the financial operating plan, with the aim for the Co-operative to be clearly recognised as the most socially responsible business in the UK. This encompasses not just our social goals but our co-operative difference. The plan was seen as taking corporate sustainability into a new era, and other businesses saw it as a benchmark to aspire too. The Co-operative has continually raised the bar in issues relating to several key areas targeted in our Ethical Plan, such as ethical retailing, tackling global poverty and many more.
Following the Annual General Meeting last month a new purpose was launched: “championing a better way to do business for you and your communities”. This is going back to basics, back to our heritage and engaging, enabling and strengthening our communities. Being locally relevant by building a sustainable way of doing business that is mutually beneficial and the availability of local food, supporting local members, the family of businesses, events, issues and campaigns is up to each individual member to ensure that the ethics of an historical movement are still being adhered to today. Therefore, this is the message that I take and impart when I am talking to fellow and prospective co-operators.
There is a Co-operative store in every post code area, providing a local identity. It has a local sourcing programme for supporting producers’ products, which is continually increasing. We use free range eggs in all bakery items and sell only free range eggs in our stores. The Co-operative Group pays dairy farmers a milk premium greater than other retailers, sells British farmed meat of a greater standard than the Red Tractor kite mark and all fish sold is from sustainable stock.
Being the first retailer to use Fair Trade chocolate on all our goods, selling only Fair Trade bananas and other goods including wine, flowers, sugar, tea, coffee and fairly traded cotton, charcoal, the Co-operative ensures that farmers in developing countries receive a stable price and long term trading relationship, guaranteeing producers a better deal, raising awareness of their situation and campaigning.
As an area committee we adjudicate the applications made by various groups, associations, societies, some are registered charities, but those who are not are able to apply to the Co-operative Community Fund. Up to a maximum of £2000 per applicant, the Mid Wales Committee has supported a number of local community projects.
I welcome the findings of the Welsh Co-operative and Mutuals Commission report on business and investment finance, where specialist advice and support in developing co-operatives and employee businesses. Supportive finance is essential for the growth of co-operatives and mutuals in Wales. There is an appetite for the growth of these, for example in the housing and social care sector. In collaboration with the public, private and third sector organisations in mid Wales, a social care consortium is being formed. Recognising that working co-operatively together is a means of providing a high quality service with shared costs, is both beneficial to the purchaser procuring the services and the customer in receipt of. Consortia like these are able to access contracts that they couldn’t as individual businesses. The Co-operative Group has representation on the steering group and has provided financial support for a specialist co-operative business consultant to guide the consortia through the process of setting up and fulfilling its legal requirements.
Last year the Co-operative Group facilitated a fact finding day in West Wales, bringing together developing and established small co-operatives to ascertain the problems and successes that they have encountered along their journey. The day provided the tools for other budding co-operatives to go away and set up their own. This pre-empted the report’s focus on ‘co-operatives helping other co-operative businesses.”
Find out more about the Rochdale Pioneers through a special, interactive photo.