Compostable bags

Since David Attenborough’s warning about the dangers of plastic in the BBC’s Blue Planet II series last year there has been a major behavioural change in our shopping. Research suggests that 88% of people who watched the final episode have changed their behaviour when it comes to single use plastic consumption.

In order to cater to the shift in customer demand and lead the way in sustainable retail we have introduced the compostable carrier bag. This sets us apart from other retailers who have replaced single use carrier bags with bags for life as for us this would triple our plastic waste.

compostable bag
Our 5p compostable bags can be reused in food waste bins and can carry up to 3 bottles of prosecco!

Our 5p compostable bags can be reused in food waste bins and can carry up to 3 bottles of prosecco! They have now gone live in 1069 stores (39% of our estate) aligning with councils who offer kerbside food waste collections. Switching to compostable carrier bags in these stores alone will potentially reduce plastic waste by up to 864 tonnes a year which really ties in with our ethics, bringing the Co-op difference to life.

Feedback about the bags from customers and colleagues has been fantastic so far and our aim is to be able to provide the bag across the whole estate. We will approach this by engaging with councils allowing them to see the great benefits of the bag and then negotiating with the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs to allow sales in 100% of stores.

Watch this video by Costs Manager Helen Holland for more information. (Password is Centraldivision)

Showing we Care – Old Uniforms to benefit the Salvation Army

As Shakespeare once said “clothes maketh the man” and this is certainly true of the image we try to portray to our customers and members through our Co-op uniform. As advocates of our brand, it ensures customers know colleagues are part of the team and the community.

Taking pride in appearance is important to our store colleagues. At the Retail Support Centre we try to guarantee colleagues can access the right uniform at the right time, as we recognise the lasting impression a poor or incorrect uniform can give our customers and members.

All Change

Over the years we have seen many variations of the uniform, and with each new style we have stacked stock high to allow colleagues to access what they need, when they need it. This has left us with a massive amount of legacy stock that we have already paid for but can no longer use.

The launch of our new pioneer brand, and the move away from the Black and Green uniform, has given the Retail Loss and Costs team an opportunity to complete a full review of the stock we have, and we have identified 14 lines, over 2000 items, which are now surplus stock. This includes shirts, trousers, skirts and polos, some of which haven’t been part of our uniform for several years! These are all new, good quality items which, after a little bit of de-branding, can be put to good use elsewhere.

Showing we care by doing what matters most

Working in partnership with our uniform supplier Dimensions, and our own internal Customer and Community team, we have identified one of our many charity partners to help us distribute this surplus clothing to people who can make good use of it. And so after months of ground work, 84 boxes of clothing, nearly £20,000 of stock, have been distributed to help people in other areas of the country.

Our community partner, The Salvation Army, have distributed this stock to its many charity shops around the UK, allowing people to purchase a bargain and help a good cause in the process. The Salvation Army allows us to distribute on a wide scale whilst still supporting causes close to our Co-op heart – modern slavery, homelessness and people in poverty.

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It’s not always about saving money

Often the bearers of bad news, the Retail Loss and Costs team are not usually the ones to give money away! However, we are constantly working with other Retail Support Centre teams to ensure the best outcome is achieved for all our Colleagues, Customers and Members.

Being able to fix problems in the background allows the team to see things from a different perspective, and this is just one example where the result is absolutely not about saving money, but about doing what matters most for us all in a Simple, Meaningful and Sustainable way.

Sarah Bedwell, Retail Loss & Costs