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Why we're different

The Co-operative is a modern business whose ethos is as relevant today as it was 170 years ago.

Throughout our history we have remained true to our ethics and beliefs, knowing that they are right for our customers, our communities and our colleagues.


Ethical trading

While other retailers have recently discovered the commercial benefits of an ethical approach to business, our beliefs define who we are. We are proud that our ethical approach started back in 1844, when the Rochdale Pioneers established a set of values and principles in response to a society that was being exploited. This foundation has guided our unique approach to retail, and is accepted throughout the world as the basis of all co-operative activity. 



We have been the UK’s biggest supermarket supporter of Fairtrade since 1992, and have achieved a number of Fairtrade firsts:

  • In 2002 we converted our entire block chocolate range to Fairtrade.
  • In 2007 we sold the first supermarket Fairtrade bag.
  • In 2008 we became the first UK supermarket to convert our entire own-brand hot beverage category to Fairtrade.

The Co-operative Food sells Fairtrade products in more outlets than any other retailer and has the widest range of Fairtrade products of any retailer.

In the future, if it can be Fairtrade, it will be Fairtrade. By 2013, some 90% of the primary commodities sourced from the developing world will be certified to Fairtrade standards. The ground-breaking pledges in The Co-operative’s new Ethical Operating Plan include the most radical Fairtrade conversion programme ever undertaken, to help The Co-operative Food to develop a unique range of projects and initiatives that benefit producers and take us beyond Fairtrade.



The Co-operative Group became the first retailer in the UK to include storage instructions for fruit and vegetables on its fresh produce bags, to help tackle the growing problem of household food waste. 

We encourage and help facilitate the recycling of packaging used for our own brand products, providing it saves resources, cuts pollution and is economic. Where space permits, our brand packaging is labelled to indicate what materials the packaging is made from. This helps consumers to recycle through normal segregated recycling channels.

On top of the 15% weight reduction we have already achieved in packaging, we will reduce the environmental impact by a further 10% by 2012 and increase our carrier bag reduction target to 75% by 2013.


Animal Welfare

In 2010, for the second year running, The Co-operative Group won a public vote to be named RSPCA People’s Choice Supermarket for our commitments to animal welfare. The Co-operative Group won the award because of its commitments to higher-welfare poultry, including Freedom Food-labelled free-range chicken, Freedom Food-labelled free-range eggs, outdoor-reared beef and strict welfare standards for its own-brand pork.

We have a robust animal welfare policy and have led the way in many areas over the years. In 1999, we were first to be awarded the right to use the International Cruelty-Free symbol, developed by leading animal welfare organisations world-wide, including the BUAV (British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection), on its range of Health and Beauty products.

The BUAV Humane Household Products Standard was developed in conjunction with
The Co-operative Group and was published in 2003. We became the first grocery retailer to be accredited to this standard and in March 2004 we were granted permission to use the symbol.


Food quality, diet and health

Our aim is to be the number one retailer in educating, raising awareness of and promoting diet and health issues to the wider community. We do this in a number of ways, including the web, in-store leaflets and honest food messages displayed on our shelves, in our advertising, other publications and on our own brand packaging, where we believe we provide more information than anyone else.

The Co-operative Group was one of the first retailers to sign up to the Food Standards Agency traffic light scheme, a front-of-pack labelling scheme which can help everyone choose the healthier options when out shopping.


Community retailing

We are proud to be seen as the local retailer and a familiar face that shoppers know they can trust.