Sustainability Communications Winner: The Co-operative Group

It is no surprise that when asked the question 'who is the most socially responsible business?' consumer responses give the Co-operative an 8% lead over its nearest competitor.

“By focusing on the individuals and groups that our social goals affect, we presented consumers with real people to relate to, giving them a reason to believe that what they do locally can affect change,” the company said.

The company evidently feels the key in sending the sustainable message is to engage with its grass roots customers and it is certainly eager to become recognised by consumers as the most socially responsible business in the UK: mounting a mammoth media campaign and shelling out £3m for its ‘Join the Revolution’ campaign, to run alongside its Ethical Plan, was a clear statement of intent.

The campaign, developed and implemented in 2011/12, sought to showcase the difference individuals can make to their own worlds, using real-life projects as examples.

The website,, acted as the cornerstone of the campaign. It worked as a platform to feature a number of real-life case studies as videos, showcasing the Co-operative’s wider work and commitments, and the many ways to get involved.

Members were encouraged to put forward their own initiatives, their own ‘revolutions’, to win £5,000 in funding and were voted for online by the public. The winner in each region was the project with the most votes.

A TV, press and social media advertising campaign flourished from March to May 2011, featuring over 3,000 screenings of a TV advert and press advertising placed in The Times, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and Metro.

Entrants were encouraged to utilise social media in order to promote their entries. The campaign benefitted from this exposure with thousands of tweets, using the #jointherevolution ‘hashtag’, while facebook comments and ‘likes’ abounded.

The results of the campaign speak for themselves – suggesting the website’s influence, engagement and interaction reached striking levels.

The site clocked up 42,000 plus registrations which was more than twice the amount of people to sign up for M&S’ equivalent site ‘Plan A’.

It also attracted more than 365,000 visits and achieved high profile recognition when Stephen Fry tweeted it.

The campaign is part of the Co-operative’s wider sustainability vision which includes its Ethical Plan, a three-year rolling budget and target programme integrated into the company’s financial operating plan.

In addition, a recent staff survey suggested that the Co-operative’s 100,000 employees are on board with its sustainability plans, revealing that 87% agree or strongly agree that the Co-operative is working to reduce its environmental impact.

Approaching sustainability with such a wide reach has won wide praise for the company. Sustainability thinktank Forum for the Future’s director, Jonathon Porritt, said: “By launching this Ethical Plan, the Co-operative is taking corporate sustainability into a new era. Other businesses will now be seeking to benchmark themselves against this plan”.

The Co-op’s campaign impressed for many reasons. At £3million, it was a substantial and significant investment in challenging economic times, showing it’s not about a nice-to-have piece of window-dressing – it’s core business. Broad in scope, with massive outreach and impact it was hugely ambitious. The Co-op must be credited with seeking to change the economic landscape – none of the other entries can begin to compete with that!

Ben & Jerry’s
BP Target Neutral (ERM)
Footprint Communications for Avery Office and Consumer Products
John West
WEEE Ireland

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Energy Efficiency: Sainsbury’s

Waste Management: Food & Drink: Sainsbury’s

Sustainability Reporting: Coca Cola Enterprises

Renewable Energy: Northumbrian Water Group

Best Environmental Consultancy: Arup

Sustainability Practitioner: Kirsten Henson, KLH Sustainability

Water Management: ABP Food Group

Sustainable Transport: London 2012

Sustainable Building: P+HS Architects

Carbon Management: The Co-operative Group

Stakeholder Engagement: Sony Europe

Waste & Resource Management: Nextek

Sustainability Communications: The Co-operative Group

IEMA Graduate Award: Lorna Philbin

Sustainability Leader: Dale Vince, Ecotricity


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Entry to the 2013 Sustainability Leaders Awards will open at the beginning of March 2013. Bookmark our awards site to be kept in the loop.

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